Sunday morning saw the final Run Preston event take place in the city centre, with more than two thousand people turning up to run in the races and hundreds lining the streets to support the runners.Advertisement
The event which incorporates a 10k race, a 5k race, and 2k fun run, has been happening in the city for more than a decade and on Sunday (24 September) it said its final farewell with participants pounding the pavements and streets as they made their way through the city centre and round the popular Avenham route.
This year, Run Preston became fraught with financial problems and difficulties surrounding funding due to council budget cuts.
The event, which is mostly funded and paid for by individual organisers and sponsors, has had to cease as rising road closure costs have thwarted the possibility of it continuing past 2017.
Organiser Steve Ashcroft said: “I feel sad about this being the last Run Preston. We’ve got 1400 people in the 10k, almost 500 entered the 5k and we’ve got a 2k on the park afterwards that’s already got 300 in it.
“People (the councils) just don’t seem to want it.
“There’s a council event on the flag market outside the Harris today and they’ve got a stage. I asked if we could use their stage for our medal presentation and they said no.
“In Wigan, they had 4000 entered into their 10k and the council are really behind it. It’s just a shame.
“They’ve put all sorts of problems in front of us. The costs have risen immensely.
“There’s been a lot of funding cuts at the council and they don’t actually have the leisure centres anymore, they’re run privately now, so the idea of bringing sport into the city, well, I don’t know.”
Steve charges low fees to enter the race because he feels it only fair to the people of Preston to have an affordable running event in their hometown.
However, with the cost of running the event spiralling out of Steve’s control (the county council’s bill for closing the roads went from £1400 to over £3000 last year) the only way he could manage to afford to continue with it is if he increased the entrance fee, something he doesn’t want to do.
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He’s had help from sponsors, such as Audi, who’ve paid for the medals this year but still the costs are rising.
He said: “I could charge more to enter the race but people don’t want to pay that much.
“The first costing of this whole event was something in the region of £26,000. That’s road closures, policing, marshalling. It costs over £1,000 for marshalls.
“Bolton had their half marathon cancelled a few weeks ago because of escalating costs. It’s just all too much.”
Steve said it takes a full year to plan an event like this and considering he organises Run Preston (along with other races such as the Longridge 7k and the Boxing Day 10k) in his spare time, it’s becoming too much for him to take on alongside his full-time job, and the stress of not having enough cash is beginning to take its toll.
The rise of Preston Parkrun perhaps lays claim to the fact that the ceasing of Run Preston wouldn’t matter too much.
However, unlike Parkrun, which is a free 5k run that takes place in Avenham and Miller Parks, and is aimed at being a non-competitive fun-run, Run Preston is a little bit different.
Run Preston sees individuals, families, friends, and runners from running clubs across the Lancashire region entering and competing against each other for fastest times and personal bests.
Outside of Manchester and Bolton, it’s also one of the only city centre road races left in the area.
We spoke to some race entrants before and after this morning’s 10k and found out their opinions on this being the final Run Preston.
Simon Robinson, who’d just completed his first Run Preston, said, “I’m gutted. It’s a really good race. One of the only town centre races left in the area.
“Parkrun is not as competitive as this and the atmosphere isn’t the same.
“This brings running teams from all over the region together and it’s been a massive show for Red Rose Road Runners this year too.”
Rob Wilson and Catherine Campbell said: “It’s wrong. It’s really sad. They’re encouraging fitness through the NHS and now it’s stopping.
“It also brings people to town and makes them spend money – people from Blackburn and other towns. It’s really sad.”
Heather Buckel and Steph Blakeley, who are in training for the London Marathon, were here to do the 5k, and alongside their trainer, Graham Vickers, expressed their indignation towards the funding issues too.
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Heather said: “We’re gutted. We’ve only just started running really. We’re doing the 5k this year and it would’ve been nice to do the 10k next year but now we can’t.”
Graham said: “It’s all down to finance, the council are charging too much. It’s gone up from £600 to over £3000 to close the roads now. And the police need funding too.”
Lisa Baron, a member of Red Rose Road Runners told me: “It’s my first Run Preston and now it has to be my last which I’m genuinely gutted about.
“I think it’s a shame because it’s an event that gets people together and puts Preston on the map, especially for runners – it encourages them to come from different areas.
“I can see where the council are coming from but you would think they’d want to keep this going. It’s taking away fun things that get families out and get the communities together.
“I think what Steve (Ashcroft) has been doing is really good; he organises a lot of runs and it’s a shame that something he’s built up over the years has to stop.
“I mean, look, the medals are brilliant – they’re massive! There’s a lot of effort put into Run Preston and you can tell the organisers care. This is the best medal I’ve got!
“It’s important to have things in your area that you can get involved with. There are other runs and routes but this is a town centre one – it’s iconic.”
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With the general feeling about the cancelling of Run Preston being one of sadness, it’s not all doom and gloom; the atmosphere at the run today was fantastic, and despite it being the end of an era, there may well be a light at the end of the tunnel for the popular event.
Steve Ashcroft said: “Manchester 10k organisers have had a word with us and they might want to get involved.
“Also, it’s UCLan’s 190th celebratory year next year so they might get involved as well. Somebody will take it on.”
Did you take on Run Preston? What do you think about it ending? Let us know in the comments below