The Tour of Tameside 2017 The countdown begins
Tuesday 11th April 2017 @ 14:28 by Mark Phillip

In ten weeks’ time, the Tour of Tameside will return to the borough for a third consecutive year.

The iconic event is set to attract a good mix of club class competitors, social runners and charity fundraisers, as well as numerous volunteers who assist with the day-to-day organisation.

Taking place across four days from Thursday, June 15-18, the event will once again encompass four separate legs, including the Cross Trail 10k; The Hell on the Fell; The Hero Half Marathon, and the Dr Ron Hyde 7 Mile.

Although many of this year’s participants will have started training at the beginning of January, the planning for the tour began much sooner.

In fact, according to tour organisers Kevin Harmer and Graham Jackson, the planning started last June.

Kevin Harmer (inside left) with Davies Sports employees

Speaking to Reporter Sport about the forthcoming event, Graham explained the reasons behind sticking with the four day format: “I think we are progressing each year, making it bigger and better” said Graham.

“When we brought the tour back two years ago, it was a three day event, but it was a challenge and everybody loved it, so that was why we increased it to four days last year.

“We’ve decided to keep it at four days once again, so those who ran last year can then compare their times with this year.

“The courses are all the same, and the only one which will change very slightly is on day one, but it’s only where it actually finishes.”

The Tour of Tameside in its halcyon days of the 80s and 90s

Until its demise in the early 2000s, the tour was a week-long event, which attracted people from all corners of the world.

However, Graham is happy to see the tour remain as a four day spectacle for the time being, but did suggest there could be an additional few days in the near future. He explained: “I think you’ve got to draw a line and let it establish itself as a challenge” he said.

“You’ve got to get it back on the running calendar and push it as a challenge.

“You can either run all four days or any of the individual days – they’ve all got different challenges.

“On day one it’s the 10k through Daisy Nook and Park Bridge.

“It’s not your classic 10k, where people think it’s as flat as a pancake, as it starts on the Park Bridge side, goes up and down the cycle path and then onto the trails.

“There is also a step section thrown in, which I don’t think anyone expected last year, but people actually loved it; they loved the event itself just as a stand-alone race, so that in itself was a challenge.

“Maybe in a year or two we’ll look at increasing it again.”

Back in its halcyon days, the tour was renowned for generating a festival like atmosphere, which, in the process, helped foster a sense of community spirit.

Kevin is hoping for the same this year, and fully expects the final day – the Dr Ron Hill 7 Mile – to provide this in droves.

Questioned on which leg inexperienced runners should tackle, he said: “I think it would be best that people take on stage four, which is the Dr Ron Hill 7 Mile, and that’s for a couple of reasons really.

“Firstly, it’s a classic road race, so you’re in and amongst other people using a very simple set route, but it’s also the final day of the tour as well, so you’ll get to experience all the energy of the runners who have competed in the three days previous.

“You’ll be cheered on by everybody through Hyde town centre itself, and you’ll also be part of the closing ceremony in Hyde Town Hall, which is fundamentally one of the key things to the history of the tour.

“Back in the 80s and 90s it was about people coming together as a community; people coming out of shops and houses to cheer people on and be proud of the race.

“We see that mostly evident in stage four, but it’s whatever people want to take on.

“If people prefer running off the beaten track then there’s something for them earlier in the week.”

Legendary marathon runner Dr Ron Hill MBE (inside left) with
Neville McGraw and Neil Atherton, who have both run all the past runs, and friend Tony Hillier far right

This year’s tour will once again be supported by numerous sponsors and partners, including Active Tameside, New Charter, Tameside Council and Kerry Foods, as well as new recruits in Curzon Ashton, Davies Sports and Swizzels.

Kevin explained the importance each partner has in helping the tour function. He said: “In terms of reengaging with the right sponsors and right partners, that happened as soon as the 2016 edition had finished, and it just means we can have the right conversations really early on and give people who support us really well the promotion and the marketing opportunities that they need as well.

“They’re very supportive of us so we need to be confident that we’re giving a return to them.

“It’s been going for a fair while now and it’s starting to gather pace quite nicely, ready for June.”

Those who take part in this year’s event will receive free admission to Curzon’s first home game of the 2017/18 season.

Detailing the reasons behind the concept, Kevin said: “We had a really good conversation with Natalie (CEO), and she herself is a keen athlete, and she’s dynamic in involving the club with other activities in the area which is great and it can only help the club in moving forward.

“We always envisaged the tour as a vehicle to help people to engage more across different sports, with different campaigns that are going on about health, well being and fitness, so it seemed like a no-brainer that we have a chat with her.

“We’re encouraging members of the club – staff, players, juniors and supporters – to come and run in their kit, and maybe raise money for the club that way.

“We hope it’s the start of a relationship that will build every year, and hopefully this will give the tour the longevity that it deserves.”