(8 September 2013: This is about 2012’s race. For details of 2013’s route, click here.)

It’s that time of year again – well, actually, it’s later than normal – as the Run to the Beat half-marathon gets set to take to the streets of Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Blackheath. What do you mean, you hadn’t heard about it? Ah…

It’s the fifth year of RTTB, and while it’s certainly become a bit of a fixture for runners – 18,500 are due to be doing it this year, to music from 14 sound stages – it still feels an imposition, a huge amount of disruption for an event that’s much less fun (but causes more hassle) than the London Marathon. Maybe it goes back to that first year, which seemed by all accounts to be a bit of a weather-hit fiasco, and it’s just never managed to recover; but it’s always seemed an event which takes its hosts for granted.

I hate being a nay-sayer about this. I’d be gutted if I ever missed the marathon, but when I realised I’d be abroad during last year’s RTTB, I actually did a little jig of joy. I’m not sure I missed all that much, although you’re welcome to tell me it was great and I should stop being an old misery-guts.

That said, the organisers have at least sent some letters out explaining what’s happening, which much of the area locked in on Sunday 28 October. (If you’ve not had one, here’s a scanned-in version.) If you’ve had your copy, can you actually decipher it? It’s six pages of text attempting to describe a raft of road closures and diversions. I can’t work out which ones apply to me. The one thing missing is a map, which would make the whole thing understandable.

You know, a map like… this.

If you want the map which makes the letter make sense, you’ll find it in Greenwich Council’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. (Here’s a full PDF of it.) To get the full picture, you’ll need to have received both this week’s Greenwich Time and the letter from the organisers. Got that? And as for details of where the sound stages are? You’re out of luck there…

The RTTB website currently contains no residents’ information whatsoever, although you’ll find an information leaflet for competitors (“thanks to the Royal Borough of Greenwich whose streets we close”) with some clues about what’s happening, including the sound stage locations.

It all just feels half-arsed, as ever. Even if there was just a “thank you for putting up with us for a day”, I’d feel a lot more well-disposed to this corporate jog-fest. Instead, it’s just “here we are, you’ve got to lump it”. It was one of LOCOG’s biggest mistakes in the early days of Olympics planning – but Run To The Beat still seems to be falling into the trap of taking people for granted. It’s probably to be expected when you’ve been “working closely with Greenwich Council”, another body reluctant to deal with actual, real people.

I dunno, maybe it’ll be a lovely day full of community good spirit and everything will go sweetly. Or I might just creep out of town or stay in bed. Thankfully, I’ll be a bit of a way from the sound stages, whatever I do…

43 replies on “Run To The Beat’s baffling road closure leaflet”

  1. At least you got a letter! The whole thing has been a complete shambles ever since the first year. In contrast, you know what to expect from the London marathon and it’s very well organised. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but far more worthwhile. Run to the beat just seems a very self-indulgent annoyance to me (and I speak as a keen runner).

  2. There is a completely useless map on the Run to the Beat web site. It shows where the sound stages will be, but doesn’t identify any street names, in fact the only landmarks shown are railway stations so you need to have an old fashioned AtoZ at hand to interpret their map.

  3. This event is an imposition on Borough residents. The organisers,unlike,the Marathon make no contribution to the community. It is a commercial organisation which is allowed to do what ever they like despite the objections by a number of Councillors including myself.

  4. Interesting. I assumed I was in a minority in my dislike of this thing. I got the stuff through yesterday and I binned it immediately as I had already written the day off.
    The Marathon I don’t mind. I enjoy the community enthusiasm of it and am always there chucking money into the buckets — and the roads re-open sharpish. But this thing is just daft.

  5. Yes – totally agree with John – many councillors made a lot of objections this year – led in the main by the Charlton Three. A couple of years ago I managed to get them to stop blaring music out under people’s windows in the early mornings – but – otherwise they seem to be able to carry on regardless.

