A light bulb moment was where Blackpool 10k fun run all began in 1983

George Zell, who founded the Blackpool 10k fun run, looks back at the very first event in 1983.  It was the springboard for one of the resort’s biggest  and most successful charity events

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 5:00 pm

In 1982, I took up jogging as I felt I needed to do something about my fitness.

I started in a small way so that I could gently increase my distance.

In 1983, during the Easter holidays, my wife Barbara and I together with our daughters Yvette and Zoe went to Clearwater Florida.

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26th Blackpool 10K Fun Run sponsored by Beaverbrooks.
26th Blackpool 10K Fun Run sponsored by Beaverbrooks.

Our hotel room looked onto the beach and one weekend I saw many runners congregating in readiness for a 10k.

I had never heard of a 10k before and watched it with interest. I found out that there was going to be another run the following weekend – The Easter Bunny Run.

I went on a couple of practice training runs during the week and decided that I would enter. The following Sunday I was a participant and thoroughly enjoyed it.

During this period, we received the very sad news that one of our best friends at home, Lawrence Goodstone, had passed away and this became my inspiration to help the proposed Hospice.

Blackpool fun run 2008

This was the period that Dr. David Cooper was busy promoting the building of a Hospice in Blackpool and The St. Annes Co-Ordination of Charities took on board helping to raise funds so that the project could start.

A ‘light bulb’ went off in my head and I thought that we could create a 10k in Blackpool that would raise money for the Hospice.

I couldn’t wait to get home to present my idea to the Committee.

We had the first informal meeting regarding a fun run.

The pictures which captured the atmosphere of the first run, as reported in The Gazette in 1983

I outlined my idea to Andrew Brown (Chairman of the charity committee), the late Lawrence Jackson and the late Jeff Aspinall (from the Blackpool Gazette) who were there.

At first they were sceptical about the idea. “Why would someone pay to run down the Promenade when you can run for free?” was the comment.

They even laughed! Jeff said the Gazette would offer free publicity if the event was going ahead.

We went on to pursue the idea and Lawrence approached Barry Fothergill from G.R.E. (Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance) as he knew him.

How The Gazette reported the first Blackpool 10K fun run

Barry pledged sponsorship of £3000 towards expenses. Jeff promised free publicity.

I took on the task of organizing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what was required to get authorization and approval of what we were undertaking. I held meetings in our factory canteen with the people who were given various tasks regarding marshalling, manning of water stations etc.

In fact, the committee were updated every 3 weeks on where I was up to with negotiations with the Police, Transport, Derby baths etc. My staff at Zell-Em Group helped with the administration ( we had 2 girls from my office working for 6 weeks dealing with applications, queries etc.).

We made signs for the various road closures that would be required, and my guys were out on the Promenade at 5am. on the day getting the course ready, putting up signs, cones, and barriers. At no cost to the event.

The event took place, it was a fantastic day resulting in a cheque for £17,777 for the Hospice funds, which was the largest cheque that they had received from a single event at that stage.

I continued to run the event for a further 3 runs, and I believe G.R.E. continued their sponsorship too, but I had to give up and I handed everything over to Andrew and the Committee.

George Zell (left) and his personal trainer Steve Chisnall. The Blackpool Fun Run was George's idea

After 4 runs, the event was attracting around 4000 runners and it was the second largest 10K in the U.K. Andrew and the Committee received a tried and tested blueprint of how to set up the event for the future.

The Beaverbrooks Blackpool 10k Fun Run takes place this year on Sunday May 10.

The Fun Run is suitable for both new and experienced runners, anyone from the age of 11 upwards can take part and there’s a wheelchair category too. Visit www.trinityhospice/our-events