Cotswold Classic Race Director’s Report
When my alarm buzzed and I could see rain on the window I wasn’t sure what sort of race we were going to have. I’ve never witnessed a wet Cotswold Classic and it would certainly pose a few extra challenges for runners and volunteers alike. Fortunately, by the time we arrived at The King’s School the rain had cleared leaving us all to relax slightly.
Crabby, one of the founders of Witney Roadrunners back in the 80’s, was proudly taking the mic as race announcer and did a superb job at getting the runners heading down to the start in good time. Climbing on to the steps to brief the runners (our 2nd highest entries of the modern Cotswold Classic era) is always one of my favourite parts of the day, to be able to see the crowd of eager, excited and possibly nervous participants.
After a brief co-ordination with my committee members up and down New Yatt Road, we brought the runners to toe the line and after synchronising clocks with our timers, DBMax, we got them on their way. It was our second year of starting on New Yatt Road and it was lovely to see and speak to residents who enjoyed the spectacle of seeing the colourful crowd heading off on the 10 mile route.
This is the first chance that I get to have a breather, knowing the runners are now in the safe hands of our lead car, tail bike and the 80+ marshals who make sure all the runners get support and encouragement at every stage of the race. I’m proud that one of the things that the race has become known for is the fantastic marshals. Every single one contributes their energy and enthusiasm and the runners really appreciate it so thank you to all the volunteers and thank you to the runners who pass on thanks and positive feedback.
While Raynet provides progress updates to me on both the front and back of the race I get a chance to get some breakfast in me whilst the team get this year’s t-shirts out of hiding ready to reveal the “secret” colour. I’ve loved the efforts some of my clubmates have gone to this year, trying to work out the sequence or system to predict the colour! And the other thing being readied is the post-race beer, this year from our new beer partner Little Ox Brew Company, whose brewery in Freeland is just a stone’s throw from the course’s left-hand turn towards East End.
There was great interest in the front of both the men’s and women’s races with the quality field suggesting that both course records could be in danger. A local unattached runner, Charlie Lyons, who lives in one of the villages on the course was first across the line in 54:43, just 10 seconds outside of the course record set back in 2016 by Steven Naylor.
The winner of the women’s race, Witney Roadrunner Isabel Stubbs, came home in a personal best on the course of 66:25 but couldn’t quite nab the course record from clubmate Frankie Tyrell set back in 2019. Despite the cooler, cloudier start, perhaps the muggy conditions pushed the course records just out of touch for this year.
And this is the point of the day where activity ramps up: Crabby aiming to call every runner home, the team dishing out the water from Sun Water Systems and Cotswold First Aid on hand to attend to anyone needing a little extra support after their adventures around the course.
Seeing runners don the famed Cotswold Classic long sleeve tee from Aston & James is another of my favourite moments of race day. I love our shirts and how frequently you see them on the local race and parkrun scene, and this year is my favourite colourway so far.
As well as looking great, our shirts also raise money for charity. We only order enough for the number of entrants we have but some people don’t make it to the race so there are always some leftovers. Previous year’s shirts are placed alongside an honesty box (and this year a QR code) with a request for a donation in return for rehoming one of our spare shirts.This year an enormous £250 was raised for African Children’s Fund, an Oxfordshire based charity who support education projects in East Africa.
The other good cause you all supported was the local Girl Guides who provided you with some sweet treats after the race. Your post-race refuelling helped raise over £100 to support their future activities.
The Oxfordshire race scene was spoiled for years with local photographer Barry Cornelius capturing our pain and pleasure at races around the county.and sharing them for free. With Barry having retired from race photography, it was brilliant when regular Witney parkrun photographer Trish Davies volunteered her talent and lenses to capture this year’s Cotswold Classic. You can find her photos of you all starting and finishing the race on the race’s Facebook page. Credit Trish if you share and get in touch with her if you’d like a higher res version.
With the last runner returning to the school, Ben & Steve dismantling the course and the prizes given out to the first 3 runners in each age category, the team soon reset the school and with that, another superb race day was over and you wouldn’t have known that 351 runners and nearly 100 volunteers had been having so much fun!
Finally my thanks go out to my race committee, our suppliers, all the volunteers from Witney Roadrunners and beyond, as well as our lead sponsor Bronsens Accountants, our secondary sponsor IndTech and all our other sponsors who help keep the race great value for the runners.
We’re already planning for next year so please keep an eye out on our social media around mid-February for announcement of entries opening for the 2024 race. We were only 40-odd entries away from a record so you’d make me an even happier Race Director if we can set a new record next year!