Running can be seen as a very individual pursuit. If you want to run you just do it, no need to book a court or organise 10 other men and an opposite team to play against. You don’t need company and if you really get bored of looking at scenery or want to avoid what’s going on around you, you can always use a MP3 player. But it doesn’t have to be so, running is a great way to meet like minded people and an opportunity to meet people with widely different beliefs and lifestyles in an unforced scenario. The best way to meet these like minded people is by joining a club. These days the choice of club is almost endless, not just the traditional harrier clubs of my generation but also many new clubs born from the jogging boom and there are also some clubs that cater for a specific aspect, e.g. marathon runners or women only clubs.
There are so many benefits you can get from joining a club you should seriously consider it. What are these benefits?
- You’ll meet people.
- Learn from others.
- Be able to enter races that are club only races.
- Get reduced entry to races.
- Reduced prices of running kit.
- Have company on your run.
- Try different runs.
- Get involved in social activities.
- Run as part of a team in races.
- Win things as part of a team, that you wouldn’t do as an individual.
But don’t just join up with the first club that you come across, check out a number of them, think about what is important to you and if it is offered by that club. Go along to a few of their training nights and meet the people that you will be running with.
When I began running, in the last century, I was very lucky in my choice of club. I really didn’t know what I was looking for other than I wanted to be part of a team and run with people. I had no idea what clubs did, had no concept of racing, but I just knew that I wanted to be active. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog I had no idea how good I could be so I was just looking for a local club, having come from a background of hockey and football I didn’t want to just run on my own. Hercules Wimbledon was my club of choice, but only because a friend had recommended them, but, with Hercules being shut on the night I chose to approach them, I ended up around the corner at Belgrave Harriers. Neither club meant anything to me, at the time, in fact I doubt that I knew the names of any clubs other than Crewe and Nantwich. But I didn’t sign up with Belgrave on day 1, I went along to training on a number of occasions before deciding that I’d fit in. Lucky for them because I certainly didn’t feel that way after my first run with them.
Belgrave are one of the more traditional clubs that date back to the 19th century and have a solid history of achievement behind them. At the time I joined they weren’t really an ideal club to join if you were more of a social runner but luckily I was interested in getting the best out of myself so it was a good choice for me. Since then things have changed and it caters for a wider choice of runner and even has a triathlon section. Belgrave fulfilled everything I was after and as I improved as a runner so my ambitions got bigger, luckily I found that Belgrave fulfilled those too so I didn’t have any desires to join anyone else. Of course it was nice to join up with other runners from different teams to run for your County or for NatWest Bank but all of the benefits I mentioned earlier were there for me in Belgrave. During the 16 years I was at Belgrave I met many different people from all walks of life and got friendly with many top British and International runners, who represented the club, as well as many of my opponents from other clubs. My introduction to the coaching of Arthur Bruce changed my life, changed my attitude towards training and, to some degree, my philosophy on living and is responsible for many of the good things I have achieved (I won’t blame him for the bad things I have done or the failures that have occurred, they were all my own doing). Back in the day races tended to be organised much more around the clubs, they were generally organised by the clubs for club athletes. Admittedly the London Marathon, which created the jogging boom in
, had been going for seven years but the huge choice of charity 10ks just wasn’t around in those days. So most of the races I entered were on the track, cross country or established road races. These days it’s much easier to feel part of the setup without belonging to a club, but I’d still recommend it for all the advantages it holds. Britain
For a long time I didn’t enter many road races, I considered myself a track and field athlete, but if I did I saved money on the basis that I was registered with a club, this still occurs today, not in every race, and it’s about a £2 saving, not a lot but if you enter a lot of races it adds up. Another benefit I’ve enjoyed over the years is reduced price kit, most independent sports retailers and some chains will give you a 10% or more reduction off the price of non sale items. I also happened to be at Belgrave at the time that we started up a Sports Promotional Company, in fact I was Company Secretary at inauguration. One of the sidelines was selling adidas kit, which was reduced to members of the club.
Club training is usually fixed to times that benefit the majority of the clubs members. For most clubs this tends to be Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday and Sunday, sometime during the day. But for me, once I’d become established at Belgrave, I had a key giving me access to the club, so I could arrange to meet likewise runners at the club on other occasions. As a beginner it was a great way to meet different people and progress from pack to pack. It was good to have people to take me on runs I’d not thought of doing, there were always some established routes that were like folklore. The other thing I enjoyed at Belgrave was that there was always tea and cake available, in the clubhouse, on a Saturday afternoon, a good chance to chat with other members and catch up on some of the tales of past races and current injuries.
Most clubs have a social aspect too, at Belgrave there were times when it was very active. There was a Social Secretary who’s job it was to utilise the Hall, which is a good space, for social activities and there were various things going on. At some point my wife and a lady named Nina were on the social committee and by default I became the resident barman, which also entailed buying in stock and recycling empty bottles. We’d start the year off with a Burns night, which was always great fun, with one of the Queen’s chefs doing the catering, a piper, a band (The Roods – who were fantastic) and, naturally, haggis, neeps, tatties and whisky, plus wine and beer if you wanted it. In the Summer there was a race night with fish and chip supper, Autumn would bring a cocktail evening and then Winter would see the annual darts tournament, for the Denmark Pot, followed a few weeks later by the annual dinner and dance. In fact Belgrave Hall was such a good venue I used it for my wedding reception, which was a great success.
