A most exclusive race: The Richmond Running Festival, and why you must run it, by Larry Eder

The Richmond Running Festival medal, one of the benefits of running in the most exclusive races in London! 

The City of London has many surprises for the person willing to take the time to discover the little surprises. What about, running in a World Heritage site, with four thousand of your closest friends, and benefit some very important charities? 

The Richmond Running Festival is just that. In the Borough of Richmond Upon the Thames has a sports history that dates back to 1666! In the current world, the area is rich in running trails, and has been  the training site of Mo Farah, one of the most popular and successful distance runners in the world, including his double 5k/10k double at the London Olympics! 
Big cities around the world have races, from 5k to half marathon, to marathon. In London, the world's greatest marathon is held every April, with 45,000 runners, from the elite, to club runners, to charity runners, take over the city of London for one whole day. 

But, not every race that a runner runs needs to be a mega race. And running on the streets of London, like the streets of New York, highlight the major cities, but is that all there is to running? 

RUNFEST's Tom Bedford is both a runner himself and someone who has had vast experience working in major events, from the Virgin London Marathon, co-founded by his father, David Beford, to races in North America, where he developed a race consulting business, as he built up a reputation in the running community, not based on his gene pool, but his own successes in his race consulting business. 

Tom wanted to do more. He want to find a unique race, a unique event, that he could put his prodigious talents and spirit into, and showcase such an event in the City of London. 

From this desire to develop a unique event, Tom Bedford came up with the Richmond Running Festival, which includes a kid's race, a 10k and a half marathon as part of the celebration of running. This year, one thousand kids and 4,300 finishers graced the Richmond Running Festival. 

Tom Bedford knew about the Borough of Richmond Upon the Thames. He also knew, from his mate, Mo Farah, and his own experience (Tom has run a 2:19 marathon), that the running trails in Richmond were like a piece of the country life in the environs of London. 

The Borough of Richmond has a unique feel in the City of London. That combination of country life and city life is becoming less and less of an option in the great cities of the world, and London, is no exception. And rightly so, the Borough of Richmond knows that they have something quite special, and are rightly so, concerned with keeping growth and events under control. 

RunFest's Tom Bedford is the race director. Race Directors are a fascinating lot. They must, to be successful, have many skills and many friends. A dedicated group of mates, who have talents in everything from marking courses, to managing security, to developing entertainment, and finding sponsors, are key to success. 

Well, meet Tom Bedford. A running veteran who understands the sport from the elite side to the needs of citizen runners, Bedford has spent much of the last decade and a half working in some of the best running events in the world. Knowing what it takes to build a fine event, Tom Bedford also knew that he needed great sponsors, unique course and approach to charities, and a course that was both fun, and challenging. 

Tom Bedford is handsome and charming, good attributes for a race director. His charm, his wit, and his self deprecating sense of humor are part of the talents that Mr. Bedford uses to make his event successful and continue the support of the Borough of Richmond Upon the Thames. 

That charm and wit helped him with his partner, Jade Parker. Jade, the Deputy Race Director, helped Tom focus their last six months on making the 2014 version of the Richmond Running Festival even better than last year. 

The Richmond Running Festival runs in some of the most exclusive real estate in London. The course limits allow much less than can be found on more pedestrian courses in major cities. That uniqueness, that chance to run on a World Heritage site is what gets runners to run in the Richmond Distance Festival. 

The Nike Kid's races is a great touch, and another example of how RunFest has gotten the event right. Providing a chance for over 700 young runners a chance to have some fun and fitness all in the same time are part of the allure of the event. (One thousand kids ran the Nike Kid's race in 2014.)

The 10k race is a distance most runners can accomplish, and the course gives runners a chance to see Richmond in a way few others have seen. 

The Half Marathon course gives runners an even deeper view of the running trails, in Richmond and Teddington. 

There is so much to making a race successful and building a tradition. In the first year, Tom Bedford established a relationship with the Mo Farah Foundation, and was able to have Mo Farah at the media press event for the initial event. 

In 2013, Mo Farah had Chris Thompson, European silver medalist at 10,000m, racing at the Richmond Distance Festival. In 2014, Jo Pavey, fresh off her silver medal at the Commonwealth Games 5,000 meters and gold medalist at the European 10,000 meters, competed in the 10k and won the race, to the delight of her fans the four thousand runners in Richmond. 
Besides elite athletes, a great course, pre and post race refreshments, the Richmond Running Festival has a wonderful shirt, celebrating the nature seen on an everyday run. The OH DEER, # I RAN Richmond is one of the most desired products for the race! 

But, the most unique part of the race has yet to come! In the London Marathon booth in April 2014, the Richmond Running Festival had two thrones with which runners can have  a respite. Deputy Race Director, Jade Parker, was quite pleased with their "thrones" and the unique booth, drew many to picking up race applications. 

Shown below, Jo Pavey was being proclaimed Queen of the Richmond Running Festival. 


When I asked Tom Bedford the tough question, why runners should consider the Richmond Running Festival for 2015, he supplied me with this deep thought:

"In a short period, we have created an event that has the UK's best medals and fab NIKE tees. We are London's most exclusive race because n one can run the beautiful Kew Gardens any other time of the year. We are now
expanding our after party entertainment which is fun for the whole family but allows mum or dad to leave the kids in the petting zoo and sneak off to
the champagne tent!"

And then, in typical Tom Bedford fashion, with a wry smile, he added: 

"We have some even crazier plans for next year, that we were unable to squeeze in this year!"

So, if you missed the 2013, or the 2014 Richmond Running Festival, I would not fret, dear runners. Just be prepared for 2015, and check for updates at www.richmondrunningfestival.com! 

Who knows what Race Director Tom Bedford will come up with next year to entice runners to race in the most exclusive race in London! 

It will be on my bucket list for 2015...

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