Supporting local charities and celebrating wildlife

This time of year is perfect for getting out and making the most of the British countryside and exploring local trails. With spring in full bloom there are several affiliated clubs up and down the country hosting races, celebrating their locality.

We recently caught up with Hiren from Pitsea Running Club to talk all about their recent Bluebell 5-mile race, donating all their proceeds to the Essex Wildlife Trust!

Bluebells course

Organising the race

It is no mean feat organising events whether on a small or large scale, with logistics and organisation in the build-up playing a key role in the success of race day.

As a local parkrun director, Hiren from Pitsea Running Club was the perfect candidate to take on the club’s Event Coordinator role when it became available.

“I joined the club last May and became a committee member in January, so it has all happened pretty quick! As an event director at parkrun I have experience and knowledge on supporting events and have worked with the previous organiser, Nigel, on a couple of events last year. I worked with Nigel, fellow club member Paul and committee member Michael who all supported me in the build-up and on race day. It really was a team effort!”

Volunteers of Pitsea Running Club

Drumming up interest

The digital world of social media can be a great tool to spread the word about events and drum up excitement. After four years away, the club worried about a potential lack of interest.

“The Bluebell 5 used to be managed by another local club, Castle Point Joggers, before they handed over the organisation to us in 2017. Due to the pandemic, the last race was in 2019 so we were initially thinking we would target around 200 runners. In the end we managed to sell out of our online entries and had just over 300 people taking part on the day.

“We used social media to attract local runners and worked with local running clubs and parkruns in the area to promote the event. We have a dedicated Bluebell 5 Facebook page however this has been dormant for some years. After posting for the first time to say entries had opened, we had an incredible 100 people sign up in 2 days!

A big thank you goes out to Pip who manages our social media channels, she was instrumental in marketing the event online and helped us to achieve such fantastic numbers on race day.”

Volunteers from Pitsea Running Club at Bluebells race

The success on race day

After months of planning and working alongside the local Essex Wildlife Trust on the route, it was finally time to race!

“Everyone loves running on the trails and it can be challenging in the winter so as soon as the weather gets better it’s great to enable people to explore. The route heads through one section of the woods covered with bluebells which is where the race gets its name. We try and pick a date at the start of the year when we estimate the bluebells will be there and we have been pretty lucky with it!”

From parkruns to local races, these events would not be possible without the vital contribution of volunteers.

“Our club has around 140 runners and they’re fantastic. We don’t often have too much trouble with recruiting volunteers. We had quite a lot of people who volunteered before or after the race and still managed to take part. We also had support from our neighbouring club, Phoenix Striders in Basildon. Members from both clubs made or donated cakes to sell before and after the event which were very popular with runners.”

It wasn’t only the individual volunteers who made the race a fantastic success, it was also the support of local organisations.

“The local sports centre helped us by providing free parking and gave us a room to use to hand out numbers and host our cake sale. We also had St John’s Ambulance providing first aid for free which was amazing to have a dedicated medical team.”

Start of the Bluebells 5 mile trail race

Giving back to local charities

What makes this event incredible isn’t just the fantastic turn out and attracting athletes from the local area and beyond, it’s also about how they give back to the local charity, Essex Wildlife Trust.

“The event has been historically partnered with the Essex Wildlife Trust since it began. This year with entries we have been able to raise £3500 for charity to put back into the local area. As part of the partnership, the Trust provide us with wooden bowls to give to the race and veteran winners. These are made of wood from the local forest which really ties into the race location.”

Male and Female Winners of Bluebells race

Articles in this series

The Role of a Welfare Officer