Over the winter season, Scottish organises 8-10 races just for club members: see this year’s schedule here. In our latest instalment in The State of the Scottish, long-time club member Alasdair Saunders talks about the value of club races and offers some ideas for making them more popular and exciting.
The good folks at On the Run asked if I would write something on club races – why we have them and how we might change things so they fit better with what members want. I’m not intending to berate anyone for not supporting club races. Full disclosure: I’ve been a club member for almost a decade, but I’ve never run the Ballantyne, and I’ve only run the Baudinet once; but I love the Galashiels.
So with interclub races, the various road races around the country, and road relays, what can club races add to the winter season? Well, at least for the Cenntennial and the Portenski Cups, there’s the sense of occasion of the start and finish of the season. Maybe you’re a fan of the open handicap events with their helter-skelter finishes. Or you just want to avenge a defeat to a rival earlier in the season (or three seasons ago!). But it could be all about the silverware, especially if you’re in the O60s.
There’s also the chance to race some quirky courses. The McVilly course has already gained notoriety, and the short course mountain run champs are one of Crofton Downs’ biggest sporting events!
Club races are also a chance to socialise beyond our packs, training groups, or teams. We should remember that not everyone wants to race interclubs. But for those that do, the club races offer a chance for lower-stakes racing or race practice. And there’s history and tradition of course. We aren’t the first Scottish members to freeze on the start line in Island Bay, and we won’t be the last.
But judging by turnout, it seems that club races aren’t capturing members’ imaginations in the way that they have in the past, or that other events do. So, what could be done?
Do we need to look at some new courses and/or surfaces? Some of our races are on some pretty varied courses (the Baudinet especially) but others are less interesting (Tanadees). We don’t have a club race on a XC course, or a longer trail race (although “trails” in these parts generally means hills).
My impression is that race distance isn’t much of a factor. Many of us focus our training around 5-10k, and shorter or longer than 10k that would probably reduce turnout. Having options for distance (1-3 laps) at the Ballantyne doesn’t seem to have helped increase turnout.
I’m also not sure that on its own, changing the scheduling is the answer either. You’re never going to please everyone on this count. There’s also quite a lot to fit into the programme. One angle here might be the extent to which we use club races as “tune-ups” for interclubs or other major events. Tanadees has sometimes served as the last chance to prove yourself before road relays, but with park runs, Honest 10ks etc on offer, club races might not matter so much for this as they used to.
Are there other race formats that people would like to see on the programme? The McVilly shield has added some variety as a more social, low-key relay. Creating match-ups between Scottish teams at interclub relays has been successful. Is there interest in introducing another relay, with teams handicapped? (I’m sure that our handicapper James Turner would love that!)
Or are there just too many races on the programme? Should we merge one of club races with an interclub race? JT probably handicaps the Dorne already just for fun, so we could just formalise this and award one of the club trophies for it. It would solve any problems with turnout, and might give you that bit of extra motivation on the second lap. But the club handicap is likely to become a bit of an afterthought if it’s incorporated into a larger event.
Anyway, give it some thought, chew it over on a pack run sometime, and spread the word about the race you want to see on the programme (and that you want to help organise). And I’ll see you at the Scottish handicapped distance medley relay at N-town Park in spring 2019.