RACE REPORT: COTSWOLD CLASSIC
The Cotswold Classic has always been a great race.
I ran it myself for the first time about 10 years ago, just before i moved to the area and it immediately became my favourite race. It was well-organised, cheap and beautiful. But for some reason it wasn’t attracting the numbers that warranted the hard-work that the committee put into it every year, and as I understand it, there was a discussion of it even being cancelled.
In stepped Jim Whelan. He offered to take the race on, brought in a few additions to the team and set about creating the Cotswold Classic Festival of Running. it was completely rebranded, new ideas were introduced and new advertising campaigns began. Over his four years as Race Director, Jim, with his team (including four of the current committee) turned the race into something close to what we see today and doubled numbers to around 300+. He decided to step down after four years for various reasons but partly to give someone else the opportunity to bring fresh ideas.
The team – Steve, Lyn, Regina, Nick, myself (and later, Tony and Darlene) decided to get back to basics and strip it back (like Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash!). We focused on just making the 10 miler the most fun it could be. Steve had the brilliant idea of approaching Wychwood Brewery for sponsorship and they now provide us with free beer every year. We introduced chip timing, long-sleeve shirts, and a new venue and after three route changes in three years (necessity), we settled on the current format which works beautifully.
This year, the race almost sold out. It got to the point where we decided to stop taking entrants on the day and we hit, in the end, 468 entrants. A record. This is in no small part to the work of Tamsyn and Dan (who joined the committee this year) and Regina on social media. Also, tirelessly working behind the scenes – Nick Morley (mr dependable) and Steve and Lyn (the actual bosses)
Every chance i got over the past few months, I’d been out and checked the course to make sure we were all good. I just neglected to actually walk through the carpark of the school itself. We turned up the night before the race to set up. Oh no! (not actually what was said, but you can imagine). They’d only gone and put a great big fence right across the course and not told us.
In steps Mr Fix-It, Steve and re-routes the course to work around it. What was a 1-hour job turned in to a long evening. He even had to go and get his bike to cycle round the grass and measure it. It was like watching Benny Hill painting white lines in a car park.
The race itself, you all know, turned out to be a fantastic day. The marshals (all of you) did a fantastic job, from Hannah shouting the wrong names at runners, Les shouting things at cars and the rest of you just shouting and being brilliant. I hope you’ve seen the feedback we’ve been getting on social media. It’s ALL positive. It has been described as one of the very best races locally and is now, truly, a jewel in WRR’s crown. The commitee make the day happen, but you all make the day.
Finally for those of you who don’t know, Frankie Snare of WRR won the women’s race, Tegs Jones of WRR was 3rd in the mens race, and WRR won BOTH the mens and women’s races of the main run AND the county. So very nearly a clean sweep.
Next year I have other plans so Mr Wymer will be taking over RD duties – let’s support him and all the committee once again and keep that race as the best marshalled, friendliest, loudest and most fun event in Oxfordshire.