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MASS PARTICIPATION


Cycling is experiencing a boom in the UK – thanks to the recent successes of British cyclists at the Olympics and Tour de France


One of the common themes of mass participation sport is that it allows an alternative experience of a location, or access to an area which is usually forbidden


marathon route. The reason for introducing the event was to attract back those who’ve previously run the marathon, but wouldn’t want to do the full distance again – and also to inspire future runners.


GOING HARDCORE While there has been a rise in these huge mainstream events, there has also been an increase in hardcore mass participation events, where the focus is on personal challenge rather than placings. Steve Wood believes that extreme mass participation sporting events fulfil an innate need for a bit of danger and being outdoors. “We wrongly feel that we have controlled all of the risks in life and this is all part of human desire to push boundaries. When we spend most of our lives indoors, it’s also good to have to brave the elements occasionally,” he says. Jo Lake, co-founder of Mudcrew, which


organises the Scrooge Run and the R.A.T run – a 20 mile run along the Cornish cliffs – says people enjoy the mental challenge as much as the physical challenge. “Training your mind as well as your body is important, so you need to practice. I think people find it addictive,” she says.


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Paul McGreal, founder of Durty Events, which organises extreme triathlon, The Celtman, says: “It appeals to an unegotistical group of people seeking out interesting and tough things to do. They don’t mind failure in their lives and are motivated by challenge and fear. They start the race not knowing if they’ll finish it, but they don’t mind that.”


VALUE TO THE COMMUNITY There’s another benefit of mass participation sports, which is the economic value to the region. Research published in 2012 by the Sport Industry Research Centre, found that non-elite events can generate substantial economic benefits comparable to – and in some cases greater than – those associated with elite events. An independent assessment of the Brighton Marathon showed that the event was worth £6m to the town in 2013. The Celtman, which takes place in Wester


Ross, Scotland, brings competitors from all over the world. All accommodation in the surrounding areas gets booked up, and the local community council sorts out homestays, matching athletes with people with spare rooms.


Charities also benefit greatly, with many people using mass participation sport challenges to raise funds for causes. Nearly 80 per cent of the 10,000 participants of the Brighton Marathon will raise money, much of which benefits the region. Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance has received £89,000 since the event started in 2010. Andy Reed, chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, says the rise in mass participation sport is encouraging, especially as many of those taking part are not “die-hard sports nuts and are just the type of people sport needs to reach.” He says that increasing participation is one of the main challenges for the organisation’s members and opportunities which involve being outdoors, in a social setting, are popular. He encourages all sports development professionals to offer events such as these, on a smaller scale, and to find interesting locations for them by building links with private landowners. “For organisers and volunteers who


have thought about setting up their own version of participation events on a smaller scale, but are put off by bureaucracy and red tape, we would say ‘don’t be’,” he says. “There is the perception among some that


sportsmanagement.co.uk issue 2 2015 © Cybertrek 2015


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