Celebrating our unsung heroes in the North West

It’s that time of year again, where we shine the spotlight on the unsung heroes of our sport. Our inspirational volunteers, who give their time, commitment and incredible energy week in and out.

With 9 regional awards ceremonies, and 9 awards categories, it’s an amazing celebration of the people across our sport. Last night the ceremony took place in Wigan. A fantastic evening, celebrating volunteers across the region who have made outstanding contributions to athletics and running.

Award categories…

  • Coach of the year
  • Official of the year
  • Athletics or Running Club of the year
  • Inclusion
  • Run Together Group
  • Run Together Leader
  • Services to Athletics or Running
  • Volunteer of the year
  • Young volunteer

Drum roll… and the winners are…

Coach of the year

Paul Muldoon: I first met Paul over 5 years ago, when I took up running at Wythenshawe parkrun, which he set up. He is unbelievably encouraging and gives up so much of his time. He is head coach at Winston Runners and goes above and beyond to be completely inclusive. I can’t think of a more deserving person.

Paul gives up so much of his free time at Winston Runners to ensure that every club member gets the most out of running and helps them achieve their goals. He ensures that everyone from Couch to 5k runners, all the way up to and including ultra-runners benefit greatly from his vast experience. He is also a mental health champion and strives to foster positive mental health at the club, promoting #RunAndTalk events and partnering the club this year with Manchester Mind.

On a personal note, he has encouraged me so much (as he has done with countless others), from a person who could barely run 5k to running marathons. He is extremely modest and humble and is always striving to improve others around him. He encourages new run leaders, has fostered partnerships with other running/triathlon clubs and is always respectful of everyone and their individual needs. He is an amazing person and we at Winston Runners are very lucky to have him.

Official of the year

Paul Cope: Paul and his wife Claire decided to try a new format and host a family orientated track session, allowing parents to train alongside their children which helps create a family atmosphere. He is always striving to try his very best to make athletics accessible to children, families and all abilities, to give them the opportunity to stay active, grow in confidence and develop their skills and abilities.

Paul holds a UKA Officials licence, he spends the majority of his time travelling to athletics meetings to officiate and has become a valued official amongst the athletics community. He is passionate about athletics in general and is a coach to the club’s junior section. He has managed an increasing demand for training for our younger members in a variety of athletic disciplines and encourages the children to expand their skills and abilities.

Paul has been a great advocate for officiating and has encouraged other members of the club to take the step-up to becoming officials. This has resulted in six members coming forward to move towards becoming officials, who are at different stages in the process and Paul continues to coach and mentor them on an ongoing basis. His passion and commitment shine through everything he does at the club and he is an excellent role model, not only for other members but also for the juniors he coaches and mentors.

Athletics or Running Club of the year

Kirkby Milers AC: Kirkby Milers AC began life in 2014. We are local runners who wanted to enjoy running with no pressure, no elitism and most importantly to have fun – something that is still at the core of the Milers philosophy to this day. We try our very best to make athletics accessible to children, families and people of all abilities, to give them the opportunity to stay active, grow in confidence and develop their personal skills.

We work with our juniors, the ‘Mini Milers’ to develop not only their athletic abilities but to develop their confidence, physical and mental health and wellbeing and experiences. To this end we currently take the group to various athletic meetings all around the country. This gives them an insight into competing at various levels and opportunities to compete against their peer groups. These are hugely beneficial to the children and all the parents and guardians agree it has brought immeasurable benefits.

The Milers approach is to enjoy running with no pressure, and no elitism. We have been labelled as ‘Kirkby Smilers’ due to all of our athletes being photographed with massive smiles on their faces. This is complimented by our amazing cheering squad and the support from our non-runners. Our unique approach and friendly atmosphere led to us being nominated and winning the very first Club of the Year Award in the 2015 BTR Community Awards, beating clubs with over 30 years history and experience, which we also won the following year too. In 2018, we won two prizes at the National Running Awards at the 02 London for our first ever club races, the Safari 10 mile race and the children’s Monkey Mile, both held at Knowsley Safari Park. We were runners up in the 2019 Running Awards again! Since our inception in 2014, our membership has now grown to over 300 members, which is an astonishing achievement making us the largest sports club in Knowsley.

Inclusion

Kirkby Milers AC: Kirkby Milers work with our junior members, the ‘Mini Milers’ to develop not only their athletic abilities but to develop their confidence, physical and mental wellbeing and experiences. We take the group to various athletic meetings all around the country, which gives them an insight into competing at various levels and opportunities to compete against their peer groups. These trips are hugely beneficial to the children and all the parents and guardians agree it has brought immeasurable benefits.

