Keswick Half Marathon; the story so far
From its humble origins as a rugby club fundraiser, this event has gone from strength to strength over four decades. Now a firm favourite in the road racing calendar we’re delighted to see runners return year on year to participate in one of the most challenging but also rewarding half marathons in the country.
The inaugural Keswick Half Marathon was held in 1981, organised by ‘Race Secretary’ Malcolm Craghill with the support of his wife, Joan. Malcolm and Joan and their family have been heavily involved with Keswick Rugby Club for decades, with Malcolm making over 700 appearances on the pitch. Some 800 runners were attracted to take part in the first year in what was a gruelling road race in one of the most beautiful locations in the country. It’s no surprise that the following year’s race tempted over 1,200 runners to take on the challenge. Malcolm remembers fondly how they recorded the official race distance with the help of Tony Bragg; on foot, with a borrowed Surveyor’s measuring wheel. To achieve the required distance, the end of the race involved two laps of the first team pitch – not an ideal finish after almost 13 miles on tarmac … nor to mention the state of the pitch!
Malcolm and Joan admit to initially having little or no experience of organising a running race, so they were most grateful for the help provided by Ross Brewster and Keswick Athletics Club, who helped with many aspects including race categories, something that may have been overlooked in the first year. Archie Evans and Gareth Roberts also provided invaluable support.
Not only was it the challenging course and the stunning scenery that quickly made this a popular race, but the benefits offered by Keswick Rugby Club. The club house provided runners with changing rooms and showers; many other races at the time didn’t offer such luxuries as showers after the race. Even if they were mixed!
The event has always been held at Keswick Rugby Club, with the finish line outside the club house on the first team pitch, with Skiddaw in the background. The race start line and the exact route has altered slightly over the years but it’s now firmly fixed with runners setting off from just over the bridge in Portinscale. Supporters have always positioned themselves around the route, keen to cheer everyone on, particularly on the steepest sections of the course.
The running of the event has always relied entirely on volunteers and over the years there has been tremendous support from so many people; most of them club members and others who have been keen to support the club, and the wider community. Marshal duties were often seen as a good excuse not to take part in the race – most rugby players in the early days point blank refused and were more than happy to oblige with race registration or handing out water at a drinks station! 40 years on and nothing has changed; a team of 50+ willing volunteers bring a wealth of experience, heaps of enthusiasm and a lot of love for all the runners on the day. As a club, we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who helps out; from the youngest junior members to those that have long since hung up their rugby boots.
Malcolm held the reigns for “about 10 years.” David Hulme took over in the mid 1990’s before handing the baton to David Hogarth. Carrick Wharmby took the helm next and put in an impressive 14 year shift, again whilst juggling work, family, kids and playing first team rugby as well as steering the event through the covid years. Taking on the role now, as of 2023 with huge shoes to fill (quite literally), is Ange Turnbull and Sara Young; the first females and non rugby players to do so. Both, however, are familiar with the pain and sense of achievement that comes with completing the race. They’ve spent many years supporting Keswick seniors at home and away fixtures, they’re passionate about sports club culture and sporting opportunities for young people and are involved across a number of age groups in the junior section, volunteer in the kitchen and have generously contributed to the bar profits!
As time goes on we’ll add to this page detailing the race’s history, other characters who’ve shaped the event, statistics and stories from those who’ve been involved. If you feel you’ve anything you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us firstname.lastname@example.org
For now though, we’d urge you to enter the event and become part of the Keswick Half Marathon’s ongoing story!