Above: just some of the Harrier team at the 2018 version of the Wells Fun Runs (photo by Paul)
Wells City has been the backdrop for a variety of editions of road races over the years since the first one held in October 1981. We’ve had some talented athletes come and run, up to and including international standard runners, and had races of varying distances for all ages, raising good money for some great local causes. We will sadly miss it this year but hope to be back in some form or other next year, post Covid-19. Read on for the history and to see how many names and faces you recognise.
The first race held in Wells was organised by the local Scouts in October 1981 and was called the Wells Fund Run. It covered a distance around the city of approximately 5.5 miles. 1981 was a big year for new races being established with many following in the footsteps of the first London Marathon held in March 1981. The Wells City Harriers was just being developed as a Club at this stage, originally using the name of the Cathedral City Striders until the better known version of the name was fully in use in 1982.
The results from the very first Wells (Fund) Run in 1981 and the second one in 1982 can be seen on this link here, Overall winner in 1981was Westbury Harrier Dave Francis who was one of the best runners in the local area and further afield at the time – winning on all sorts of terrain and over all sorts of distances and degrees of toughness – he was also the first winner of the Snowdon Fell Race in 1976. Dave now lives down in Devon, still walking lots but no longer able to run. The winner in the 1982 edition was an International athlete, Dave Chettle, from Tasmania who had run for Australia in the 1976 Olympics at Marathon distance – he was a pal of Clive Thomas and we met up with him at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 and as part of that trip he helped explain Aussie Rules football to me when we went to a couple of games! He managed to get the bragging rights over Clive at that Wells race -beating him by a minute.
Amongst the Harriers taking part in those first editions are some not so well known and other very well known names (i.e. they’re still active as members of the Harriers as indicated here with an asterisk!)
1981: Phil Thomas, Steve Mottershead, Stuart Marsh, Tony Williams, Steve Masters(*), Matt Sparkes(*), Paul Curtis, Gordon McBride, Al Thorner (*), Bernie Mundy (*), Anita Edwards and Terry & Nicki Shawe in 1981 amongst the 584 finishers
1982: Clive Thomas, Stuart Marsh, Tony Williams, Steve Mottershead, Paul Curtis, Mick Mills, Steve Masters(*), Roger Evans, Dave Williams, Kevin Sheppard, Anita Edwards, Terry Shawe, Andrew Piper (*), Ian Teasdale, Arthur Vernoum, John Buckley, Richard Angel, Nikki Curtis, Colin Turner, Pete Hughes, Sue Williams (apologies if I’ve missed any from the listings!)
(I’ve also noticed by the way that the late Brian Beale, Burnham Harriers, was racing at both of these events)
By 1988, the Harriers took over organising the Race in Wells, now over 8k, and to start with it was an evening race and part of an Avon and Somerset mid-week Series, sponsored by the Badgerline bus company with 10k races organised by Clevedon and Nailsea.
In the early 1990’s it reverted to the traditional late May Bank Holiday weekend and was named in memory of a Harrier member, Gerry Murray, who tragically died when racing at an event in Cheddar where he was a well respected teacher. The Gerry Murray races ran for 10 years and was without doubt the most successful Club event to attract very fast international runners thanks to the generous sponsorship of a division of Clarks shoes – CICA – from 1992.
The Programme/entry form for the Gerry Murray Races 1998 (note the date typo!)
Throughout the period 1994-1997 we attracted the very top runners and hosted the British Veterans 5k Championships for a number of years on a course that took in the Bishops Palace, the Market Place and Sadler Street – the top 5k times in the UK each year were very often set on this course until the even faster Yeovilton 5k course began to be used by Yeovil Town Road Runners. The Wells Race received good coverage in Athletics Weekly through reporting by Kevin Fahey and Mark Shearman’s photographs. The presentation of cash prizes and CICA branded goods used to be held post race in the Town Hall with that year's Lord Mayor making the presentations.
Below: 1994 - In front of the iconic West face of the Cathedral, that's Westbury's Marian Sutton just ahead of the Bath AC athlete. Marian went on to be a twice winner of the Chicago Marathon and in 1994 she competed for Team GB at the Europeans (Marathon) and World (Half Marathon) Championships and so was using our race as a bit of speed training! (photo by Paul)
The 1995 edition of the races included a showcase event in the Market Place when a squad of top international standard junior Pole Vaulters were invited to come and demonstrate the sport, and were effectively vaulting higher than the Market Place fountain! Organising this aspect was very much helped by sponsorship and the work of one of our (now) Honorary Club members Elspeth Turner. The 1998 edition of the Gerry Murray races was the last edition we organised and then there was a gap….
The Gerry Murray 5k Race Records are pretty impressive:
The Wells Fun Runs arrived in the early 2000’s and revived the idea of organising an event suitable for all abilities to encourage fund-raising and have an enjoyable time in the precincts of the Bishops Palace, with thanks to the Bishop! Maureen Andrews and Karen Nicodemi were driving forces to start with, and then Andrew Deamer (and family) took up the baton for over a decade, before passing it on to Julia Dukes and Lynne Elstob, with Sharon Bowles and a host of others to help. Kay Franklin, Mike Brown and many other Harriers, and others, have played their part in making this event a great day of racing. Its been fantastic to welcome runners from all over the County, the region and further afield to Wells for these races.
Below: One of the current Race Organisers, Lynne Elstob, under the watchful eye of the Lord Mayor John Osman, briefs the 10k runners prior to the start in 2019 (photo by Paul)
The organisers have had to cope with many challenges during the current race’s history including the situation thrown up when a Supermarket was built on the line of the race and there was no easy way to stop the traffic turning into the car park and in that first year (only) after that happened the race was the ‘Not quite 10k!’ The Fun Run still, however, starts in the Wells Market Square, out along the High Street and along the old railway line to Dulcote before returning to the precincts of the Bishops Palace by the moat for the finish line - 1 lap for 5k and a double for 10k with junior races having a different routing but the same lovely finish.
Below: Harriers gather up in the Market square before their races in 2008 (photo by Paul)
First three home in the junior 1.2k race in 2019 (photo by Paul)
At the last edition in 2019 we saw the Harrier’s Nathan Young, Christian Green and Zak Hurrell take the first three positions in the 10k race and Jo Carritt (Running Forever) , Francesca Rawlings (Clevedon AC), and Tara Johnston (u/a) taking the honours for the women. As has become the norm, there were also races of different distances for all ages, from under 8s to over 80s with all races including at least a section which was off-road. We will now have to wait until 2021 to see who will win the next editions of the Wells Fun Runs.
Below: First three home in the junior 3k race in 2019 (photo by Paul)
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