Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Article - Setting Good Example...West Waterford's Nightime League

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guest Article - Setting Good Example...West Waterford's Nightime League

The article below was written by John Walshe and appeared in the Irish Runner magazine back in 2005. It is republished here with their kind permission. Even though the article is some seven years old, I believe that it is still as relevant today as it was back then. At present, there are a number of evening winter leagues taking place mainly in east Munster. I have details of these up on the Running in Munster website...just look for the series adverts on the right hand side of the page. These could be replicated in any large town or city in the country with a bit of planning. Evening leagues are suitable for new and experienced runners alike. If you are in a position to help start one in your area next winter, you might give it some thought...

West Waterford's Allrounder League is a proven winner and a template could be copied countrywide.

"We must tell the whole country about this, why can't every town have one?" The enthusiasm of West Waterford AC Chairman James Veale, is palpable as he talks about the sight of 340 runners heading off on a dreary November night around the streets of Dungarvan, reflective bibs shining in the darkness.

The Allrounder Winter League takes place every Wednesday night from early November to the end of February, with just a short break at Christmas, making it 15 weeks in total., Started ten years ago with just seven runners, its phenomenal growth has mirrored that of the West Waterford club itself, playing a significant role in their rise to become one of the most vibrant athletic clubs in the country.
"I suppose a whole combination of things has contributed to making it so successful," muses Veale as he tries to come to terms with the huge organisational input the League now requires. "The coverage in the local newspapers has a lot to do with it. Our two papers here in Dungarvan  - The Leader and The Observer - give two or three pages a week to the club and we also advertise it in many of the local factories."

There is a choice of two distances each week, a 2.7-mile catering for beginners and a 6-mile for the established runners. After the first night, a handicap system comes into operation, with the slowest person each week going off first the following week. First across the line is awarded one point, and so on down the line. The person with the lowest number of points at the end of the league is the winner. After Christmas, both leagues are divided into several divisions to sustain everyone's interest.

"It's just €2 for members of the club each night and €3 for non-members". explains James Veale. "This year, people are travelling from a wide area and now a similar league has commenced in Waterford City, such is the interest."

Dungarvan Sports Centre serves as the league headquarters. Out on the road, up to 20 stewards are required, with another 12 to 15 at the finish looking after car parking and entries and recording numbers and times.

"A lot of the helpers wouldn't be members of the club; some of them having been roped in over the years. They give great commitment - even my own father has been there since day one," says Veale. This year, in the interest of safety, a new long route was devised consisting of a two-mile out and back with a loop around St.Augustine's College in the middle.

The times at the finish are recorded by Noel O'Doherty; no mean feat with over 70 runners a minute coming in at the peak. The results are compiled on computer, with handicap times deducted from finishing times. Full results appear on the club's website and in the local papers within a week.

It was back in 1994 that Tony Ryan first established the Allrounder Winter League. "I remember we used to meet at the Dungarvan Crystal Centre and had seven runners the first night, increasing to around 23 by the end of the winter. The format was the same as today, culminating in the Mystery Tour and prize-giving night."

The famous Mystery Tour was another of Ryan's innovative ideas. "On the last Friday in February we head off on a bus tour to a pub, the destination of which is known to only two people. Here we present all the various prizes for the league, including the leading people in each of the divisions.
"The key to the success of the Winter Leagues is that people realise you don't have to be a good runner to take part. Also, the handicap system gives everyone a chance of actually finishing first."
"If some body like the Irish Sports Council started one of these in every county in Ireland, in ten years time you could imagine the impact it would have," concludes Ryan.

It's certainly a suggestion that maybe John Treacy, Chairman of the Irish Sports Council and one of Tony Ryan's contemporaries from his own juvenile athletic days, should consider.


ken owens said...

Night races in cork can be done,if all the clubs in the city joined together and ran a once a month race it would be of benifit to all,it would bring in financial rewards for the clubs,training for the athletes and also bring new runners out to run in the winter.east cork and well done to them came to the tramore vally to run a race,why cant city clubs follow this example. leevale ran many years ago a night race in blackrock everyone had to wear a flasher arm band.east cork had theirs in midleton for many years,sadly now gone due to safety. if the city councils got involved also it would bring more people to a proper organised event.we are supposed to be the second city in ireland and west waterford show up the clubs in cork hands down, if you take out the ballycotton series in the summer there is not very much left near to cork come members of clubs lets work on it for next year and do it right.I for one would be honoured and glad to get involved

Anonymous said...

have to agree ken- think it's a great idea