  6. Mary and John, thanks for the posts but would you be able to explain how they can just ‘carry on regardless’ when our councillors object? I wouldn’t have thought I, for example, would be able to shut my road and organise a party without the councils approval so if councillors object how can it be going ahead? I’m afraid that it is an inconvenience for me as I’m a shift worker and leave/return from work during the operating times.

  7. I love the marathon and won’t hear a word against it, but RTTB is a poorly organised, irritating imposition.

  8. Indeed, just trying to do some digging, and none of the licensing committees’ decisions appear to be on the website.

    Here we go again…

  9. Darryl – Paul – there are all sorts of legal constraints as to what Councils can and cannot do – like with the betting shops. I can find out details, but I guess by the time I get it this discussion will have moved on.

  10. Just had a thought. Do the organisers pay Greenwich for the use of our facilities IE – the roads, policing etc?

    If they do, how much? If they don’t, why?

    Mary, I’m very surprised that the closure of a load of roads in the borough may not come under the council’s remit. Surely, they (you?? it affects your manor) must have some say?

  11. Yay, since the Olympics are over (and were annoyingly successful) thank goodness we’ve got something else to gripe about. Greenwich people really don’t like having their little routines disturbed do they – even for a morning.

    Yes the whole ‘run to the beat’ thing is a bit corporate and gimmicky and they should just call it the Greenwich Half-marathon (or ROYAL Greenwich Half-marathon probably), but this will be my third time running it and it’s one of the best half-marathons around – great route, well-organised, good crowds (if not on the scale of the proper marathon.)

    And it brings thousands in to see our borough.

    And yes I do live right in the middle of one of the affected zones.

  12. “And it brings thousands in to see our borough”

    Does it really? In a calendar that’s already crowded with half marathons and 10ks?

  13. To be fair to the guy Darryl you report 18,500 entries. As an average if each person were to bring just one supporter that’s over 30,000 descending on Greenwich.

    However, having been at the event the first year I can only sympathise with local residents. It was a noisy, chaotic event.

    By the reverse you should’ve seen the grovelling, apologetic letter we got because Bromley council closed the roads for a morning while the Queen paid a visit. Ever so ‘umble it was.

  14. I am frankly astonished that Mary would suggest that the Borough is not responsible for licensing this race. When did “many councillors make a lot of objections” – at an informal gathering down the pub? Surely it was when the Council was considering whether to license the race again this year? So, when did that happen, who decided it could go ahead (as if I need to ask), and how many councillors have to be opposed to overrrule He Who Must Be Obeyed?

  15. Stuart – true, but even if it brings 30,000 people, how many will stay and spend money if they’re concentrated up at North Greenwich, semi-detached from the rest of the area? Seen from the outside, it’s a very odd event – but yes, even if it was callex

    Franklin – I do wonder how much the Dear Leader (who warmly endorsed the first RTTB) has to do with the continuation of the event. Maybe the former cabinet member for leisure could help us here.

  16. The council (and Greenwich Park) really could do with some advice on map-making. Maps are much easier to read than their text versions. I’m thinking of applying.

  17. To be fair to the council, the dodgy map is on the organiser’s web site, not the council’s.
    But….the comments form an interesting debate about the value of the event.The Council are responsible for agreeing and implementing road closuresand for licencing the sound stage “entertainment”, so its a pity that they don’t appear to have tried to enage residents in this debate before licencing the event.

  18. Bobby – I was a great supporter of the Olympics, but you’re right, I don’t like having my little routines disrupted — especially as one of the routines is to do with my health and being trapped in Charlton means my health suffers.

    And BTW, I am basically trapped all day, not for half a day.

  19. Chris – Franklin. Please do not attribute to me things which I have not said or suggested. I used the word ‘constraint’ – which my dictionary says means ‘limitation or restriction’ . It does not mean that something is not done at all – but that there may be rules about how it is done.

  20. Mary –

    You said, and I quote: “There are all sorts of legal constraints as to what Councils can and cannot do.”

