Standalone 10k: A look back at Letchworth race which marks 30 years on Sunday

PUBLISHED: 18:15 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:21 27 September 2017

Standalone 10k: Runners lining up at the start in a bygone year. Picture: NHRR

Standalone 10k: Runners lining up at the start in a bygone year. Picture: NHRR

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From humble beginnings when results were recorded by hand, Standalone 10k has developed into a flagship event for Letchworth – and on Sunday will mark its 30th anniversary.

Standalone 10k: Runners run past Green Lane Post Office in circa 2004. Picture: NHRR Standalone 10k: Runners run past Green Lane Post Office in circa 2004. Picture: NHRR

The annual race organised by North Herts Road Runners now attracts runners from across the country – and the world – but it has come a long way since the tape was broken for the first time back in 1988 at its trademark Standalone Farm finish.

That year, when the event was called the Standalone 10k Fun Run, there were 326 finishers – with Roger Wadeley crossing the line first in 32 minutes and 30 seconds.

But as times have come down, numbers have gone up – with 1,340 completing last year’s race which has also hosted the Herts County Championships since 1993. This year has proved even more popular, selling out in July with 1,650 entries, and including a revamped kids fun run.

Standalone 10k has become synonymous with NHRR, so the Comet asked someone who has been involved from the outset to take us back to the start.

Standalone 10k: The Comet's report on the first race in 1988. Picture: NHRR Standalone 10k: The Comet's report on the first race in 1988. Picture: NHRR

Ian Sutcliffe is that man – although to many his voice will be most familiar, having handled PA duties for the past 15 years or so.

About NHRR’s formation, he said: “I responded to an ad in one of the local papers – I think it was the Herald – by John Atkinson who was asking for runners to help him form a running club. That was in 1986.”

Two years on and Standalone was born. The 72-year-old, who lives in Stotfold, recalls: “Our club chairman Phil Gilby and secretary John Atkinson thought of the idea of having a local race to help promote the club and a new idea for Letchworth.

“The race was advertised by sending out the details to local clubs and also flyers on the windscreen of cars when we went to other races.

Standalone 10k: Runners setting off in circa 2009. Standalone 10k: Runners setting off in circa 2009.

“All the entries were sent in by post and collated by hand, and the race information was sent out by post to all the runners.

“The results were taken by hand and then calculated in a barn at the back for the farm. Of course, this is all done by computer now with chip timing and information being sent out by email – so it’s far more sophisticated.”

Ian – who has fulfilled many roles besides being the PA man, including stints as chairman, president and race director – explains that while the police have always been helpful in supporting the race, in its early days they weren’t too keen on it being run on the roads, asking if it could take place on a field instead.

Needless to say the 10k road race – 6.2 miles in old money – has since flourished.

Standalone 10k: The presentation ceremony in 1993. Picture: NHRR Standalone 10k: The presentation ceremony in 1993. Picture: NHRR

“I think the London Marathon, first held in 1981, has inspired more people to take up running and encouraged clubs to organise races,” said Ian.

“There are more organised races now than ever before – from parkruns through to ultra marathons. The focus on fitness has inspired more people into running and participating in organised events, too.

“Standalone has become the most popular event in the area and attracts runners from all over the country and even abroad. It has given our club a very high profile and contributed to more runners coming and joining us, so long may it continue.”

And asked what advice he would give to runners taking to the start line in Wilbury Road, his response perhaps explains why he is NHRR’s go-to when it comes to doing the PA announcements.

“Make sure you are fit to run on the day and warm up before the start,” says Ian.

“Listen to any instructions given by the marshals and also DON’T WEAR MP3 PLAYERS OR HEADPHONES.”

That sounds about right to us.

Standalone 10k starts at 9.30am on Sunday from Standalone Farm, with temporary road closures in place between 8.30am and 11.30am in Wilbury Road, Norton Road, Cashio Lane, Croft Lane and Stotfold Road. The roads will reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so.

For more information about the race, and the club, visit nhrr.org.uk.

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