Callum Elson - back to the start

Recently we had the pleasure of catching up with international athlete Callum Elson where we discussed Callum’s incredible 2022 season, what it felt like to gain his first England and GB vests and how much he enjoyed his first full outdoor track and field season last year.

Callum has achieved so much in such a short space of time, no doubt a result of his hard work, dedication, and commitment. But behind every athlete is a journey and a support system. This article is all about Callum’s journey, from his very first memories of athletics and running all the way through to his current setup at Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club.

Where it started

Callum’s first club was Wharfedale Harriers, a cross country and fell running club in North Yorkshire. Callum explained how his mum was a PE teacher and enjoyed athletics when she was younger so asked Callum if he fancied doing the local cross country league:

"I remember doing a few races in primary school and having really good memories. I think it was a really good introduction into the team aspect of cross country and the scoring system. I was never the person that would come first but would still score for the team which was really nice."

The benefits of junior athletics

There are many reasons to get involved with athletics and running at an early age. In Callum’s case, it was easier for him to first be introduced to the sport because his mum did athletics as a child. When we spoke with Callum, he had some advice for any parents who may be looking to get their children involved in athletics and running for the first time:

"I think it’s best to look at what the benefits are and what it could be, not what the negatives are. If I’d have gone to that first cross country race and not enjoyed it, then that’s fine I wouldn’t have done it again. But the fact I did go, and I really enjoyed it, and was like ‘when is the next one, I want to do more’ shows it is enjoyable and that there can be a great outcome."

Callum was also quick to point out the social benefits of getting involved in athletics and running at a young age:

"Over time I’ve found I really get along with other athletes. Not just because we have the running in common but also because we have similar personality traits. I think when you’re younger, having an extra friendship group outside of school, at an athletics club, can be really good. I know people who never went to the same school but have stayed best friends for years because they ran and trained together."

If you are a parent looking to get your children involved in athletics and running, then why not check out funetics? funetics is our junior athletics programme which provides fun sessions to help 4-11 year old children learn, develop and practice running, jumping and throwing all year round.

Life as a teenager

When Callum went to secondary school, running took more of a backseat role as the majority of his time was taken up with football. Despite his focus being elsewhere, Callum did still compete for his school in cross country and took part in the English Schools' Cross Country Championships each year:

"There were always other people on the team ahead of me. I think I was only the first counter for my county once at English Schools. The other times there were always other people ahead of me. I did cross country with Emile Cairess quite a few times. Emile was always winning whereas I’d be back in about 100th but it helps give you perspective."

Whilst Callum was in secondary school, he moved to Roundhay Runners, an athletics club in Leeds. Callum has fond memories of running for the club and explained how some of his proudest moments actually came when wearing the Roundhay Runners’ vest:

"When I went to races for Roundhay Runners and performed better than I was expecting, that was always a great moment. I used to run round and not think anything of it and would only realise at the end when the announcer would read out the names that I’d outperformed expectations."

The here and now:

After attending Durham University for his undergraduate degree, Callum went to American International College, which is located near Boston, to gain his masters. Since returning home, Callum has joined Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club, one of the most prestigious and successful running clubs in the country. Callum explained how the new setup seemed to work for him straight away, something he puts down to the great training group around him:

"The depth at the club is just crazy. We’re quite unique in the fact that everyone at the club was born, lives or works in Cambridge so we have a really big training group. You know when you go to a session that there’s always someone to help you out and to push you."

Callum was quick to point out that the club has created a really nice environment to train and compete, not just for the senior athletes but for the juniors too:

"The coaches and volunteers have created an environment where 15, 16, 17 year olds keep wanting to come back and still think track and field is a cool thing to do.

They have a really good friendship group. You see them all warm up and cool down together. It is very much what I had when I played football at their age and loved the team environment. They’ve managed to have that in athletics. When I was younger, I always thought athletics was very much an individual sport so it’s nice to see the team environment that is created at a club."

Getting involved

We asked Callum what advice he would give to anyone looking to get involved in the sport and join a local athletics club. Here’s what he had to say:

"It’s a bold statement but I think joining a club is the best thing you can do. You can make an informed decision about the club and you can join in different capacities and for different motivations. You can choose to have a coach or not. You can join team events or do your own thing. In terms of the opportunities it unlocks, being able to do affiliated races is obviously a major component, it’s huge."

Listen to a clip from the chat:

Has Callum’s story and advice inspired you to take part in athletics and running? Whether you are thinking about getting your kids involved, joining a club or a RunTogether group, or taking part in your first competition, there’s plenty to get involved with when it comes to our sport.