Regional Volunteer Awards - North East winners and runners-up!

The England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards are off and running – celebrating the amazing volunteers who have made such a vital contribution to the Athletics and Running community across the country in such a challenging year.

For our 2020 awards, the North East had the honour of being the first of our virtual Regional Volunteer Awards nights to take place. Broadcast live online, we were delighted to be able to reward the dedication, inspiration and hard work that volunteers in the North East have brought to Athletics and Running.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the North East are…

Athletics and Running @home Award – North East

Winner: Newcastle Frontrunners

A bingo card, relay, online quizzes, private Strava group and a drop-in café were just some of the ideas the team from Newcastle Frontrunners came up with during the first lockdown. A new and diverse group of members created a range of ideas to make sure all club members were able to keep fit and connected during lockdown whatever their location, background or ability. The club is part of the Frontrunners network and describes itself as a ‘friendly northeast running club for LGBT people and friends’. The Athletics & Running @ Home team at the club were incredibly diverse, including coaches, runners from across the region (Morpeth to Birtley), injured runners, ages from 25 to 55, and people identifying as bisexual, straight, and gay. The group deserve thanks for their unceasing efforts even when they were injured or anxious themselves in using all forms of communication to keep in touch including visiting homes for socially-distanced chats, delivering S&C equipment, checking in with isolated members, delivering home-baked cakes to sheltering families. They gave the members a social lifeline and kept them active throughout with their innovative ideas while mental health practitioners gave tips to deal with anxiety and coaches delivered online strength sessions. A true team effort and a well deserved winner of the first England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award for Athletics & Running @ Home.

Runner-up: Hartlepool AC

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Run Leader of the Year – North East

Winner: Julie Smith (Quarrington Hill Runners)

The England Athletics Regional Volunteer Leader of the Year Award in the North East this year goes to Julie Smith of Quarrington Hill Runners. Since starting her RunTogether group in January 2019, she has gone on to build a team of run leaders who share her passion for running and ethos of making the group a safe place for people to get some time for themselves, make new friends and get fitter at the same time. Her qualities of being empathetic, non-judgmental and understanding have helped her to develop a close-knit group of runners, who support one another to achieve their individual running goals. As well as providing support by breaking down barriers to encourage runners to join her group, she ensures that all runners receive a friendly welcome and try different, fun and inclusive sessions to help increase their fitness. Julie goes the extra mile for her runners and leaders and has provided a much-needed community activity for people living in remote and isolated parts of County Durham. She has since gone on to complete her CiRF qualification so that she is able to focus on a broader range of running fitness activities and provides tailored support to individuals.

Runner-up: Lisa Edwards (Durham Mums on the Run)

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RunTogether Group of the Year – North East

Winner: Coxhoe Runaways

Congratulations to Coxhoe Runaways for winning the RunTogether Group of the Year Award for the North East. An inclusive group which supports the local community, its ethos is ‘pace isn’t important just keep moving forward’. Each leader in the group makes every member feel welcome and supported in every way: laughter goes hand in hand with exercise in this group. During the Covid-19 lockdown the Runaways rallied to support vulnerable people in its community with activities such as weekly phone calls to people shielding, volunteering to support the local chemist delivering medication and creating a Kindness Challenge to support Mental Health Awareness Week. During lockdown, the group maintained contact through Zoom calls, telephone, social media and newsletters – sharing ideas about staying healthy at home which included virtual run and walk bingo challenges with prizes for winners. A variety of running and walking events are available on group nights, so that everyone can find something that suits them, with members encouraging each other to improve and a running buddy scheme is also in place. As part of its philosophy of being fully accessible to all, the group leader completed guide runner training so that visually impaired members can take part safely.

Runner-up: Lanchester Legends

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Club of the Year – North East

Winner: Prudhoe Plodders RC

Congratulations to Prudhoe Plodders for winning the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award Club of the Year category for the North East. As a relatively newly formed club, initially starting in 2018 from a free ‘Run Together Couch to 10K’ group, membership has grown to 200+ members from the local area catering for all age groups from youth to senior adults. They have provided opportunities for all levels and abilities of runners, or as they call them, ‘Plodders’. The motto of their club is “strong and steady wins the race” and all members, regardless of pace, are invited to the twice weekly training sessions delivered by supportive member volunteers, some of whom have become qualified run leaders and coaches since the club started. The club also offers volunteering opportunities to all members, from coaching sessions, being part of the committee, to marshalling races. Plodders take an active role in the local community including helping to organise the local charity fundraiser Prudhoe Easter Egg Run and helping to reinstate the historic Prudhoe Miners Race. They have also given members a chance to enjoy sessions and motivational talks from Olympians including Aly Dixon and Laura Weightman. Plodders sees itself as a hub for the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of members, whether they are together or apart they all just keep ‘plodding on’ together!

