BPFA Multi Terrain Run

This Years Multi Terrain Run is Cancelled

So no mulled wine, no new photos and neither a leftover banana nor a plate of unsold cakes, (preferably Mrs Higgins’) brought home, well Cheers! Coronavirus.  All of this being the result of no 2020 Butleigh Multi-Terrain Run, probably the second best day of sport in the Calendar. Don’t be surprised if you hear of Butleigh residents taking their hour’s daily exercise today, to sit up in the woodland in the sun on the outskirts of the village, no doubt taking their flasks and deck chairs with them as they would otherwise have done were it not for the lockdown.

Because for some people this Annual sacrifice, rather than being a nuisance is a source of great enjoyment and pride, they look forward to making their contribution and want to be a part of something which is successful. They love their spots around the course and helping the visiting competitors. For the Butleigh Multi Terrain Run is a true team effort which incorporates the generosity of volunteer Marshalls, Stewards, car park assistants and of course the renown cake makers/bakers and serving staff.

To mark the date of what would have been the 38th Butleigh Multi-Terrain, I’ve asked race originator David Heeley and his running companions for a few thoughts on how the race has evolved. David tells me that the race had developed from its predecessor the Butleigh Road Race which ran along Sub Rd to the Rose & Portcullis. Change was thought to be needed due to increased concerns over the runners’ safety amongst the traffic on the main road and David and his contemporaries were increasingly using the country footpaths and walkways for their social runs and felt it was a good time to incorporate some of these into an organised run. And it was observed that a softer surface is kinder to the joints. At this stage the run would still end at the Rose & Portcullis.

Local resident and serial participant Paul Knight takes up the story:

 I moved to Somerset in 1985 to work at Clarks and after a few years living in Glastonbury we were lucky enough to move to Butleigh in 1992 I remember the first day after we moved in I visited to local shop and introduced myself to some of the locals and was surprised that some were already aware I was a keen (but relatively average) triathlete and insisted I should (the next day) attend the annual Butleigh Dash - which originally used to run from Butleigh Wootton to the Rose & Portcullis - 1.6 miles of flat out lung burning running with no hiding places. I still have fond memories of the post run barbecue and being inducted into the Butleigh Runners who told me that they run every Saturday morning from Butleigh Court - different route every week and typically an hour at a conversational pace. Despite moving from Butleigh in 2002, I’ve probably run with that group on over 1200 occasions and covered in excess of 6000 miles.

Stalwarts of that group David Heeley, David Wood and Nick Foster soon roped me in to help with the Butleigh Multi Terrain which took place the following spring and targeted at club runners, being part of the Somerset Series and normally taking place a week or two before the London Marathon and seen as being a good workout with over 8 miles of undulating mixed terrain normally including plenty of mud and woodland trails.

In the early years the course would head out of Baltonsborough Road towards Moorhouse, left towards Street and a further left up Cedar Walk before crossing over Sub Road across country to Wood Lane and up through the (private) woodland before crossing the main road and dropping down the hill with stunning views towards Compton Dundon followed by an energy sapping climb back up to Butleigh Monument.

The route remains a bit sketchy from then onwards but I do recall a relatively quick return to Butleigh via the woods into Quarry Lane past the R&P before returning to the playing fields for the legendary tea and homemade cakes.

Peter Wright, a veteran Wells Harrier, stepped up to the plate in more recent years to help with the organisation and the late Jo Batty was always on hand to promptly produce accurate results for the 100+ runners that regularly attend this annual event. Health and Safety and risk management issues have resulted in route changes over the years resulting in fewer road sections and crossings but not at the expense of the spirit of this event which typically takes place just as spring is making its presence felt with trees coming into leaf and daffodils populating the verges. I have probably taken part in more than 20 Butleigh MTs over recent years as it’s always the first proper cross country run of the season and an opportunity to establish whether the winter training has paid off - normally in my case a realisation that I need to shed some winter fat and step up the mileage accordingly. I will miss the MT this year for the cakes, the camaraderie, Pete Edmondson’s Camera, as well as the fun helping set up and take down the route markers each year - the last time it didn’t take place as I recall was because of a Foot and Mouth outbreak But I’ll be there at the next one, mark my words.... ...bring it on! And many thanks to all involved.

Paul mentions Nick Foster’s involvement and Nick who must be a near ever present marks out the course nowadays having succeeded Pete Wright, shares a couple of stories:

 “In the early days of the event (the 1980s) I only missed running it once and that was 1984 when our youngest son was born and I was busy going to and from hospital each day. The other significant feature of the time was the course layout was so easy by comparison with today’s event: I can recall going round on the morning of the event with a running mate (sadly now deceased) and a wheelbarrow containing the markers and just finishing in time to do a quick change and participate.”

As for me, I’ve never run it, but I was invited to join the Playing Field committee in 2000 and must admit the race had been run autonomously and so successfully by David and his colleagues that a few years went by before I realised this was now a Playing Field event. Some of our senior colleagues had retired by now and there were the beginnings of issues to face.

Looking at the figures we knew something might have to change. The previous Multi Terrain Run had utilised 30 Marshalls for a field of barely 70 runners. An excess of Marshalls is a nice problem to have, a dearth of participants less so.

 We set about gathering some feedback, although one of the first considerations was pretty clear - pick your date carefully, - we were clashing with other events such as the equally long standing Bath Half Marathon and the newish Grizzly, oh and Mother’s Day and advancing clocks to BST weren’t helping matters either.

When we spoke with the runners, they had some concerns, one of the questions that they would always ask is “what footwear do I wear”? This was because they are confronted by such a variety of surfaces; road, grass, track, forest and then back to road again. And wet conditions made their choices even more complex.

Another issue that was easy to deal with was the start time, the original time allowed for attendance at a Church Service in the morning before participation in the run from 11.30. This was now  a problem for those runners coming from further away, they were used to having family time on a Sunday afternoon rather than giving up an entire day for a run, so consideration was given to an earlier start, so folks could get back to their homes for the afternoon.

The final concern was the distance; we settled on making it a modern 10km and took advantage of this by reducing the amount of road in the race, by starting in the field next to the Cedar Walk, thereby reducing the runners’ exposure to traffic problems and saving our Marshalls getting stick from impatient drivers. By giving these factors some consideration we are delighted to be in a healthier position, our target is now 100 runners - we can park that amount of cars on our premises if needed, or take advantage of good relations with our neighbours and put some in the surrounding fields.



Pete Edmonson writes ……

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