The organisers of this year’s Our Bury St Edmunds Festival of Sport have hailed it as ‘their best yet’ after a week packed full of activities across the sporting spectrum.
During half term week there were opportunities to try taster sessions of many different sports in and around Bury St Edmunds as well as new competitive events including the town’s first marathon.
The Festival, the third to be organised by Our Bury St Edmunds, coincided with the first ever St Eds Running Festival, which took place from the Skyliner Sports Centre on Moreton Hall.
It was a fitting finale to the festival with more than 1,000 people registered for either a marathon, half marathon, 10k or fun run supported by Unique Bars.
Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, Mark Cordell, said: “This year’s Festival was a great success.
“As it coincided with half-term it meant we could offer opportunities to all age groups.
“We had six different free-to-enter public participation events in Charter Square and I’d especially like to thank the arc for supporting this as well as the representatives of the different clubs that organised them.
“It was really noticeable how well supported our local sports clubs and groups are by people who give up their own time to organise events and activities.
“There’s no doubt that these volunteers are the unsung heroes of our grassroots sport.”
For those not looking to lace up their trainers themselves, the Festival of Sport also offered an opportunity to relax over a lunch with a sporting legend — while helping to support some of the county’s brightest sporting stars of the future.
A SportsAid event saw former England Test cricketer and national selector Geoff Miller OBE, recognised as one of the best sporting speakers around, entertain diners at the Athenaeum on Friday.
The lunch, which was supported by Abbeycroft Leisure and Lovewell Blake, also saw SportsAid grants presented to two Suffolk teenagers, Bury St Edmunds-based England basketball player Ether Little and Ipswich-based athlete Joshua Hulse.
Meanwhile, The Unique Bars Running Festival held at Moreton Hall’s new Skyliner Sports Centre on Sunday had a chairty element to it, benefitting Bury Town Pastors and also the West Suffolk Hospital charity My WiSH.
First among the 362 completing the Kent Blaxill Half Marathon was St Edmunds Pacers’ Stepehn Dunne in one hour 21 minutes three seconds, with the first lady to cross the finish line Claire Dann in one hour 34 minutes 20 seconds.
Oliver Knott was the first of 74 in the Abbeycroft Leisure Marathon in a time of two hours 51 minutes 43 seconds, while the first woman home was Puri Meseguer Bernal in three hours 51 minutes 21 seconds.
Unfortunately, the Knights Lowe 10k course ended up falling a little short of the distance due to an error in misdirection, with the 398 runners instead completing around 9.5km. Robert Smailes won the race in 35 minutes six seconds, with Tamara Jordan the first woman to cross the line in 37 minutes eight seconds. A further 78 runners of all ages also completed the HaverSports Fun Run.
Jack Tappin, director of organisers HaverSports, said: “We had such a great turn out for this inaugural event — we were hoping for 500 runners, so to have over a thousand sign up was fantastic. It shows how well supported sport is in Bury St Edmunds, and we were able to enjoy a fantastic venue at which to offer these events.
“We’re aware of the error that impacted on the 10k race, and by way of apology for that are offering a free 10k place to our runners who were affected, with the Haverhill Running Festival coming up on Sunday, March 11 a great opportunity to use that.
“I want to thank out sponsors who made this possible, our beneficiaries who worked with us to realise this, all our marshals who got our runners round safely, but most of all our runners who took part to make this such a successful inaugural event.”
Dominic Creffield, manager of sponsors Unique Bars, said: “It was great to have so many runners competing in Bury St Edmunds, and we’re pleased to have been able to throw our support behind this event.
“We hope that the running community of Bury St Edmunds and beyond will continue to support this event so it can grow bigger and better in future years and continue to raise money for these fantastic causes.”
n The Our Bury St Edmunds Festival of Sport is promoted by a partnership led by the Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds and including Abbeycroft Leisure and St Edmundsbury Borough and Suffolk County Councils.
n Fund-raiser Lauren ends emotional 1,000km challenge at half marathon - see page 13