Essex leads the way with first ‘open’ race since lockdown began

August 2020

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Chelmsford Athletics Club is celebrating a successful event. Miles of Miles was the first 'open' race to be licenced by Athletics UK since the start of lockdown. Around 300 runners, aged from under 13 to over 60, competed on August 9th, on a multi-terrain course at Writtle University College in Essex. Miles of Miles has been called 'Pilot Event 1' and hopes to become a template for safe, socially distanced sporting events.

Chelmsford AC's Steve Wilkin said: "The annual event is usually held at Chelmsford AC's home stadium, but with circumstances very different this year we made the decision to move it to an exciting new venue with the help of our good friends at Writtle University College.

"This year's race sold out within a week, with entrants coming from all four corners of the UK. Around 300 athletes represented 50 different clubs, with many competing for the first time this year. The incredible team at WUC have gone the extra mile (no pun intended) to provide us with the space and facilities to create a socially distanced event that prioritises our athletes' and officials' safety."

Prior to Miles of Miles, licenced races were limited to elite athletes or took place virtually. Competitors welcomed the return of in-person racing. Marion, a member of Pitsea Running Club, said: "You could see from the information that they were sending out that it was going to be completely following the guidelines, safe for runners and safe for volunteers, so as soon as I saw it I signed up".

Organisers took steps to keep Miles of Miles in line with government regulations. Spectators were not allowed on the course and competitors familiarised themselves with the one mile route before the race with an online video.

Set arrival and start times ensured each runner competed in a group of no more than six and competitors left the area shortly after reaching the finish line. Marshals enjoyed a busy day, with the first race – for Under 13s – taking place at 10am and the final group of seniors setting off shortly before 4pm.

Although there were no cheering crowds, runners enjoyed getting back into racing. Grant, a member of the Billericay Striders, said: "It's good to come back to a running event and to have something so well organised!"

The fastest male competitor of the day finished the course in just 4 minutes and 29.3 seconds. Writtle University College student Khahisa Mhlanga won the women's race, achieving 5 minutes and 11 seconds. She said: "It's so good to see everyone and race again and was especially great to race on Writtle's grounds for the first time!"

Writtle University College's Dr Greg Deacon commented: "We've underestimated the mental and physical wellbeing issues that lockdown has created and actually trying to get something that was once normal back into this 'new normal' is very important."

Photograph courtesy of Zach Bridgeland.