MILLENNIUM WAY RELAY – A RADICAL PROPOSAL – by Murray
Way Relay was first held on Boxing Day 1979, millennium
year in the Isle of Man. Up to that time,
the only athletics event to be held over the Christmas
and New Year period was the New Year’s Day handicap
cross country at Nobles Park. That event gradually
became less and less serious. Firstly, it
became a fancy dress run and then, eventually, it
turned into a pub crawl around Douglas.
The relay, in
contrast, went the other way. What started out as
a challenge between a few teams of runners to race
the cyclists over the newly designated route, with
a few drinks in the George Hotel afterwards, grew
into a quite a serious and well organised event.
Within a few years there were over 30 teams,
although contrary to many people’s memories, it
was not always held on Boxing Day, there were several
years when it was held on the weekday Bank Holiday
when Christmas Day or Boxing Day fell on a weekend.
As the event
grew, with prize presentations at Ronaldsway Aircraft
Company, Castletown Football Club, The Academy Nightclub
and then back to Ronaldsway, so did the workload.
The decision (I think) in around 1987 to make
the event a handicap added to the workload and the
idea of having a buffet at the presentation placed
great demands on people like Gladys and Allan Callow
who worked on Christmas Day to prepare the food.
After a few
years, the enthusiasm of some of the helpers was
eroded, unsurprisingly given the demands placed
on them at the holiday time. Chris Quine agreed
to organise the event on behalf of Manx Harriers
in 1996 and he asked me to assist him. As I agreed
that the event had declined, and had confidence
that Chris could reverse the decline, I agreed to
help. Amongst other ideas we had were to speed
up the presentation, re-introduce a buffet, get
the results out a lot quicker and provide a video
of the race. Chris marketed the event well with
press releases every week from October onwards.
We had belief that the event was of value
to a sponsor and during my time as practice manager
at Mann & Partners, I introduced the firm as
sponsors in 1997, a valuable support that continues
to this day. Recognising that even the shortest
leg of the relay was still pretty tough for a novice,
we introduced a shorter fun relay over the second
half of the course.
seven years of organising the event, our enthusiasm
waned as well and we both, independently decided
to stand down although Chris is assisting with the
handover to a new team and I shall still be providing
the results service. You wouldn’t believe
the number of meetings and phone calls that go on
behind the scenes and frankly some people are unreasonable
trying to change their teams on Christmas Day. The
weather at the time of the year places a big responsibility
on the organisers also.
So this year
a new team have stepped in to organise the event
on Boxing Day on behalf of Manx Harriers. Andy
Fox, Keiron Murray and Paul Jackson have taken the
responsibility for one year but the future is a
little bit cloudy.
And here is
the radical bit. I think we are trying to organise
the event at the wrong time of the year.
We now have
a perfectly good event over the festive period –
the Supercards St Johns Fell race on New Year’s
Day. Just as many people feel that running
over the Millennium Way on Boxing Day is a great
tradition, mainly those people who think that paying
three quid a head entitles them to so much work
by others at Christmas, there are far more who will
either never leave their families on that day or
who have had enough of doing so. The weather is
also a major handicap to the event.
During the past
few years we have lost three events in the autumn
season, a time when traditionally athletes take
a less serious attitude to the sport or even a break.
First the Three Peaks Challenge, a race between
cyclists and runners, fell by the wayside, then
the End to End relay run and finally the TT Relay
I believe that
the end of September or early October would be an
ideal time to organise an event such as the Millennium
Way Relay. The weather problems would be much
reduced, the demands on the officials would
be more reasonable and it would be a great time
for the serious runners at the end of the track,
fell and road running seasons to join together for
some fun. If the serious runners revert
to the idea of attracting their friends and families
into the event, then many of the recruits can be
retained to take part in the Walker Brothers Hill
League and the Manx Gas Cross Country throughout
If you are a
traditionalist and don’t agree then you have a chance
to step forward to help out next year!
say, the above is a purely personal view and does
not reflect the views of any club or official.