KFR History

Knowle Fun Run—nearly 40 years

The first Knowle Fun Run at 12noon on Sunday 13th May, was one of the highlights of the 1984 Knowle Festival, with around 500 runners completing 2 laps of the same 2.5 mile course around Knowle as it is today, and raising around £300 for charity. There were 19 trophies to be won including Fancy Dress & a MINI Run for the under 9’s; and everyone was given a certificate.  Widney Sports (sadly no longer in Bentley Heath) were receiving entry forms and Lashford’s butchers (sadly no longer in Knowle) were running a BBQ and selling a special Festival Sausage. A top mystery celebrity was due to line up on the start line. I wonder who that might have been?

Isobel Robertson, who lived at the top of Milverton Road where the first fun runs started for many years, was one of the mainstays to the organisation of the first 10 Fun Runs, and the Lions helped laying out the field.

O 1993  After 10 years the Lions were asked to take over the total responsibility for the event and the 15 or so of us had great reservations. There were something around 200 runners and the Fun Run needed new life. Attempts to change the route, or even extend it to 10km (see 2017) were frustrated by the potential additional disruption to traffic and the need for extra marshals.

The next few years we tried to introduce a Fun element with stalls and rides on the playing fields and vintage cars preceding the runners around the course, but soon came to the conclusion that runners did not bring much cash with them and it was not going to work.

The number of runners keeps growing, with both the Fun Run and now the MINI Run both split into two starts for safety reasons. In 1994 there was just one team entered — Lashford’s who won the trophy they sponsored for many years. With the introduction of Secondary and then Junior teams trophies there have been close to 100 teams every year. Walter Smith kept the running butcher tradition alive, with their Finance Director winning the event 4 times and their team’s taking the new Walter Smith Team trophy back to Knowle Precinct regularly. As a company they also took over the BBQ, donating hundreds of sausages and selling hot dogs to long queues of patient runners and spectators. Every £ going to the Fun Run charities

O 1996 – we re-launched the Fun Run programme and started attracting advertising and sponsors to help fund the whole event, the Lions delivering copies free of charge to homes in the area. Our main sponsors since then have been Hunters Estate Agents. We are very grateful for their and all our sponsors and programme advertisers support who allow us to donate virtually every penny of entry fee, sponsorship and now Gift Aid to charity. To their credit some local companies have supported us every year since. The numbers of runners started creeping up.

In those days we nominated just one charity to benefit from your efforts, then two, but since 2003 we have put together the funds raised at our Lions Festive Walk, Easter Egg Raffles and the Fun Run and shared the proceeds with three charities and retained a proportion for local causes.

O 2000 – For the Millennium the Fun Run programme became the Knowle 2000 Souvenir programme and the day took on a different dimension with t-shirts of many different colours depicting the 16 estate teams seeking to score points from the Run. There has been a different coloured Fun Run t-shirt every year since, initially with free ones for the junior runners and recently the MINI-Runners, sponsored by Bannister’s Opticians and more recently Arundales Accountants.

O 2001 – our Lions Club’s 25th year, Jasper challenged runners to “Beat the Carrott“, offering £10 to charity for every runner who beat him to the finish line. It cost Jasper £5000!  There was another target – to the Lions to increase the number of runners to 1000, quite a challenge from 550 the previous year. We did it, but only just, with 1003 registered runners, although only 893 started the race. The reaction from the Police when the Solihull papers printed the number – ‘if we had known there was going to be that many we would have banned it!’  Since then the Police have been very supportive and we have adopted their safety stipulations, including road closures and two starts.

Jasper entertained the runners for a few years but unfortunately has had to give up competitive running.  Since then the Lions have invited a number of VIPs to start the Fun Run & MINI Runs and award the prizes. Local MP Caroline Spelman has been a great ambassador and parent encouraging her 3 children to run with her. Other names have included Bev Bevan, Joanne Malin, Kay Alexander, Shefali Oza, Phil Upton, Sarah Falkland, Charles Hanson, Don Maclean, Mary Rhodes, Nick Owen etc etc. See the full list. If you know someone who you think would like to be asked please get in touch.

Since “Beat the Carrott” there have been new developments practically every year.

O 2002 – the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Run when we introduced the first MINI Run

O 2003 – we were the first local run to introduce electronic timing and John Penn & his guys built us as stage and starters podium

O 2004 – runners were able to download entry forms from our website

O 2005 – Bryants Homes donated a cap for every finisher

O 2006 – on-line registration arrived with our own website, and Gift Aid claimed made a big difference

O 2007 – Junior Runners given the choice to compete for a Junior 1 lap/2.6 mile or the 2 lap/5.2 mile prize.

