Harrigan of the Half

FEBRUARY 2017: Later this month, the Brighton Half Marathon will be staged for the 28th time.

Heading up the organising team are cousins Martin Harrigan (Race Director) and David Hill (Event Director).

It’s a charity event, raising the profile of, and, more importantly, raising funds for, Sussex Beacon.

The two have been managing the event, which this year takes place 26th February, since the winter of 2014.

I caught up with Martin.

How are the preparations going, Martin? How many runners can we expect to see out on the course this year?

Things have been going well thank you. We have a new wheelchair race this year which has given us something new to get excited about – and which we are all looking forward to!

We have a record entry this year, so we are hoping to go well beyond the 8,500 finishers we had last year.

New Zealander Paul Martelletti has won the race for the last three years, in fact with a new course record in 2016. Will he be running again? And are any other top names taking part?

Yes, Paul has been a massive supporter of the race and he will be back again this year. Kevin Rojas has also entered and it’s good to see that James Baker (himself a 3-time former winner) has accepted a late entry.

I think the women’s race this year is a little more open – with a very strong Sussex contingent – but could this be Sarah Hill’s year?

I know you and David both have a background in Event Management? What were you doing before getting involved with the Half and how did the move come about?

Yes, effectively we have our own events business which, in recent years, had seen us heavily involved in Leisure & Tourism, working overseas for clients such as Thomas Cook and First Choice Holidays. Nearer to home, we had previously produced the PRIDE Festival here in Brighton and started to develop a specialism around helping local Charities develop fundraising events, which is how we first became involved with The Sussex Beacon, the organising Charity behind the half marathon.

And how do yours and David’s respective roles differ? How would you define your separate responsibilities?

We put a big emphasis on team work and organisation around the event’s culture and, within that, we can drop in and out of roles as required. In the run up to the event, I take more of a lead on the sales & marketing side of things with Katie (our Comms manager), in terms of runner registrations, the youth races, merchandising, etc, whereas David’s key focus is on managing our charity partnerships, which is a huge part of what we are trying to do.

In terms of race day, we assume a more classic structure, with myself as Race Director, responsible overall for delivering all our race activities on the day, whereas David, as Event Manager, will focus on our workforce (volunteers), and ensure we get fulfilment right, in terms of medals, drinks, goody bags, etc.

What’s the biggest challenge in putting on such an event?

I suppose the scale is pretty daunting, but really it’s dealing with all the variables on the day, varying from road closures and course layout, through to ensuring circa 500 volunteers and a further 150-plus contractors and staff are all on the same page when it comes to delivery – and that, ultimately, runners can go home having experienced a great race day!

I imagine you can never have too many volunteers to help out on race day? What kind of positions do you still need to fill and who should people contact if they’d like to offer their services?

Where do we start!

We get great support from local running clubs in and around Brighton – and we really value this support, not least because, as runners, we understand some of the stresses and strains that people go through on race day and, of course, we often have a level of insight and experience from organising our events at club level.

So, anything from road marshals and baggage, through to fulfilment or race village all have a number of jobs which need filling!

If anyone would like to offer their services, that would be massively appreciated and they can contact me at martin.harrigan@sussexbeacon.org.uk

And what will you be doing on the morning of 26th February?

It’s an early start; we are normally on site from around 4am, helping with the pre-race set-up and then, as 9am approaches, obviously, a great deal of focus will be on ensuring we are looking good to go – on time!

What about the Sussex Beacon charity… what can you tell us about that?

The charity itself has a focus on service delivery and offers specialist care and support to men, women and families living with HIV. Over 104,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK, and Brighton has the highest proportion of people living with HIV outside of London.

Open 365 days a year, the inpatient and outpatient services help people living with HIV-related illnesses, provide emotional support, help with starting new drug therapies and facilitate end-of-life care. Our approach to care is about looking after people’s physical and mental health.

The Sussex Beacon charity organizes the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon and it’s our biggest annual fundraising event.

And were you always a runner yourself before managing the Half?

Yes, I suppose I have that classic running club background as a young athlete and junior, with a 20-year lay-off in between! I started running again when I turned 40, initially to keep fit and, having re-joined a club, was eventually dragged back into racing!

I still train five times a week (work permitting) and compete regularly for my club – although the focus nowadays is much more about enjoying my running and ensuring that running continues to play a big part of my life as I head into my 50s!

What would you say are your own principle running goals, going forward?

Having got the marathon monkey off my back last year in London, I would now like to run a decent 10K time! My personal best is about 37:50, and I’d really like to do 36-something.

Martin, thank you for giving us an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the Brighton Half. Good luck on the 26th. Let’s hope for good weather! And hopefully this will trigger lots of interest from prospective volunteers and support for Sussex Beacon. Oh, and good luck with getting a sub-37 10k!

If you’d like to know more about Sussex Beacon, or to make a donation, please take a look at http://www.sussexbeacon.org.uk/


By Mike Bannister