20 Jul

Running Is For All Tastes

runners at a big race

Choosing an event to take part in can sometimes be a little like choosing where to eat for the evening.

Sometimes, it's nice to indulge in some fine dining at a top class restaurant, other nights it's great just to dive into the local chippy for a cheap and cheerful bit of indulgence.

I feel the same way towards running events. There is something really special about being part of one of the major events in the UK or international running calendar, but there are hundreds of grass-roots low-key club events that also hold considerable charm. Not everyone feels the same way.

With their considerable marketing strategies, many of the bigger mass participation events - led by the London Marathon, Great North Run and the Edinburgh Marathon Festival - have almost transcended the running world. They are simply major occasions in their own right, up there with the likes of Crufts, the Chelsea Flower Show and the Grand National.

For many casual runners I meet, such mass participation events are the only races that really come into their consideration. The hundreds of club-organised smaller events simply do not enter their consciousness. For many dyed-in-the-wool running club members, this is irksome.

More than a few I know express an inverted snobbery about the big events. "Doing nothing for the sport", some say. "Too expensive", say others. Personally, I can appreciate the full spectrum of events and believe as runners, we are truly spoilt for choice.

It is true that some of the bigger races can take a heftier chunk out of your pocket, But I defy anyone who has took part in the London Marathon not to get a spine-tingling moment at some point during race weekend. It might be the rousing official race music that grabs you as you enter the Race Expo to collect your number, the huge roars on race day on Tower Bridge or the indescribable relief as you cross the finish in The Mall.

A few years ago, I decided to take part in a very low-key winter-time regional cross country series. There was no chip-timing, no race HQ, no goody bag, minimal marshalling and a token entry fee. But what great fun it was.

Each course was tough with uniquely muddy challenges. The atmosphere was always friendly with home-baked cakes and tea at the end of each race. Amusingly, the official series pamphlet described directions to one of the race venues as 'same as last year'.

From an entirely different stance, it would be easy to be toffee-nosed about this rather assuming mindset. Instead, I found it eccentrically charming and in keeping with the series as a whole. Anyway, I did manage to find the race venue. 'Variety is the spice of life', as some wise old sage once remarked. If running is your life, then there is a real variety to enjoy.