We have people who have never run or taken up any physical activity before joining us. We pride ourselves on our inclusive approach; all are welcome regardless of age or ability. With the help of Paul and Claire Cope (founding members and junior coaches), we decided to try a new format and host a family orientated track session, allowing parents to train alongside their children which helps create a family atmosphere. We try our very best to make athletics accessible to children, families and all abilities to give them the opportunity to stay active, grow in confidence and develop their personal skills. Knowsley is one of the most deprived local authority areas in the country, it ranks as the third most deprived, and the provision of sporting activities for children and young people in the area is very low. We provide families with opportunity to improve health and wellbeing, and share quality family time.

Run Together Group

GMCR Runners: GMCR is a supportive, accessible and diverse group. Providing free sessions, guidance and encouragement for the local community. Group members receive personal coaching and sessions are designed to suit individuals. Monitoring performance to enable provision of tailored support.

GMCR run at least 8 sessions per week of varying distance and speed, including Couch to 5K, track training and social runs. Runners identify and support future coaches and buddy up more experienced runners with less experienced to build and grow confidence. They support and volunteer at other local events, including marshalling at the local parkrun. They were also invited by a local business to run a Couch to 5K course with colleagues and also with pupils from a local school.

The group hold social events, such as kayaking, a Christmas party for members and families to socialise and build a strong community that encourages inclusivity.

After less than 12 months, GMCR is already a huge part of the community. The group was set up after the leaders were advised if 30 people could change the way they see exercise and make it a part of their lives, in 12 months it would make a huge change to their life and the NHS. GMCR Runners now has over 50 members who run at least 3 times per week, changing their lifestyles dramatically.

Members comment not only on the physical changes the group has brought them but also the wellbeing benefits as part of a group and with increased confidence.

Testimonials from group members:

‘In January, you promised me couch to 5km. In 6 months, you have got me from couch to 12 miles. Thank you to GMCR for fostering a sense of self-belief, confidence and a sense of purpose to enable this.’

‘Thank you for helping so many people achieve what they thought was unachievable.’

‘Fabulous community group with an inclusive ethos – it should be prescribed on the NHS!’

Run Together Leader

Shelby Williams: Shelby funded her own qualifications to provide a great coaching experience. Not satisfied with leaving her learning there she developed her skills and knowledge further, by undertaking qualifications in biomechanics, fitness instructing, Mind Get Set to Go and Time to Change Mental Health Champions training, so she can provide a more inclusive and holistic approach. With a passion for supporting individuals to participate in sport from a wide range of backgrounds, she undertook her Guide Runner course and actively encourages others to become involved with that too. This work has led to the club supporting visually impaired runners as members and as part of the wider guide running network, with regular contact being made by visually impaired runners to support them in local races.

Keeping people safe in the club remains her priority and she has undertaken first aid and safeguarding training to compliment her coaching skills. She does all this as a volunteer alongside a full-time job and other caring responsibilities. Doing the things other coaches do, and so much more. Having a unique knack of knowing when someone needs extra support, she will make a call or just be at the end of a phone. Offering help however she can or signposting people to other professionals and support services.

Shelby has a truly person-centred approach to coaching, she understands individuals’ goals, challenges they face and provides an inclusive approach. People have the upmost trust in her and thrive because of that. She seeks feedback from others meaning everyone feels involved and valued and takes learnings from the experiences and opinions they share. She uses feedback to enhance and develop her skills and is never afraid to ask others for support. She actively encourages others to develop as leaders and coaches too, mentoring new coaches and leaders coming into the sport.

Services to Athletics or Running

Peter Warden: Peter started athletics at the age of 7, as an athlete he won countless County Championships, Northern titles & National medals, represented Great Britain at the 1964 Olympics and won two bronze medals at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. He trained as a PE teacher at Loughborough, where he developed his love of coaching.

Peter started coaching in 1968 and over the years he has coached over 20 international athletes and hundreds of club athletes. Peter was British Athletics National Coach for 15 years and was instrumental in training thousands of coaches in the North West, his impact on coaches and athletes is far-reaching. Peter has coached hundreds of athletes in his 60yrs of coaching of which over 30yrs has been at Preston Harriers. At the age of 77, he is still involved in athletics and coaching athletes at the club. In 2018 he had an athlete attend the Commonwealth Games, one who was selected for the Ron Pickering Trust, two British Master Medallists, a World Masters Medallist, along with the 18 medals the training group collected at the County Championships and 5 Northern Championship Medals.

