CEO Club Visit: Mornington Chasers
As on any normal Tuesday, this one a beautiful summers evening in Kentish Town, North London, Mornington Chasers were gathering at the Talacre Sports Centre prior to their weekly run.
But this evening England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones had travelled to London to see the Chasers within their home environment.
Mornington Chasers is an extremely inclusive club, there’s a pace group for a range of levels of ability, a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, and an even split of the membership between men and women.
Alice Sullivan, one of the club committee members said, “The range of running routes that we can offer given our location is exceptional, and running on Hampstead Heath on summer evenings is particularly special.”
The club was set up in 1986 by posties (postmen and women) from the local sorting office. At that time, Kentish Town had a large Irish community, and the Irish heritage is clear to see in the club colours. Over the years the local area has changed, with rising property prices making it an expensive place to live. This poses challenges for any club in central London as people are often priced out of the area when they want to buy a home of their own, so this often sees the membership moving away.
Alice Sullivan continues: “The vast majority of those who leave the club say that it is because they have left the neighbourhood. This makes it vital to us to keep attracting new members. The fact that people in London are so mobile also makes the club all the more important in providing a link to the local community and a place to make local friends. The social side of the club is great.”
The locality has its benefits as well with having both Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill tracks close by, as well as lots of other choices of running routes, such as the Regent’s Canal and Regent’s Park. With a very well connected public transport network on the door step, people find it a convenient location.
Training sessions are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, with Tuesday road based session running around some lovely picturesque locations, from two miles upwards, a range of paces are catered for. The club also prides its self on its beginners programme.
On the Thursday session, the club head over to Parliament Hill track, and the track sessions (just like the road running) are open to all abilities. There is also an option of informal long runs on Sundays which, as you can imagine, become popular during marathon training season.
Like most clubs, the coaching is all volunteer led. The coaching team put together training schedules so that club members can work together towards shared goals, the schedules can be found on the club’s website. The club encourages members to take UKA coaching qualifications, which has helped develop the confidence and skills of the volunteer coaches. Working on maintaining a good group of volunteer coaches and increasing the membership base are among the club's core goals. Running a race series in Regents Park also helps to keep membership fees down and supports an active race and social calendar. The Regents Park 10k series is run over six dates throughout each year. (For more details on the 10k run series click here).
The Chasers enjoy taking part in Summer League, a friendly league run by eight London running clubs. Summer League’s popularity is growing, with good turnouts in 2017. Chasers also send a small but enthusiastic following to Southern Athletics League, while in the winter the Chasers are busy on the cross country circuit competing in the Start Fitness Met League. The Middlesex and National Cross Country championships also feature in the fixture list.
A former track & field athlete, Lauren Longhurst, moved to North London a couple of years ago and took part in her first 10k race at Regents Park where Mornington Chasers had a big presence. The friendly approach drew Lauren to attend one of the Tuesday evening run sessions and the rest was history.
Having found it hard to move away from track & field and fitness and the good heath that comes with it, Lauren said she just seemed to lose some of the enjoyment. She fell into road running accidentally when an old housemate challenged her to a marathon. “I thought I’d hate it but I’ve enjoyed setting new goals and it’s nice to take in the scenery rather than just running around in circles," she said.
The elements of competition and hard training have been conducive for Lauren’s personal bests over the new distances since joining Mornington Chasers, but the focus on enjoyment with socials at the pub and picnics play a pivotal part of the overall experience of being a member of Mornington Chasers. When asked if she would recommend Mornington Chasers, Longhurst is quick to reply “Yes, we claim to be the friendliest club in North London and it’s probably true.”
Chris Jones was in attendance at the club and joined in running with one of the groups, even finding time to accompany them for a post-run pint at the local pub afterwards. Chris said, "It is always fantastic to meet and speak with members and volunteers of our clubs. Mornington Chasers typified the great work of our member clubs in many ways. They offer running for all abilities, aspirations and backgrounds. They offer training runs and competitions throughout the year and it was evident that they consider the social side of the sport particularly important in making new members feel welcome. We thoroughly enjoyed the training run through Regents Park and Camden lock and it was great to speak with members about their motivations to run and their running journey.”
To find out more about the running sessions, groups and routes provided by Mornington Chasers please visit: http://www.chaser.me.uk/index.php. For more information on the Regents Park 10k series please visit: http://www.chaser.me.uk/tenk/tenk.php