    Given that you said this in response to a question about why the race was licensed despite councillors’ objections, your statement clearly implies that there are “legal constraints” that prevent the Council from refusing a license to this race.

    I think that that is poppycock. I think that this race was licensed because it is backed by He Who Must Not Be Named and despite councillors’ objections. However, I am always ready to admit when I’m wrong and thus look forward to your substantiation of this claim.

  21. I did my best to word it so as not to imply specific constraints. I also said I would get details – by which I meant I would try to get proper information on it – but that I can’t do so instantly.

  22. Come on Mary, this isn’t your finest hour.

    Firstly in your blog on July 7th you expressed opposition to Run to the Beat but wrongly claimed that it covered several Boroughs and was therefore outside Greenwich’s control

    You then appear to have sat back until John Fahy put his head above the parapet on Tuesday. Did you investigate under what powers the road closure orders were made and whether you could object to them?

    I notice that as at 28th September the application for a music licence was pending (and it may still be). As a local councillor did you take the opportunity to object to this?

    I’m sorry to say that you’re trying to sit on the fence here and keep in both with local residents and with the Labour politbureau. You may want to be the shock absorber for the Robertsmobile but it won’t help you when the old banger is finally condemned and scrapped.

  23. Hi BobbyT – that’s me you’re describing!

    Actually , although I missed the Park, the Olympics had its compensations. I enjoyed being greeted civilly by the military on my walk to work and the week before and the first week of the Olympics were the best time in years to go sight-seeing in central London, with the tourist groups staying away in droves.

    Anyway, to revert to type – I can’t see any incidental amusement from Run to the Beat, just inconvenience. Does the Beat bit actually help the runners or is it just to wind up the locals? Were we ever asked if we wanted to host it?

    Nevertheless, BobbyT, being as the thing is going ahead, I hope you enjoy the day and raise lots of money.

  24. This issue certainly needs to be cleared up. I think we can rely on Darryl to keep us updated on any further information on how and by whom the decision was made. I must admit, after the fiasco that happened the first time the event was held, I couldn’t believe that it was given the go-ahead again.

  25. I’ve just done a quick bit of research which suggests that the power to authorise a road closure for a sporting event rests in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It appears to suggest that each road can only be closed once a year under these regulations. If this is true then (for example) Charlton Road cannot be closed for both the London Marathon or Run to the Beat under these powers. Any lawyers out there who can confirm or deny this? What’s the Council Officers’ response to this Mary?

  26. Oh my goodness! Aren’t the residents of Greenwich a bunch of fun guys?! You seem to be implying that without the use of roads, you are quite literally TRAPPED within your houses…or failing that, your Borough. Have you people heard of feet? The maximum you’d have to walk is 40 minutes to the nearest tube which will whip you away to somewhere where you can avoid all this unaffiliated chaos which is happening for all of one Sunday in your cosy lives.

    Let us not forgot the amount of goodwill, charity and sheer hard-work that will have gone on not only on the day, but also the months leading up to the race; both on the part of the runners and their supporters. But don’t worry, we’ll just tell them all to move to some field somewhere and do a few laps so that we won’t inconvenience the residents.

  27. Hey Appalled – why don’t you go f*ck yourself?

    We’re happy to have real charity events in Greenwich – like the marathon.

    But we have two issues with RTTB:

    1/ This is a commercial operation that presumably makes money. As far as we know Greenwich residents get no benefit from this commercially motivated closure of our streets, but we have to put up with the disruption.

    2/ This shows yet again that our Council leadership is totally unaccountable to us, the local electorate, and even to our elected councillors.

    As you don’t live here and have no interest in these issues, why do you think your views matter to those of who do?

  28. Mass at St Joseph’s Church in Pelton Road is always at 10.00am on Sundays. About 1000 people are expected at Mass next Sunday. They will need to cross the adjacent roads at this time. What arrangements have been made by the local authority to ensure that when our people are crossing the roads at that time they will not be knocked down by the runners? Are the police aware? A better day for this event in future will be Friday!

