Sunday 4th April 1982 saw a new experience greet the town of Fleet. In the midst of the 80's running boom Fleet & Crookham Athletic Club, sponsored by the Star Newspaper and with assistance from local businesses, launched the first of many successful half marathons. Chris Brasher (founder of the London Marathon) gave permission for the event to be titled "The Pre-London". In its plans for the second event Fleet & Crookham AC stated "…The primary aim is to provide a well organised race that places the runners need and enjoyment above all else…… By aiming for a perfect race, rather than maximum profits, the whole event becomes a 'spectacular' for participants and spectators".
Race day arrived with bright, warm weather and high expectations setting the scene at Rushmoor Arena. The Gurkhas' pipes and drums entertained the gathering crowd whilst the "The Red Devils" dropped-in, ran the race, then flew off to the Falklands! Large crowds supported the race around the course and in the arena, whilst medical aid was given to many runners suffering mainly from the heat (70ºF). The following two years saw rain and hailstorms!
So foundations were laid for a very successful race to become a premier event in the town's calendar and the world of athletics.
What has happened since?
The race has always been associated with and supported by the local branch of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research as the main charity. In 1984 (after a committee meeting on Westminster Bridge!) the race joined the Pearl Assurance road race series. The Athletic Club also became a founder member of the British Association of Road Races; a body dedicated to improving organisation and safety at road races. Major sports companies such as Adidas, ASICS, Reebok, Nike, and View From have also sponsored the race whilst local sponsors have included Fleet Honda, Redfields Garden Centre, Barons BMW Farnborough, Mackenzie Smith, The Park Club, Alton Sports and Everyone Active (Hart Leisure Centre). Since 2013, the race has been partnered with Brooks, our Sports Brand Partner - we are delighted to be working with them again.
Entries rose to 5,000 a year with a regular 3,000 completing the course. For many years the race was closed for entries by Christmas, such being its popularity. We now accept just 3,500 runners due to the restrictions of the course. The race still reaches its entries target with it normally being full well before Christmas despite competition from other major half marathons on the same day/same month.
Celebrities and TV/film personalities are regular visitors. Elite athletes gracing the event have included Steve Jones (former marathon world record holder), with internationals Steve Brace, Garry Staines, Bernie Ford, Marion Sutton, Ann Ford, Paula Fudge. Club and local athletes continue to use the race as a warm up for the London Marathon as well as for a personal best opportunity in its own right.
Two courses have been used, plus variations, with HQ moving to Calthorpe Park in 1992.
Over the years assisting groups (medical, communications, scouts, guides, ATC, school parent assocs. etc) have benefited from donations with Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research raising large sums from the event in its own right. Fleet & Crookham AC has improved club facilities and the Club continues to provide athletic facilities for the area of Fleet and Church Crookham, the only club in the town to offer all athletic disciplines to all age groups.
Support to the event requires assistance from over 300 people, hours of work from the dedicated members of the organising committee (several being very long serving) and the encouragement from the hundreds of local people watching.
The 2010 race was dedicated to Colin Gostelow who died in 2009. He was one of the founders of the event and was involved in a major way right up to becoming ill shortly before the 2009 race.
The 2017 course reverts back to a previously used route with the exception that it now finishes on the cycle path in the park.