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The city is the venue

Tyne Bridge Simplyhealth Great North Run

Tyne Bridge Simplyhealth Great North Run

Charlie Mussett, senior operations manager at The Great Run Company, has been at full throttle with the finishing touches of Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry, the race that pits the best of Team GB and NI against Europe and the US.

The race will kick off in Holyrood Park on Saturday 13 January 2018 and heralds a series of events The Great Company has in store for 2018, including the second outing of Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run next summer.

Based in Newcastle, Mussett has been working in the outdoor events industry since 1992 and for The Great Run Company since 1997.

The Great Run Company is a specialist in the development, design, organisation and rights management of mass participation and televised sporting events.

Its portfolio boasts over 32 individual events, all delivered annually through Great Run and Great Swim. The company has reported that, typically, these events see over 250,000 participants each year throughout the UK.

The 2017 season ended with the Simplyhealth Great South Run in Portsmouth on 22 October. It was the 28 staging of the event with over 20,000 runners taking part in a 10-mile road race.

Mussett explains: “Our focus right now is on debriefing the Autumn events we held across Tyneside, Bristol, Ipswich, Glasgow, Birmingham and Portsmouth in September and October and planning for 2018.”

The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry in January will see international elite teams from GB, Europe and the US compete on the grass and hills and over 3,000 runners take part in the Simplyhealth Great Winter Run on the road.

“As a late Christmas present, a nice light dusting of snow for TV would be just fine, but not enough to affect logistics!” he enthuses.

Short build time

Commenting on the difference between a festival and a mass participation event, Mussett says: “Mass participation events typically use public space, with the ‘venue’ being city streets and public spaces meaning a lot of liaison with local authorities, landowners and highways departments and a significant amount of business and resident communication.”

Mussett points out that these events often have a very short build time. “This could see us closing roads at 4 am for an event which will open to the public at 9 am, with the same streets handed back as soon as is practically possible to get a city moving again.”

The experience is what makes mass participation events unique. “Our customers sign up to an experience, and for many that experience will form part of a short or long term goal that might be to get fit, take on a challenge, a change of lifestyle or to raise funds for charity,” Mussett explains. “We talk to and work with our participants pre and post event to help them get the most out of that experience.”

Simplyhealth Great South Run historic dockyard

Simplyhealth Great South Run: participants pass by the historic dockyard

What’s your view of the outdoor events sector?
CM: It’s a very varied place, with festivals, the arts, sport and experiential working in their own areas, and often only linked by shared use of suppliers, venues or crew.

Within mass events, it’s been a crowded marketplace for some time, and a level playing field approach does not apply. The guidance we all need to work to and the level of welfare support we should all aim to provide is clear, but regulations are not universally applied nor is best practice always seen.

What is the main challenge for your events?
CM: Weather and changing city landscapes are regular challenges: all of our events have a bespoke wind action plan, and we used that to assess the risk to the recent Simplyhealth Great South Run where we were forced to both make changes to the site and cancel the Saturday programme of events due to Storm Brian.

We’re fortunate enough to work in major cities like Birmingham and Manchester but with that comes the changes to roads and tram systems that can mean year on year changes to event sites and courses.

What needs to be done for outdoor events to be successful?
CM: A lot of hard work! We typically have to provide everything, which means we have more flexibility than an indoor venue might but a lot more to sort out. In terms of what we offer, we have to ensure that we are constantly delivering and refreshing safe, well organised, fun and accessible events to our participants.