Peters passion and knowledge of the sport has spanned decades, supporting so many athletes over the years, and the respect and love the athletes have for him is incredible. He has coached able-bodied and disabled athletes, most recently teaching an amputee to run on his 1st blade. He has been involved in athletics for almost 60yrs and shows no sign of stopping, a truly inspiring and deserving winner.

Volunteer of the year

Louise Goddard: Louise is a fantastic asset to the local community, she works tirelessly to promote mental health and well-being, and running as a vehicle to help with social cohesion and improvement of the lives of others in the North of Lancashire.

Louise regularly volunteers and runs at physical wellbeing running, walking and wheeling events in and around Lancaster, most notably the ‘Mental Health Mile’ series. She is always keen to volunteer time to the local running community and is incredibly active in seeking out and disseminating for others, new and interesting volunteering opportunities. It would be gross misrepresentation to classify Louise as anything less than positive and enthusiastic, as the brief for volunteer of the year requires, but it really is difficult to put into words just how effective and infectious Louise’s mentality and outlook is – she’s a credit to our community!

Louise organises monthly timed mile runs to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and promote the benefits of physical activity and coming together as a community to improve our health and wellbeing. The amount she has raised for mental health charities is amazing.

Louise meets (and far exceeds) the brief, she is dedicated and loved, and I believe that she is thoroughly deserving of recognition for all that she does for Lancaster and the surrounding area. She is selfless, inclusive, approachable, non-judgemental, empathetic and genuine. She empowers you to believe you can do anything you put your mind to and teaches you to not compare yourself to others, and to commit to improving your physical and mental health.

Young volunteer

Wilbur Chen: Wilbur Chen started volunteering with Run Wild Manchester three and a half years ago, as part of the University of Manchester’s sports volunteering programme. Since then Wilbur has volunteered at least once a week at regular Tuesday sessions as well as at additional Thursday sessions. These were developed in order to help members progress to running further distances, with the main goal of completing the Great Manchester 10K.

In 2017 Wilbur became treasurer of Run Wild Manchester and was responsible for managing the societies finances. Whilst volunteering with Run Wild, Wilbur undertook first aid in sport and Leader in Running Fitness qualifications enabling the society to run more sessions safely. Through his role as treasurer Wilbur enabled other society members to undertake these courses and further their own personal development as sporting volunteers. Wilbur also volunteered at the University of Manchester’s society fairs representing Run Wild and recruiting new members and volunteers.

Wilbur Chen deserves to win young volunteer of the year because he has played a fundamental part in the growth of Run Wild Manchester. His hard work has enabled the society to reach over 160 runners at sessions in the 2018/2019 academic year. He’s encouraged runners and volunteers to reach PB’s and develop their own skillset through volunteer training and spreads the joy of running to the University of Manchester community. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his commitment to the Run Wild beginner groups, which take individuals from non-runners to a continuous 5K.

Wilbur also volunteers in the wider University of Manchester sport community enabling all students to take part in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. He volunteered at the World Taekwondo World Cup and at the British Universities Colleges and Sport Track Cycling Competition. Without Wilbur’s commitment Run Wild Manchester would not be the successful, inclusive running group it is today.

Chris Jones, England Athletics CEO, said:

“Our sport of athletics and running is built on the selfless and invaluable contribution that our amazing volunteers make. Through our Regional Volunteer Awards, we can put our volunteers in the spotlight, and celebrate the fantastic work that they do in their communities’, week in and out. We hope that the stories of our award winners and nominees can also inspire other people to get involved in our great sport.

“Congratulations and well done to all our award winners and finalists; and thank you to all volunteers across our sport. It can’t happen without you.”

Runners up

Congratulations also to the regions runners up:

Coach: Dennis Wall
Club: West Cheshire AC
Inclusion: Legit Lancaster
RT Group: Lions Running Community
RT Leader: Tony Hillier
Volunteer: Eddie Gorge


More about our Volunteer Awards

Throughout September and early October, we’re hosting nine regional awards ceremonies across England. Every winner of a Regional Volunteer Award is then put forward to an external panel who will select the finalists for the prestigious National Volunteer Awards. Finalists are then invited to attend the England Athletics National Volunteer Awards & Hall of Fame Ceremony hosted on Saturday 12 October at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. An event that honours volunteers from across England and inducts some of the stars of athletics and running into the England Athletics’ Hall of Fame. Since its launch in 2008, Hall of Fame inductees have included Sir Roger Bannister, Lord Sebastian Coe, Paula Radcliffe MBE and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Volunteering in our sport

Volunteering can be extremely rewarding, sharing your knowledge and passion with others to get more people into and enjoying our sport. There are lots of ways that you can get involved, head over to our website to find out more:

Volunteering in athletics and running