Duchy Athletics Network Builds Track Racing Numbers
A series of events in the South West has been used to see a rising number of people taking part in endurance races on the track.
The Duchy Athletics Network was formed in 2009 when four of the largest running and athletics clubs in Cornwall, supported by the Cornwall Sports Partnership, bid for funding to 'provide a forum for promoting athletics in Cornwall; to engender partnership and participation in the sport and to increase capacity and professionalism of clubs, volunteers and officials'.
Over the 8 years which followed the DAN committee have helped to fund coaching bursaries and attendance at conferences and workshops, supported regional team competition and - perhaps most successfully - have organised annual races to encourage participation in running at all levels, from beginners to elite. They now run as a self-sustaining committee, generating income from races, subscriptions and sponsorship.
The inaugural 'DAN 5k Series' was launched in 2011 with five 5k evening races, held during the Summer months on off-road courses across the county. The aim was to provide short distance races, which would help introduce beginners to competing, in a low key way, and yet also provide vital speed work for seasoned runners. It was hugely successful, with 97 participants completing at least 3 of the 5 races.
In a review of the series in 2013, the DAN committee realised that although road and multi-terrain running was at an all-time high in Cornwall, track races had very few participants, despite being hugely beneficial to athletes' progression. In response to this, DAN trialled a series of four 5k track races during the Summer. The aim was to breakdown the intimidation of track racing, for those who had never tried it, and to encourage beginners to take part, while providing a good level of competition for more experienced runners too. Once again the series proved very popular; 94 men and 33 ladies did at least one of the races, with 46 runners in total doing at least 3.
Gaining momentum and the experience of hosting track races with each year, the DAN committee looked to take the series even further. They noticed that the County Championship races had been attracting low numbers over recent years (In 2009 only 8 runners entered the 5,000m and 8 in the 3,000m. In 2010, only 5 runners took part in the 5,000m and 3,000m championship races). In light of this, in 2014, the DAN committee began to organise the County Championship races at 5,000m, 10,000m distances, along with graded races for other abilities. Numbers soared!
2014: 28 runners took part in the 10,000m champs and graded races and 57 in the 5,000m races
• 2015: 47 runners took part in the 10,000m champs and graded races and 49 in the 5,000m
• 2016: 45 runners took part in the 10,000m and 66 in the 5,000m. The 3,000m county champs was also brought under the DAN umbrella and with further graded races also attracted 50 runners in all.
• 2017: 25 runners in all took part in the 10,000m champs and graded races, 57 at 5,000m and 47 at the 3,000m distances.
In total, that is 471 runners over four years, who may never otherwise have attempted a track race.
The popularity and provision of these races also helped to recruit new timekeepers and officials within the county and DAN has welcomed four more running clubs as members.
The DAN series has successfully promoted and improved track racing participation numbers and standards at the 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m distances and achieved thriving County Championship fields, all through the work of enthusiastic volunteers and teamwork.