The following text provides an overview of the relays. Historical data is provided courtesy of Neil Shuttleworth.
The inaugural UMACCC relays took place on the 28th October 1967 at Wythenshawe Park, Sale. The race was a closed relay; open only to male university and college teams. It was won by Manchester University with the Dirty Dossers coming first loser, the fastest leg of the day (and the first official course record) belonging to Frank Briscoe of Dirty Dossers.
The Dossers won the next two editions of the race but then succumbed to the mighty Birmingham University team of 1970 whose clocking of 58:41 remains unbeaten by a university team. The 1974 race saw Julian Goater set the men’s course record of 9:11 which still stands today. Indeed only a select few (Dave Lewis, Hugh Jones, Ron Hill and John Wilde) have been close to Goaters time since.
The 1976 race was notable for the team finishing in 5th place – Team Ron Hill.After running the first leg for the Manchester University past members’ team in 10:04 he continued to complete the full six laps in 63:36. A remarkable performance from perhaps the king of Wythenshawe Park (he also ran sub 30 for three laps). The team course record of 58:38 was set in the 1977 race by Manchester and District LCH. The record represents an average leg time of 9:46 and anyone with any knowledge of the Wythenshawe Park course will appreciate just how awesome this is.
The next running of the relays (1978) saw the belated addition of a women’s race. In the pursuing 29 years the women’s course record has changed hands several times currently residing with Sarah Young who ran 10:58 when anchoring Salford Harriers to victory in 1995.
Birmingham University are by far the most successful team in the history of the men’s race with more than 12 wins whilst Stretford AC (now Trafford AC) have clocked four of the fastest times ever on the women’s side. Recent races (post-millennium) have been dominated by Salford Harriers and Birmingham University.
Over the years the race has been sponsored by a multitude of local and national companies including Wilson’s Brewery; Ronhill Sports; Fastrax and Fila. The willingness of these companies to support the relays is homage to the many people who have helped sculpt and cement the reputation of the relays over the past 40 years. The prizes for the 2015 Manchester Relays will be in the form of Sweatshop vouchers and these are indeed provided for by Sweatshop.
In 2006, the relays were moved from the traditional venue of Wythenshawe park to the university playing fields. This move coincided with the 40th anniversary of the event. Wythenshawe Park is and always will be intrinsically linked with the tradition and history of the relays (thanks in particular to the feats of Ron Hill) but all good things must come to an end. Thanks to the new multi-million pound pavilion at The University’s playing field complex the move meant that we were able to offer registration, changing facilities, refreshments and prize giving at the race venue. The hope was that this will make for a less chaotic and thus more enjoyable event for both competitors and spectators. It also provides scope for continued development and expansion of the event. Due to parking restrictions, health and safety and permit requirements at the park, the event was hitting the limit of its expansion.
Wythenshawe park did provide a well loved and varied course that was popular with many runners. However, there was no car parking, no facilities for under-cover registration, no changing and no toilets. Prize givings were poorly attended due to them being held in other places. We could only mark the course with flour due to park requirements and scally-robbings of stakes and tape. The tail-enders were greeted with a very lonely course as spectators only ever made it to the finish area and the stream jump. It also cost us a lot of money in applying for a licence to use the park.
The move was controversial and difficult. Many past members were not happy with the way it was announced; the news was leaked before any official liaison could take place. Many also felt that the 40th year was an inappropriate time to move it, and some were just traditionalists. Many local clubs and universities welcomed the news, some did not. The University also took some convincing that we weren’t going to destroy their fields. However the event proved a success. All feedback has been positive, many sceptics have been converted. The head of facilities at The University termed the event a “flagship to be proud of” and attendance was at a record level. At the 2006/07 AGM it was voted that the event remain at the playing fields.
Whilst this history of the relays is by no means complete it gives a brief taste of the race’s rich and eventful past. It also signifies the end of an era and the chance to write your name in the new edition of the UMACCC relays history book because as Henry Ford once said “the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”