  29. Mmm. Franklin has, unfortunately, gone some way toward proving your point, Appalled. Most Greenwich residents are really quite nice, though, and would agree with you. RTTB is a bit of a pain but that’s all. It’s only one day. The Licensing ought to be correct…but it’s only one day. Best just to ignore comments like that. All the rest of us do.

  30. Sorry Wolfe, Appalled just dropped in the once to express his/her disgust at us locals daring to raise questions about something that’s heppening in our borough. S/he’s unlikely to come back to thank you for your solidarity with his/her attack on local residents’ perfectly reasonable concerns.

  31. Father Kevin – who have you spoken to about this?? I have left a message on your church’s tape and look forward to hearing from you. would prefer you to email mary,mills@greenwich.gov,uk
    Cllr Mary Mills

  32. Father Kevin – still hoping to hear from you, about all sorts of things. However, with regard to your congregation on Sunday – the gates at the ends of Mauritious and Azof will be open – I appreciate it is not as helpful as all that, but it might help some people to get to you

  33. re Appalled – I think you’d do well to contrast the attitude towards the Marathon with that towards Run to the Beat, and then ask yourself why that is. RTTB has got a lot of work to do to make itself welcome in the borough. It has failed conspiciously to capture people’s imagination and does impose a disproportionate amount of disruption for a basically insignificant event.

  34. I suggest that RTTB put at least 35% of money raised into local based charities, that would help support Greenwich, through which its entire course runs.
    From a local business perspective our busiest day is Sunday. Last year we were informed that the roads would be open by 12.30 at 2pm it was still almost impossible to get through. Apart from the loss of revenue which is significant, it is complicated and confusing for our customers when denied access to the area.
    In addition The Charlton Trading Estate is a primary destination for Greenwich Residents. Business in the area contributes to the borough as employers and business rate payers, we were not consulted and loss of income and staff lay offs are not acknowledged.
    I would prefer that RTTB did not happen, if local organisations were supported it would go a long way to mitigating my negative reaction.

  35. I’ve been living in Greenwich for over 15 years. It is a great place to live. People here are amazing, but after all these years I still do not understand how or why are so timid.

    I am an immigrant. I was born and grew up in a communist country. Back then, in the East, when a government would decide to organise a sports day to promote the health of the nation, we would receive similar leaflet few weeks before. It would be equally confusing, unnecessarily long, and full of marketing speak, and would enthuse free workforce. Instead of “Volunteering is a great way to have fun, make friends and gain experience of large scale events. Volunteering for the event can also give you the opportunity to test out potential career choices.” would be something like “Volunteering is a great way to help the fatherland, make friends and gain experience of organising parades and marches. Volunteering for the event can also give you the opportunity to join the party.” Same thing, different packaging.

    However, we knew we were living in a dictatorship. Local residents would read the leaflet, shrug their shoulders, and exchange knowing glances with their neighbours. Few desperate, and few power hungry would volunteer, some would go out and wave flags.

    Here 30 years later, and in a democracy, same thing is happening but somehow, to me who have been through both, this one feels more painful. It is somehow easier knowing that you live in a dictatorship, that residents opinions do not count, that this is what you have to endure. This pretence that this is our choice, that we have been asked, that it is done because we wanted it, and most importantly that our concerns have been “taken into consideration” is so much more insulting and humiliating.

  36. This has been so helpful, thank you very much!!! two years ago when I had just moved here I had an awful experience with run to the beat!!! I came home to charlton that morning on the train and walked straight to asda to do a food shop (plan being, to get the bus home…) did a big weekly shop with 3 full heavy bags for life… i then came out and tried to get a bus… and noticed the running circuit (you can tell it had been a late night the night before as I didnt notice it on the way to asda…) so i called a taxi.. no taxis till 2pm… it was 11am at the time… so my only option was to walk home… it took me 2 and a half hours to walk the route (which is less than a mile) because my bags were so heavy… it was awfull!!!! i actually cried half way!!! so i am not a fan of the run!!! thanks for the map !! x

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