Thursday, 23 August 2012

Goodbye, Run Harrogate

Hi Everyone,

It is with heavy heart that I have made the decision to end Run Harrogate for the time being. I can't actually do the qualification they're asking for until October at the earliest - so carrying on is impossible.

Here's the last communication I received from HBC - I don't feel they've answered our questions regarding what constitutes an 'event', but wanted to share with you so you can make up your own minds:

Dear Miss Ward


Further to our email correspondence regarding the 3K Run Harrogate being held each Thursday on The Stray, I have now heard a little more about your event.

Based on the information the council now has, it appears that you are operating a Running Club.  In fact you have yourself thought about public liability as you say you have asked everyone taking part with Run Harrogate to sign a disclaimer form.  It will be for you to decide whether that disclaimer would cover any liability you may have personally for running the Club.

The council has to make sure, when organised events are taking place on public land it owns or manages, that all public liability is being met and that appropriate risk assessments have been carried out so that it can take into account the safety and well-being of those involved.  This is the climate we have to operate in and you may wish to clarify your own liability if you are to continue and/or expand the Club. 

As I have said earlier, running on The Stray with friends or family is fine, that’s what the area is to be used for.  But when sessions are carried out on a regular more formalised basis and you are inviting people or groups to attend (as your piece in the local paper was doing), then we have to consider this as an organised event and one which has to follow guidelines put in place to protect not only those taking part but other users of the council’s facilities too.

The council is very happy for such organised events to be held on The Stray but there are guidelines for organisers who should:

  • check with the land owner or those responsible for it (Harrogate Borough Council in this instance as managers on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster) that they are happy for this organised activity to take place on their land.

  • follow the guidelines set out for the use of that piece of land for that specific event or activity; these would be assessed from the application form submitted by the applicant.

  • have sufficient public liability insurance, and also has sufficient skills to provide the event or activity in a safe manner.

We also ask such organisers to read and sign, as part of the application form, a section which indemnifies the council as follows - 

I understand that organisers must indemnify the council against all actions, claims and expenses arising directly or indirectly out of the event or the presence of any of the organisers or of their goods and materials present on the land during the event or not properly removed therefrom unless the claims and expenses are as a result of the negligence of the council, its agents or officers.

The guidance notes and application form are attached and we will happily help you complete the application form.  You may want to think about contacting the Athletics’ Association who will also be able to give you advice and guidance particularly in relation to insurance.

If you wish to carry on with your run informally with just your friends or family, then that will be fine and we will be happy for you to do so.  But if you do wish to carry on with the Running Club then we will have to ask you not to promote it to the general public until you have followed the guidelines in regard to insurance and risk assessments.

Please let me know what you decide to do.

Here's my reply:

Dear Mr Middleton,

Further to your e-mail below, I can confirm that Run Harrogate has now been disbanded.

I have sent out a Tweet to that effect, and will be closing down the Twitter account within the next week.

It's such a shame that the encouragement of physical activity (I maintain that this was a support group, not a club) is so discouraged by HBC - especially when just over a quarter of adults were classified as obese in 2010. I'm sure you don't need to be made aware of the serious health risks associated with obesity - not to mention that it's set to cost the NHS around £6.3 billion in just three years' time.

Whilst you make it clear that The Stray is available for all to use - perhaps a review of what constitutes an event - and indeed the way in which communications are made - is necessary. I feel that 'events' like Run Harrogate should be supported - encouraged, even. You could supply contact information for the relevant organisations (Run England, insurance companies etc) on a simple fact sheet - at least that way you're seen as being slightly more helpful.

Still, thank you for taking the time to contact me and review our situation.

Kind regards,


So, there we have it. Consider the CLUB disbanded.

Luckily, I have met some lovely friends through Run Harrogate - and I hope that we shall all continue to run together every Thursday evening. Same time, same place.

Much love,

Sam x

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Reply...


I've had a reply to my e-mail from HBC. Here's the full communication so far - just so everything's totally transparent:

Dear Ms Ward

It has been brought to my attention and from reading the local newspaper that you are holding fitness activities on The Stray.

Although there isn’t a problem with you using The Stray to hold these activities, as events, The Council does need to manage activities that take place on land that it manages, and as with Park Run we need to ensure that you have completed a sufficient risk assessment and hold public liability insurance to a minimum of £5 million and have completed the relevant paperwork, we also need to ensure that the staff holding the activity have sufficient qualifications to carry out these activities.

