The Grand East Anglia Run (GEAR) began life as a ‘regeneration’ idea. Discussions had started in 2004 when Paul Brandon (then Borough Mayor and Chair of the WN Sports Council) floated the idea of staging a running or cycling event with an aim of highlighting Lynn’s lovely historic buildings while introducing people to the town’s newly refurbished shopping centre. A half marathon was considered but quickly changed to a shorter and more favoured distance of 10k. Once the Borough Council’s support was secured it was all systems go!
The idea was discussed with Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle, a local athletic organiser who helped to set up Ryston Runners and was the driving force behind the unique Round Norfolk Relay for many years. Ian immediately liked the idea and set off with his measuring wheel to find a course. He designed a two-lap course, starting and finishing in The Walks and became the Race Director of the first Bespak Great East Anglia Run in 2006 which was organised together with the King’s Lynn Lions and their annual Fun Day.
The new event was a great success. It brought people to the town, just as local councillors had wished for, and fulfilled other aims of the council such as promoting health and wellbeing and increasing local participation in sport and physical activity. The event suited our sponsors too. Bespak being involved in health promotion made for a perfect fit and Bespak have remained a big supporter of the event.
A tragedy of the first 2006 event was the death of local runner Duncan Gooderson who, in sprinting for the finish line, collapsed and died. A memorial trophy in Duncan’s honour has been competed for ever since and for a number of years the Gooderson family donated money to a charity of the trophy winner’s choice.
Though successful, the two-lap course was not ideal so Ian set off with his measuring wheel again and designed a one-lap course which took runners out along the river bank to South Lynn and started and finished in the Tuesday Market Place. This has been the Bespak GEAR course ever since.
Ian retired as Race Director after the 2007 event. Harry Collins took over the role in 2008 and the event went from strength to strength. In 2008 ‘Great’ became ‘Grand’ when the Great North Run said we were in breach of copyright So we changed our event title to the Bespak Grand East Anglia Run which importantly enabled us to keep the acronym of GEAR.
In 2009 the event received a Gold Grading from BARR (British Association of Road Races) which it has retained each year as a high quality event. In 2010 Harry added a fun run to the event – a Mini GEAR Fun Run – which meant that young people under 15 had a chance to join in with a 1.2 mile run.
In 2015 BARR awarded the event the Bill Reynolds Memorial Trophy as the most improved 10k race nationally.
Following the 2011 event Harry Collins retired as Race Director.
The Bespak GEAR remains an outstanding local event with outstanding community support. It will carry on, we hope, for many years to come.