When Dick Kearn announced after last year’s Challenge that he was stepping down after 19 years at the helm, it was assumed generally that another club member would willingly pick up the mantle for the 20th Downland Challenge in 2016. However, when it was realised just how much effort and time Dick sacrificed for the sake of the event, it became abundantly clear that finding his replacement was not going to be easy. Not only did Dick selflessly dedicate his own time, he also relied on his volunteers, many of whom were family members, who could hardly refuse to give up their complete Easter weekend to help! We are of course eternally grateful to Dick, his family and all helpers who have very kindly given up their time for no other reward than to be part of a very successful event that has raised thousands of pounds for many deserving charities.
With all the above in mind, we looked at various ideas to make the event less stressful and attract new helpers to ensure that the Challenge could continue. As entries for the longer 40 mile event have gradually been reducing over the years, whereas the 20 mile event entries have remained at a fairly consistent level, we made a decision to concentrate on the shorter distance for 2016. Easter falls in March this year, so it was also decided to move the Challenge date to April which would hopefully encourage a few more volunteers who could still enjoy their Easter break with the family. The 20 mile event will also assist the kitchen staff in their quest to provide the legendary after-race meal on time for all finishers.
Finally, we also made a decision to introduce ‘chip’ timing this year which will produce immediate results as runners finish.
We trust the new arrangements will ensure the event can continue without detracting from the enjoyment of tackling a very challenging downland course.