The moment you speak with David Kelly, head of Run Reigate, you can see why Reigate Council bit his arm off when he approached them in 2013 with the idea for a road race to rival the Great North Run (or even the Brighton and London Marathons): his enthusiasm and can-do attitude is absolutely infectious.
“I’d been so inspired by the London Olympics,” he says. “I was working in software, but my passion is running, so I put together a plan and took it to the council. It turns out they were looking for a legacy event for Reigate, so the timing was spot on. They’ve been super supportive.”
Last year, Run Reigate saw over 5,000 entrants – and all their entourages – descend on Reigate in a huge boost to local business. But massive events are not easy to organise. You first need to meet stringent safety standards, get the emergency services on board and set up insurance, and only then can you design the course and start the publicity. “It’s not for the faint-hearted,” David says, “but I love a challenge! When Intersport came on to sponsor us, it helped to pull it together.”
As a runner himself, David already had ideas for the course. “Lonesome Lane is gorgeous and perfect for runners of every level. It winds and twists, but it’s also flat and has lots to see like sheep, geese and ducks. Of course, we had to start and end at the stunning Priory Park in the centre of Reigate. It’s one of the largest parks in Surrey and now it’s an icon of the British running scene too!”
The first Run Reigate half-marathon (13.1 miles) was held in 2014. Then, in 2015, a 10K run was added along with the Canon Kids’ Race, the the first ever cumulative marathon where children complete the distance in stages: 12 miles in the month leading up to Run Reigate (either as PE classes or in their own time) with a final 1.1 miles on the day itself. For a grown-up sense of achievement, kids get the same medals as adults.
“I spoke to local hospitals and commissioning groups and they said the impact on kids’ health, both now and in the future, would be huge: fewer illnesses, fewer hospital visits, less expense, and more vitality. Plus a sport for life.”
Held on the second Sunday in September, Run Reigate has some pretty astonishing stats: 5,000 runners from 4-84 years old; 20,000 visitors; 90 participating schools and over £900,000 raised for local charities such as Stripy Stork, The Samaritans, Children First, and Love Works.
“From 7am till tea time we have a free festival on the day with live music, gourmet food, Pilgrim Brewery beer, local gins, an activity park for kids, and stalls from our partners and sponsors.” No wonder the event has twice won the prestigious gold award for the best half-marathon in the UK at the National Running Awards, in 2017 and 2019.
Yet somehow that isn’t quite enough fun for David. In 2018, he also started Ride Reigate (“We sold out in three weeks and had 800 cyclists!”) and set up Run Gatwick with British Airways (“It’s amazing: the planes come in low over your head. Fantastic!”). And that’s alongside hosting wellbeing events for private clients through his company, RunSeries, which now has a team of seven.
David is originally from Dublin and came to Reigate when he fell in love with a local girl, got married, and had a family. “It’s a friendly, lovely old market town with this amazing community spirit,” he says. “People love the outdoors here, and like to get involved. It’s a great place and I’m a lucky man. My work is my passion and I’m helping my community: it doesn’t get better than that.”