Runner-up: Low Fell RC

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Coach of the Year – North East

Winner: Geoffrey Fenwick (Gateshead Harriers & AC)

Geoffrey Fenwick of Gateshead Harriers & AC is a huge student of the sport and has been studying for most of the year to upgrade his coaching qualifications as some of his senior athletes are competing at a higher level of competition. Geoff gets to know his athletes and what makes them tick, which is a great skill to have within his club. He’s a huge inspiration to his group of athletes, which they all appreciate, and they know that he wants them to achieve success and that by working as a team, they can achieve great things. He’s also hugely calm so if athletes have issues, he’s usually got the right thing to say to get the best performance that he can from his athletes. He’s also got an eye for emerging talent and has encouraged some younger athletes to join his group this year to benefit from his programmes. Through Covid-19, Geoff provided remote training sessions and training in small groups so that he could keep his athletes’ preparations on track. Geoff supports a young Coaching Assistant and also encourages the senior athletes in the group to mentor the younger athletes, which includes them leading the warm up and cool down at sessions as well as helping them at competitions on practical things and tactical/confidence support in a competition setting.

Runner-up: Bruce Horsburgh (Gateshead Harriers & AC)

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Official of the Year – North East

Winner: James Colling

The England Athletics Regional Volunteer Official of the Year Award for the North East 2020 goes to James Colling. Recognised as a hardworking and diligent official who has gained a huge amount of experience across the sport from cross country to track and field, James has a huge knowledge of athletics and a passion for doing things right. Whatever the meeting, from a local open meeting to the World Championships, he has the same enthusiasm to deliver the best event that he can every time. Always keen to help and mentor any new officials to gain experience and skills, and for experienced officials looking at achieving a higher level within our sport, he gives confidence to all officials to carry out their duties to the best of their ability. He has the passion to deliver great events and that comes across when he helps new officials – he’s always available for questions and help during any athletics meeting. James is also always encouraging more experienced officials to aim higher with their qualifications as he sees the bigger picture that our sport needs more and younger officials if it’s to thrive in the future.

Runner-up: Margaret Frazer (South Shields Harriers)

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Young Volunteer of the Year – North East

Winner: Lucy Hickson (Gateshead Harriers & AC)

Winner of the Young Volunteer Award for the North East, Lucy Hickson of Gateshead Harriers & AC is both a competing athlete and a Level 1 official, which has given her the best of both worlds, continuing her love of athletics and her desire to better herself as an official She supports fellow athletes by providing guidance, explaining rules and answering queries on many aspects of the sport. Her enthusiastic and attentive attitude makes her a particularly special young volunteer. She has volunteered at many events in the North of England, officiating on the track and even turning her hand to registration and results. Having attended a Mental Health First Aid course for young people, through the club, she has now gained a greater understanding of mental health issues that athletes face. During recent lockdown restrictions, she has continued her training and joined a virtual relay team as part of the Race for Life from Home, raising funds for Cancer Research UK. Lucy will be going to university next year where she will balance her degree studies, desire to compete at BUCS and reach her goal of officiating on the world stage – collecting the relay baton from the winning GB team!

Runner-up: Katie Moody (Phoenix Flyers AC)

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Volunteer of the Year – North East

Winner: Brenda Mallen (Alnwick Harriers)

Coach coordinator and vice chair Brenda Mallen of Alnwick Harriers is the well-deserved winner of the England Athletics Regional Volunteer of the Year Award in the North East. Described as the heart and soul of the club, Brenda is extra-ordinarily dedicated to the club and region and fills in on any jobs that need doing. The juniors all love her and in the adult section she has the biggest running group as no one wants to move up and away from her. Brenda looks after all the coaches in the club with regular meetings to ensure all the groups are balanced and doing the right thing. She ensures the correct safety equipment, athletics equipment and safety measures are in place for all the coaches, including risk assessments and DBS checks. Brenda never has any problem getting volunteers for her events, be that fundraising evenings, charity events, club BBQs, or the social ‘races’ that are organised. Each junior group has at least a couple of parent helpers/run leaders to help the coach so she is always looking to encourage volunteers to come along and help: everyone loves Brenda and what she does so much that refusing to help her is not an option!

Runner-up: David Daniels (Tyne Bridge Harriers)

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Services to Athletics or Running – North East

Winner: Jill King (Middlesbrough AC Mandale)

The Service to Athletics Regional Volunteer Award for the North East winner is Jill King of Middlesbrough AC (Mandale). Described as an inspiration to others, Jill has been the membership secretary for over 30 years and without her hard work and dedication as the backbone of the club, Middlesbrough AC (Mandale) wouldn’t exist. She has also taken on other roles on the committee at challenging times or when a lack of volunteers have been available, such as chairperson and secretary, and this has been the case during this very difficult time. Jill is an amazing role model in terms of commitment, drive and passion to keep the club in existence and provide the best opportunities for local athletes. She also volunteers at local school track and cross country competitions, which allows her to not only support the local area but club athletes. Jill has helped increase membership by providing opportunities for participation via Fantastic 4 and allowing other clubs to compete and raising the profile of primary athletics in the local area. She recognises the importance of rewarding athletes by organising and hosting annual awards nights, liaising with coaches to provide personal messages to each athlete in order to add a special touch.

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Click here for more details about this year’s Regional Volunteer Awards.