Ian Welch co-founder of Inspire Races reveals the story behind his business
When Ian Welch, co-founder of Inspire Races, broke his leg playing football a decade ago, he didn’t realise that his route to recovery would set him on the path to a new business.
But these days the 46-year-old runs Inspire Races and sister venture Chip Timing UK with his business partner Toby Redington.
Based in Cringleford on the outskirts of Norwich, the pair have built a Norfolk-based company which runs events across the region.
Chip Timing UK
You may have even taken part is some Inspire Races such as the Colour 5k, the Snetterton Half Marathon, or Steeplechase The Derby.
And if you’ve ever run the Broadland Half Marathon (not yet this year though obviously as it’s happening on November 4 now), Nuclear Races, the Freethorpe 10, or, if you’re quick enough, the Conac Lord Mayor’s 5k then these are the guys whose chips are telling what time you officially finished in. They also handle the chip timings for events in Yorkshire, the Midlands, and Brighton.
Swapping his football boots for his running shoes
Ian was 36 and still playing 11-a-side football when he broke his leg. A year later and back on the pitch he then did his right cruciate ligament.
So, whether or not that was nature’s way of telling him to hang up his football boots, he turned to running to help him get fit again.
“As part of my getting back to fitness I started running and then started doing these obstacle course races,” he says. “I thought ‘there’s nothing like that in East Anglia, so maybe we should have something?
“We organised an event at an old quarry at Bures in South Sudbury.”
That germ of an idea saw the pair start a series of Mucky Races in 2010 which took place in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, all before the likes of Tough Mudder came along.
But, in fact, the pair found that the events were so popular in fact that within two years others started to want in on the game and the competition started to hot up, putting pressure on numbers and margins.
Time for a fresh start with Inspire Races
“That was great fun but unfortunately it got too popular too quickly,” he says. “So we sold that in 2015 and moved from that to start Inspire Races.
“We started this off as fun events – there’s always a competitive element as everyone loves a bit of competition,” he says. “It’s really encouraging everyone to go out running – especially those people who don’t really like pounding pavements.
“You look at people as they cross the line and think ‘they hate it’, but give them five minutes to rest and they love it!
“It’s something they never imagined that they would do – we actively encourage that to be fair.
“The one thing you try to ensure is that it’s a nice run and the route is good. Steeplechase is a good race if you want to get into something that’s different. They are not massive obstacles and are all quite safe, it’s just that your legs are screaming at you by the end of it!”
Events for those looking for more than just pounding the pavements
So who are their events for?
“Everyone can do it,” he insists. “When we first started up, a lot of bootcamps came in. People who have just done nothing in their lives and decided they need to get fit.
“If you want something calmer and are looking for PBs then sign up for Snetterton.”
Sport was in the blood
Before setting up in business Ian had worked for the UEA Student Union managing more than 60 different sports clubs from American Football to Karate.
“Sport is in my blood, I’ve always been sport oriented,” he says. “I am a sports person by background and used to do a lot of cross country when I was younger. I worked in water sports for a while and then leisure centres.
“My last job was working at the UEA Student Union running their sports clubs I was looking after those and making sure they were adhering to their national governing bodies.”
But he is no doubt that with the boom in running-related events, competition is intense, and he says that’s why the team are always trying to run events which are a little different.
“We are always looking at other stuff,” he says. “It’s trying to find things that people feel are different. What you don’t really want to do is go out and do the same old road races, so we go to places that people wouldn’t normally run.”
Another thing he has noticed is that the traditional running season is getting longer.
“We have quiet periods and busy periods – and when the season kicks off we’ll be busy from spring through to early November. That’s when people generally want to race. We’re finding now that people want to run all year round.”