The main thing I got out of being in a club was the fact that I wasn’t just running as an individual, I was part of a team too and it was always nice to make a difference to that team. It’s a great feeling to win, but it can be a lonesome celebration as an individual, celebrating a team win with your team mates and supporters is much more fun. Being part of Belgrave enabled me to win medals that I couldn’t have achieved as an individual, and the same can be said for my time in Edinburgh AC and now with Herne Hill.
I was very fortunate to be at Belgrave when I was, it was a transitioning period from being a good club that had potential, to becoming the top club in the
, and I was in at the thick of it. I was road and cross country captain for a number of years, a regular at the top events, including representing Belgrave in European competition and spent two years on committee as club secretary. I loved being a part of the club and had no desire to leave, until I turned 40. At that point I could see no future at the club for me, as an aging runner so had to make the painful decision to resign and say goodbye to a possible term as President. UK
As an elderly man I still had a desire to race, and not just for fun, I was still competitive. Belgrave had some talented M40 men, with more to come just a few years down the line, but there just didn’t seem to be anybody embracing masters athletics, other than Charlie Dickinson and myself. So I made the decision to look elsewhere. Initially, I still wanted to retain my membership of, and ability to race for, Belgrave, so I looked north of the border to Cambuslang. But I didn’t know anyone at Cambuslang and I thought I was maybe getting a bit too serious joining a Scottish club with no link to
, just so I could stay a member of Belgrave. After a chat with Andy Lea-Gerrard, I decided the sensible thing would be to join my local rival club, Herne Hill Harriers. Whilst it would mean I would have to leave Belgrave, at least I was staying local, I also knew a number of the guys at Herne Hill and, whilst fierce rivals on the race track, counted a number of them as friends. They also had some very good runners in or approaching the masters age group, to which I would make a significant difference. So that was it, I handed in my notice at Belgrave, went to Scotland for a few weeks and came back a Herne Hill Harrier. I was made very welcome at Herne Hill, of course I wasn’t the first to leave Belgrave for Herne Hill, two of my mates, Kevin Quinn and Owain Lewis had preceded me. Within a matter of months, and despite having torn my hamstring, Herne Hill did become British Masters Champions, with me making a contribution. Australia
I was happy at Herne Hill, it was nice to be local, unfortunately I hadn’t banked on the mid-life crisis, caused by my wife leaving me. This shook my whole life up and I just felt I needed to get away from
. I considered going back to contracting or even looking at a possibility of looking for work abroad and as it turned out that’s exactly what happened. When my bosses at RBS heard what my thoughts were they promoted me and shipped me up to London . It wasn’t what I was looking for but luckily I fell in love with Edinburgh , even if I wasn’t always happy there. Being in Edinburgh meant I could run first claim for both a Scottish and an English club, so I chose to stay at Herne Hill, even if it meant I wouldn’t race for them too often. I wasn’t in a hurry to join a Scottish club because I wanted to focus on my new job, which was quite demanding and stressful, but as it transpired Edinburgh AC got to me first, courtesy of Jim Buick and that proved to be another very successful club relationship. Scotland
My stay in
was all too short, I met Carole and fell in love. She was much more in demand than I was and, soon after, she was offered a new job in Edinburgh . I could have had a tough decision on my hands, afterall I’d escaped from Cheshire when I was 18, but any decision was made much easier when RBS made me an offer I would have been a fool to refuse and even if I was a fool I didn’t actually have a choice. Still being made redundant meant I didn’t have to bother resigning and whilst many other people, who were made redundant, were unhappy or took time off with work related stress, I went into work each day with a huge smile on my face. Cheshire
I’ve been back to
for three years now and we’re settled in Northwich. I’m still at Herne Hill Harriers, not with Edinburgh AC although I retain a link with many friends there – two long distance clubs would just be silly. I’ve thought about joining a local club, it was tempting to join Salford, as I have a number of friends there but I don’t really want to leave Herne Hill and running 2nd claim doesn’t make me eligible to represent the teams so what’s the point. I already have a good relationship with the runners from Vale Royal AC and South Cheshire Harriers, so at least I know some local runners to chat to at races. Cheshire
It may be that you feel that a running club isn’t for you, it can be a bit daunting to go running with people that have been running for years and sessions do tend to be geared up for experienced runners, but it’s always worth checking with your local club and go along to see for a few weeks before making a decision. There is of course a Jog Scotland or Run England option, which cater for beginners. I am a Run Leader at Run England, I haven’t organised a group for a while, I’ve been too busy settling in, but I’m thinking of starting a midweek beginners group in Northwich. It’ll probably be in the spring so if anybody is interested let me know and give me an idea what days and times best suit. You can contact me through the website www.rogeralsop.co.uk.
Today is valentines day and I need to dash off to cook something special for ‘er outdoors, but first I need to pop down to the gym for another cardio session. We decided to stay in this year so I’m doing the catering, making some of Carole’s favourites: (actually she doesn’t know some of them are her favourites, but they will be)
Squash and cashew nut soup
Macaroni Cheese with a chilli oil and tomato dressing and garlic mushed mushrooms
I’m taking a brief break from blogging, so in case you get bored have a look back on some of the old ones.
Written by Roger Alsop
Written by Roger Alsop