Behind the scenes of putting on first major public sporting event of Sheffield's summer programme
The never ending slog up to Ringinglow, the eye popping sprint down the Limb Valley. Then 600 metres of vertical ascent, hill after hill after hill, for over 20 kilometres.
“I’ve really missed this kind of thing,” said Catherine McKeown. “It’s so cool to be back.”Catherine and her exhausted friends were social distancing over a pint on hay bales in Endcliffe Park, after completing the first major public sporting event of the Summer in the Outdoor City programme , the Round Sheffield Run of 2021.Organiser Doug Banks of Kandoo Events had been patiently planning last week’s event since the pandemic arrived, with RSR 2020 delayed, delayed again, switched to winter 2021 then finally given the green light for last weekend.The race attracts runners from all over the UK, and places were filled within hours when the summer 2020 event was opened to competitors in January last year, just before news appeared about the terrible new Coronavirus spreading around the world.“You have to give people time to prepare and train, so we were looking at blocks of time throughout the lockdowns last year,” said Doug. “To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what happened when now,” he added, matching memories of 2020 for many of us.Doug’s attitude was to try and think of new ideas during lockdown. “We thought, how can we take this as an opportunity to improve stuff, so we have a lot of ideas when we come out of Covid?”A winter version, of course, where mud, snow, hail and rain can be added to the never-ending hills, maybe with mulled wine and fire pits at the end rather than beer and sun hats.Although high Covid risk meant postponements of the summer 2020 and winter 2021 RSR, the vaccine programme along with increasing knowledge about the very low risks of outdoor transmission at sporting events meant summer 21 could go ahead, with social distancing at the start, masks when registering, table (or rather straw bale) service for the recovery beer and pizza, and runners strung out over longer start times.There was even overtaking advice (‘overtake by turning your head away from the person being overtaken’) for hopeful folk chasing Andy Heyes of Hallamshire Harriers, who hurtled round in the fastest ever time of one hour one minute and 15 seconds.Nearly 2,800 runners set off on Saturday and Sunday on the RSR circuit showing off the woodlands, parks and countryside of south west Sheffield over eleven timed sections, with short recovery walks and chatting opportunities in between. “It’s actually felt really relaxed,” said Doug. “Even though we’ve had to do social distancing, it's still been a social event.”Zoe Dickinson, socialising with her Steel City Striders club mates after the run, said the most important thing she felt after taking part was ‘relief.’“It’s been quite challenging as a female runner being out on your own,” she said. “Having mass events back, and training with friends, is really important so you feel safe. The trails we’ve been on today, you felt you couldn’t use on your own under lockdown.”Doug praised the huge teams of staff and volunteers who’d enabled the event to happen, with 60 local volunteers on hand each day (many runners themselves), to help people take part and socialise safely.“It’s been a festival feeling,” said Matt Rimmer, manager of the My Race Kit North running shop, one of the event’s local partner organisations.“The Round Sheffield Run lends itself to a great mixture of runners, from the really fast guys to people who’ve never done a half marathon, but can do the RSR because it’s split into manageable sections.”Matt has seen lots of new runners appearing in his shop after lockdown, people who started running when gyms were closed, or trying local trails for the first time after discovering more of the Outdoor City in 2020.“Running has definitely increased, and will keep going that way,” he said. “So much so that events are getting booked up really quickly, so more events would be nice.”Winter 2022 RSR, for example. Doug hopes there will be snow.“I’m hoping it will be a really hard core event. A bit more brutal.” Bookings open before the summer holidays.