Running Imp's History
Running Imp is the UK’s established market leader in running and mass participation event supplies and medals.
Experts in running and mass participation event supplies, Running Imp is a mail order company stocking everything event organisers could possibly need to make their event a success – a one-stop shop.
Predominantly supplying equipment to running events, we stock everything from event signage, branding and competitor identification to finisher’s medals, mementoes, trophies and awards.
The company is especially renowned for specialising in the design and production of Bespoke Medals too.
Building a glowing reputation and now celebrating our 30 year Anniversary, we have extended our services to include charities, councils, colour runs and many different sporting organisations over the last decade.
Using their combined knowledge of event organisation, Chris Illsley and Caroline Birkin founded the company in 1988 and created ‘The Running Imp’.
The company originally operated from home at 13 Branston Close, Lincoln - using their spare room and shed to house a one-stop-shopping policy for event supplies.
Within 9 months however, Running Imp was taking off and it was prominent that the fast-moving company needed a new location to work from.
After changing the name to Running Imp International in 1989, the following year saw the company move into their first unit and hire their first member of staff.
1990 - 1999
In 1991, our longest serving employee Faye Watson joined the company as the Office Junior – Faye is now Running Imp’s Managing Director!
The 90’s decade saw the company reach many new achievements and milestones including our CEO Chris Illsley commentating at both the London Marathon and the World Athletic Championships, and the launch of our ‘Imp Printers’ to print event numbers in-house.
In 2001, the team expanded even more, which meant it was time for another re-location; Millennium House.
This new unit was purpose-built to accommodate the increased warehousing needs and staffing levels, and it was thought that this would be the final site for the company to operate from.
We began to progress even further; flourishing particularly well in 2002 supplying memorabilia worldwide for The Queen's Golden Jubilee.
2003 - 2009
In 2003, Running Imp became a Limited Company and changed its name to ‘Running Imp International Sports Ltd’.
Many changes and successes were made in these six years including a name change back to Running Imp, becoming the Official Clock Operator of the Flora London Marathon and being awarded the ‘Investors in People” and ‘Lincolnshire Bites Back’ awards.
In addition to these accomplishments, in 2009, we established our first Charity of the Year and proudly presented a £6,000 cheque to the Panathlon Foundation.
In 2010 Bespokemedals.com was launched, offering custom-designed medals worldwide.
We were also awarded the ‘Investors in Education Award’ and the ‘Customer Care Award’ to add to our collection of achievements.
Our Charity of the Year scheme continued to run, and we proudly donated £7,000 to the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, our 2010 Charity of the Year.
2011 - 2013
In 2011, we had over 30 members of staff and were running out of space fast.
It was time for another move which saw us relocate to our current premises, Jubilee House - two years later, Olympic Silver Medallist Steve Cram officially opened the building.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee took place in 2012, and we were delighted to present £16,000 to The Prince’s Trust who was our 2012 Charity of the Year. In the same year, the London Olympics inspired "Impspire" our company mascot and won the "Business Diversity Award".
2014 - 2016
In 2014, Running Imp created another division called Bespoke Fundraising Supplies – a site solely dedicated to providing event supplies to charities and other fundraising organisations and we proudly presented £11,000 cheque to L.I.V.E.S our 2014 Charity of the Year.
These years were hugely successful for Running Imp, and we carried on hitting some remarkable achievements.
Chris Illsley was made Honorary Freeman of the City of Lincoln for all his charity work, and we launched our third website - Bespoke Fundraising Supplies - and 2016 saw all three divisions undertake a full rebrand!
Last year saw us launch a brand-new website for Bespoke Medals, and we also participated in lots of fundraising for our 2017 Charity of the Year, Meningitis Research Foundation.
In 2018 we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, and we had a fabulous year.
We handed over £19,000 to our 2017 Charity of the Year and have become Official Medal Suppliers & Clock Operators for the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Now with almost 70 staff, we are very proud of how far we have come as a company, and we hope to continue growing and supplying to even more worldwide events.
2019 saw the retirement of Caroline Birkin and the initiation of two new board members - Jane Illsley and Josh Illsley, who has come on board as the Director of Operations.
This change will see Running Imp continue to grow and develop, and we wish the best of luck to Josh and Jane. We'd also like to wish Caroline all the best for her retirement.
- "Thanks to all our customers, both old and new - here's to the next chapter in the life of Running Imp." Chris Illsley & Caroline Birkin