O 2008 – the Silver Jubilee Fun Run on the hottest day of the year, 28C, saw record entries and runners taking home a specially made 2” silver coloured medal. It raised over £50,000 for charities and we estimate that at present day values the Fun Run passed the £500,000 raised for charity mark.

O 2009 – saw the ‘credit crunch’, it did not stop over 2,000 entries for the first time, but it did make our many sponsors and advertisers, without whom the Fun Run would not be what it is every year, pause for thought

O 2010 – we closed the roads to allow a traffic-free run, this brought new challenges to alert residents of the 2 hour road closures and a diversion all around Knowle for through traffic. Traffic barriers became a familiar sight to help over 100 marshals keep the cars at bay

O 2012 – saw a multi-use games area (MUGA) spring up on the playing fields and forced the Fun Run start & finish  and stalls onto the front of the school, we also introduced Fancy Dress prizes for the best dressed runners

O 2013 – was the 30th Run back on the playing fields and every finisher taking home a special ceramic mug courtesy of long-term prime sponsors Hunters

O 2014 – saw the expansion of the MINI runs from 2 to 4 – one for each of Years 1-4

O 2015 – we celebrated 20 years sponsorship by our prime sponsor Hunters Estate agents, and were soon reminded of other sponsors who have been with us just as long – thanks Standley’s and John Penn MD of  SSE Audio who get up early on the day to provide our stage & PA system every year – and even had a photoshoot for runners who had competed 20 times

O 2016 – we gave the Year 4 MINI runners a choice of entering the 1 or 2 lap Juniors runs, not many did? Walter Smiths closed and Eric Lyons took over the BBQ

O 2017 – we stretched the course and the runners legs with the first big change from 5 miles giving runners a choice of 5k(1 lap) of 10k (2 laps), and the MINIruns became the KIDSruns

O 2019 – we retired our entry system in favour of one offered by StuWeb

O 2020 – this year the event was initially postponed until 11 October and then cancelled due to Covid19 restrictions.

o 2022 - we were back after the pandemic

The 37th Knowle Fun Run finally took place on the 15th May 2022. The number of registrations were down on 2019 but the excitement, enthusiasm and joy was as strong as ever. The day started before 7am for some and we did not know if the weather would be fine for the event. We kept our fingers crossed for sunshine! We were delighted to be joined by our local MP, Saqib Bhatti, who mingled with the crowd, started each race and awarded the prizes. The Kids runs were competitive in all age groups and our MP had to be careful not to be trampled by the fast starters! Several charities joined the fun, while the Age UK Grannies, Gingerbread Men and Bananas were well supported all the way around. 

The event lead Adrian Harris said “All the difficulties of the last two years have placed a strain on our income so we are really pleased that the Fun Run is back and supported so well by our local community.”  He went on to say “We owe a debt of gratitude to all the local people who assisted us on the day without whom all our many weeks of planning would have come to nought” 

o 2023 - the sun shone bright!

The 38th Knowle Fun Run took place on the 21st May 2023. The number of registrations rose significantly on last year at around 1000 and that old Knowle Fun Run “buzz” was back in the village. There was a great atmosphere on the Arden Academy playing fields with the resident Ukulele band providing the background music and Eric Lyons keeping us fed with fantastic burgers and hot dogs.

We were delighted to be joined for a second year by our local MP, Saqib Bhatti, who mingled with the crowd, started each race and awarded the prizes. The Kids runs were competitive in all age groups. Many charities joined the fun, including Meningitis NOW, AGE UK Solihull. We also had stalls from Bannatynes, who ran the warm up before the start of the main run and Virgin Active.  The Ladies Circle provided the tea and coffee.

There was enthusiastic support from many residents on the route around the village providing encouragement and water sprays. Our one wheelchair competitor said he greatly enjoyed it but that Barcheston Road was “a killer”.  We also had a young blind runner escorted around the course.  

We raised approximately £16000 for charity although the figures are to be confirmed at this stage. Some groups were also raising money for their own causes. We had a resurrected squiggle, once known as Prince raising money for Prostate Cancer, we had Solihull School raising money for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and we had several groups raising money for Maggies.

The event lead Richard Buckley said “I was pleased that everything on the day and I want to give a big thanks to all the volunteers that manned registration, t-shirt distribution and most importantly marshal points around the route. "