Please can I ask that you submit the relevant information prior to continuing your activities on The Stray.

A copy of the relevant paperwork can be downloaded from our website at or please feel free to contact me via the details below.

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your e-mail. I've informed the group that we can no longer meet to run as I have neither a qualification or PLI. I wasn't aware that this would be required, as we are just like minded people meeting to go for a run. No education takes place, and everyone signs a sheet to say that they are running entirely at their own risk.

I am going to be taking a Leadership in Running course in a couple of months and will look into PLI, however this won't be until October.

I do feel that this is an area that requires clarification - where are the boundary lines drawn? If I were to text a couple of friends to see if they wanted to go for a run, would that be okay - what's the maximum number before this becomes 'an event'? Please don't think I'm being facetious - I've just had a lot of people get in touch to say that it's unclear - and I don't know what to say!

Happy to abide by any rules, would just be good to have all the facts.

I have to say though, I thought HBC would be more supportive of a free running support group that encourages fitness and a healthy lifestyle, especially on the back of the Olympics. 

Anyway, totally appreciate you're just doing your job, would just like clarification if possible.

Thanks so much,


Dear Sam,
I can understand how frustrating this is, as with any organised event we do need to ensure that these activities are carried out in a safe and secure manner, we also need to know who is using any Harrogate Borough Council land, to ensure that these activities don’t clash alongside other activities.

We encourage people to use the facilities, just sometimes we have to check we are happy with what is taking place, I would ask that if any of your friends or colleagues are thinking of similar projects that they take a look at our event paperwork  at  which will give you some idea of the details we need.

Running along The Stray with a couple of friends or family is fine, that’s what the area is to be used, you just need to be a little more careful when you start to carry out these sessions on a regular basis and are inviting people or groups to attend, we felt that your piece in the local paper was maybe some kind of advertising campaign, which is why it was brought to my attention to have a look at.

I am happy to help you move things forward as quickly as possible, but think for the time being you need to look at getting some sort of qualification, and for the protection of yourself and those taking your sessions you will need to have public liability to a minimum of £5 million.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any further help

So that's where we're at. Thoughts?

Sam x

All By Myself... :'(

Hi Everyone,

So, I thought I'd better post to give you my views on the recent RunHarrogate furore that's sent Twitter into a bit of a frenzy.

As a bit of background (and those of you who know all this, I'm sorry - I'll keep it brief), I started RunHarrogate back in May because, quite frankly, I was petrified. The thought of running by myself was daunting to sway the least - I'd just had a baby, I knew nothing about running and I ran under the cover of darkness.
I figured other people must feel the same, so I sent out a Tweet - would anyone like to come and run with me? We could support each other - safety in number and all that. RunHarrogate was born.

Fast forward a few months and we now have a core group of 15-20 runners, with more dipping in and out as commitments allow. I love this group - they make me smile (and, admittedly, beam with complete pride) every week; I've seen people (myself included) go from walking around the course to running, full pelt, head held high. Their fitness levels have improved beyond belief and they now take part in the weekly 5km Park Run as well.

Anyway, without getting too teary-eyed about it, Harrogate Council got in touch to say that unless I had a running qualification and £5million public liability insurance then I was to stop the group.

I was taken aback, to say the least. Bearing in mind I don't teach anyone - I've always been very honest about not knowing the first thing about running - and it's a free group that is literally there just so that people have the motivation to get healthy. I also send out a fortnightly newsletter to everyone with a disclaimer to say that they run entirely at their own risk.

I don't want to ride on the back of the Olympic coat tails but, really? We've just seen the biggest sporting event in the UK, well...Ever. Everyone's excited and energised to get involved in sport. Just let us run.

I don't want to fall out with anyone and totally understand sanctions are put in place for a reason but where does it end? The Stray is a public place - what if a group of mates wanted to get together once a week for a game of football or picnic? Is this an 'event'?

It remains to be seen. The local media has been amazing - I've done interviews with the Yorkshire Post and BBC Radio York, with another on StrayFM on Monday. People feel so strongly about this and the support has been amazing. Hopefully we can work with Harrogate Borough Council and reach a solution - it would be such a shame if we had to lose the group.

In the meantime, I'm off running on Thursday next week, around 6:30pm. Might see you there (coincidentally, of course).

Finally, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone on Twitter who has sent a supportive message or retweeted our concerns - every single one has been absolutely AWESOME.

Sam x