Hi, my name is Vikki, I’m 31, and mother to three incredible little ones. I also answer to
‘Mum’ ‘Mummy’ ‘Mama’ and ‘Muuuuuuuuum’. I have lived in Waterbeach for seven years
and love it; it has a great community feel!
Back in November 2014, I was talked into being the ‘chair’ of a local preschool that my
eldest child attended and now help to organise the Running Festival, whilst juggling part
time work, walking the dog, school runs, playdates, cooking, ensuring I drink enough
water, and generally keeping everything ticking along.
Blog 1: How it all began
I have a fair amount of experience managing corporate events but my role with Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup was something totally new. Committee-led, childcare setting and a charity; three areas I really had little knowledge of. The setting was child-rich but, due to an extortionate rent, we were not as cash rich as I thought we should be. Everything for the setting was covered, but there was no wiggle room for extra activities that the children love. Parents, you know the ones I mean - where your child comes out very happy and covered in gloop and you are horrified, until you realise that the mess could’ve been made in your kitchen, and you sigh with relief!
So, we started brainstorming fundraising ideas - cake sale, Autumn search, cake sale, winter fair, cake sale, nearly new sale, cake sale, village feast day, cake sale… You see where I’m going with this.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone LOVES a good bake sale, but I don’t think they should be used a main source of income. They are time intensive for a comparatively small reward. I’ve also found that volunteers tend to be the ones baking and buying the most cakes too - there had to be a better way.
Jess, who was also on the committee, mentioned doing a big event that would take more prep but for a larger revenue. She had organised triathlons in her hometown and said it was doable. I agreed. We talked about some sort of fun run event for the village and it was decided; we threw caution to the wind and dove straight in.
We needed a location and had links with Urban&Civic and thought, why not? It's worth a shot, the worst that could happen is they say no. We set up a meeting and the outcome was that we could use the barracks, with the sports hall as a base.
We set up the website, booked the timing guys, the first aid and set up our go to spreadsheet; a thing of wonder with colour coded sections with timelines and different tabs for different areas of the event. I managed to borrow a large barbecue, gazebos, tables and began risk assessing.
With eight weeks to go, there was so much to, but we felt that we had it under control and steady trickle of entrant registrations began. I think that most of our stress came from the fact we didn’t know how big the event was going to be. We needed at least 150 entrants to break even. What if we overestimate the amount of people entering and have spent too much money on medals that can’t be returned, and we actually lose money? I’m not going to lie, there were many late nights trying to get everything in place.
With two weeks to go, Jess and I had entered what I like to call the ‘It’s fine, everything will be fine. I’m fine’ stage. We had all the basics covered, most of the paperwork covered, we just had to finalise the last entrants and recheck our risk assessments.
The course was set, we had cones coming from a friend who works at Netherhall School, crowd barriers from Urban&Civic and the tables from the Scouts. Maybe we were fine! Wait, what about volunteers? We need more! I put the call out to all my friends, family and every community group I had ever heard of hoping there were people willing to give up an hour on a Saturday morning to ensure it ran smoothly. And, after some persuasion and roster jiggling, we had enough volunteers.
I should probably say a massive thanks to my Uncle Mick, who drove two hours
to stand on a course and direct runners, my Mum, who manned the cake stall despite
having recently finished her final round of chemo and was prepping for a major 12 hour
surgery the next week, and my Aunt Kay, who flew in from the South of France on the
Friday night before the event to make bacon butties for the morning and then flew back
to France that evening. I will forever be grateful to any and all volunteers who come and
help at events, but I feel these three needed a special mention.
With a week to go, everything is a bit of a blur. Entries closed at 300, bottled water was
bought and our friend, Gary from Netherhall School, turned up with a group of sixth
formers on a sports course to help set the course up. It was chaos, but an organised chaos.
I don’t think I slept the night before the run. I remember lying there going through all the scenarios of things that could go wrong! I was at the barracks at 6.30am on the day of the event. I had stall holders to organise, a barbecue to prep and roughly a gazillion gazebos to put up. We checked the course one last time, checked the wind speed for the bouncy castle, set the sound engineer and timing guys up, all before the first volunteers arrived. I had volunteer registration and briefing to sort before runners arrived, we seemed to have it under control, and headed off problems before they arose.
Once runners started arriving, and registration open, I didn’t really have time to worry. I don’t think I stopped moving. Running around checking on progress, checking people were in the right place at the right time.
Then, before I knew it, the festival village was filled with people wearing medals, most sweaty, red faced… and smiling (some grimacing). What is this? People were enjoying themselves! Jess and I stood in the middle of the festival village, going through our checklist of close down, when somebody passed us and said in an off hand manner ‘Thanks, see you same time next year!’ We nervously laughed. We had done it! We had put on an event, that people enjoyed and would want to do again.
The first year we raised £1,800, which, for our first attempt, was pretty good. But the work wasn’t over. We had to pack everything, remove signage, take empty water bottles to be recycled and return everything we had borrowed - in a tight timescale. I caught a train to London, to do the Moonlight marathon walk around London overnight, as you would naturally do, after having a large fundraising event that day. What was I thinking!
A few days later, we met for our debrief. Feedback from the event seemed to be positive, and there seemed to be interest in holding the event every year. The question was, would we be willing to do it again? ‘Yes’ was the answer but only if we could guarantee volunteers. It always comes down to volunteers. These events can’t take place without the army of people behind the scenes willing to do random jobs for little recognition.
We have made a few changes over the years, ones I hope to elaborate on in future posts. In the meantime, you might like to read a runner’s blog from Tony Bacon, winner of the 5k for the past three year.
Blog 2: It’s all systems go!
This year’s Waterbeach Running Festival is shaping up to be the biggest and best so far.
As well as races to suit all ages and abilities, there’s plenty going on in the Festival Village to keep the whole family entertained, including a wide range food and drink stalls, an ice cream van, a bouncy castle and slide, a children’s activity corner and Waterbeach Brass Band…
Conducting the risk assessment with the 'help' of Storm Gareth.
Vikki (3rd from left) with fellow organisers Jess, Mim & Donna.