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findarace.com kew gardens 10k

We caught up with Tom Bedford, Race Director of the findarace.com Kew Gardens 10k, to find out about the trials and tribulations of putting on an event in the current climate.

How difficult has it been to get this race going?

Since lock-down we decided to rip up the event plan and focus on what we knew we could safely put on. We are very fortunate in that our event is inside the ‘Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew’ so we had a sterile environment to work with. Kew Gardens has been open since the 1st June so we worked closely with them to make sure the event is as low risk as a normal day. Once we had the landowners approval we thankfully had RUN BRITAIN’s event guidance out which we had already met so the final race approval was quite easy. Our work is not done though and we continue to work with the local authority on any spikes or regional challenges.

It’s obviously a very strange time for racing. You’ve had to work incredibly hard to get the race live. What drove you to push ahead with it?

We like to do things different at Richmond RUNFEST so I guess working through a global pandemic ticked all our boxes for this year. In all seriousness, we decided that whether the event would go ahead this year or next we would have to make these changes regardless so we got our head down and worked really hard during lock-down. I also personally felt that if we could not put on a safe event inside Kew Gardens, then no events can.

Safety is the primary concern for people at the moment. What measures have you put in place to make people confident to book and run?

It’s very difficult to get all of our changes across to our runners before the event so I guess we are relying on our good reputation from the last 8 years to offer some confidence. We are taking the transmission of covid-19 very seriously but I think it’s also important for people to understand the much lower risk of contracting covid from outdoor aerosol transmission.

People have different personal values on risk so the first thing we did was allow registered runners the opportunity to not run the event this year if they were worried. I’m hoping to be putting on this event in some capacity until the day I die so health and safety of this years event needs to be done right and then confidence will pick up next year.

Without supporters and with strict social distancing, you are more limited in what you can provide. What are you doing to get that race day feeling?

We have made hundreds of changes to the event but the first was to create space and reduce any indoor facilities we use. Sadly we are not allowing spectators inside Kew Gardens and so significantly reduced our overall capacity by around 75%. Doing this will instantly offer some confidence to our runners who have ran our event before.

We’ve changed our normal entrance to create a one way system that offers more space for more toilets and thus less queues. Runners have been given different arrival times and we have created more pre-race space before entering the final socially distanced queue to start the race. Runners will go off in groups of 3 and will have enough room throughout the course as we’ve doubled our start time. We normally have a music after party and provide runners with a beer which sadly won’t be happening this year but we are working on various fun surprises around the course to make this run one to remember!

What sort of reaction have you had to staging the event?

We have a lot of loyal returning runners who have all been supportive, even if they are going to miss this years event. Like all activities we used to do pre-covid, many runners want to see someone else go first before returning. The runners who have committed to returning have obviously been really happy. They want a fast flat course to show off all the training they have been doing during lock-down. They will get that opportunity at Kew!

Finally, how optimistic are you for the future of mass participation events?

This question obviously depends on various unknown second waves and scenarios but in general I’m more optimistic on small to medium sized races than I am on big events like London Marathon and Great North Run. Like many football stadiums I think the big events will be working at a reduced capacity for the next year. For the smaller to medium events like us, I am more optimistic that with all the changes we have made, many can continue to put on great events without adding to the risk.Running parallel with this I hope the government and local councils can do more to acknowledge the positive mental and physical benefits that mass participation events (inc. parkrun) provide to the local communities and the NHS on top of supporting the thousands of charities that have really suffered this year. I love a beer but pub’s coming back before parkruns does not fill me up with too much confidence. I hope this can change soon.

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Entries to Saturday 12th have now sold out but there are still a few spaces available for Sunday 13th. Remember, If for any reason the race cannot go ahead all entrants will have the option to defer to the next event or get a refund minus the booking fee.

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