England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones recently visited Holme Pierrepont RC to find out more about the club.
Holme Pierrepont RC has a real community feel to it. As the runners gathered for their club run on a Monday night some of the group were busy talking about their experiences and sore muscles from the past few days – they had been on a club weekend to Shropshire where lots of running and socialising had taken place.
Club chair Pete Savage explained to Chris a little of the background to the Nottingham club. “Our club membership is around 230-240 people. We have seen steady incremental growth with a good percentage of new members being women. We’re not sure how much of that is the impact of people like Paula Radcliffe, how much is about Race For Life or whether it is both.”
As the club grows as well as a mix of abilities there are also a range of personalities, and skills. Pete joked, “If you need anything doing someone in the club can do it, or knows someone who can do it. But it is also the kind of environment where you can know someone for years and not know what they do for a living. It’s the sort of place where if people ask what you do they probably mean ‘What’s your 10K time?’”
Among the groups heading out were some new members to the club. Katie Holmes explained how these people group came to be with the club. She explained the club had been contacted by Nikki Cranshaw who is the Run! Nottingham Activator. Katie said, “She had a meeting with us about a ‘Learn to Run’ course for beginners. We weren’t ready to do that ourselves but the watersports centre [where the club meet] wanted to do one. That started in August.
“Nikki led it and at least two of us from the club went each time. She was at the front and we had one person at the back and another in the middle. Initially about 30 people came along. It started in the summer and then was into the time when it was getting darker and the group was quite mixed in ability – some were coming back into running and others were mostly walking to start with.”
From this initial beginners group the members progressed in their running and fitness. The club decided to do an ‘improvers’ course. Katie as well as Bryony Butcher, Steve Tupholme and Martin Spencer are all qualified in Leadership in Running Fitness. They took on the new group.
Katie continued, “We didn’t publicise it hugely but Nikki did some fliers. We had 11 people come the first week and 13 the second. In total 15 came at least once.”
The group was meeting on Wednesdays so it did not take the leaders away from a normal club night. Katie said, “We were really pleased and they all seemed to enjoy it.
“We do a warm up, a run with someone at the back, then a stretch and a cool down. We have gradually built up the distance. We had promoted it as for people who can already run 5K and said we would get them to 5 miles.”
Now the group is making the transition to the club. Most have joined and are continuing to improve, “They have just done 6M tonight. We did an email every week, it was done at the weekend and acted as a reminder to come along.
“They all got to know each other. We are going to see Nikki in a couple of weeks to discuss things as she is running a number of beginners groups. So we will look at whether we should do another improvers group that she can feed people on to.”
Martin added, “It has been good and nice to have the chance to use some of the skills that were covered on the Leadership in Running Fitness course.”
The club works at having a sense of community. It produces a monthly newsletter which contains articles on a wide range of subjects and sends information out via a closed Facebook group that keeps everyone up to speed. A range of social events are held and there was recently an attendance of approximately 100 people at the club dinner.
The club holds its own Grand Prix Series of four races with 400-500 people taking part which has been going for around 30 years. This has seen changes and Pete said one of the shifts they have seen has been shown by the need to order more women’s sizes for the race T-shirts.
Mandy Andrews served as series director for 11 years, this year she hands over to Glyn Sawford and a new team. While race organising has become more complex over the period the Grand Prix has been going Mandy was complimentary of the support available via runbritain and England Athletics in ensuring the events are able to meet the requirements such events race in the 21st century. She commented, “It is an amazing experience - working with highways and police and having an insight into how these things work.”
As well as providing a competition opportunity the races also give the club an income stream which means they can look to keep club membership fees lower than would otherwise be the case.
The club does not have a junior section, choosing to focus on its ‘core business’ and enjoying a good relationship with the various other clubs in the area who between them cater for the athletics community. Among the club membership are a fair number of masters and members who turn their hands (as well as lungs, arms and legs) to triathlon and ultra-distance events in addition to the more common road, cross, country and fell.
Chris Jones, England Athletics Chief Executive commented, “It is always good to spend time with people from clubs, both the committee members and the regular club members. We were able to discuss some of the challenges and frustrations that the club members and volunteers can have as well as hearing about where they feel they benefit from the work that we do.
“It is healthy for us as an organisation to hear of the different experiences and approaches of clubs. To have a clear understanding of how our work should be done and can impact on our member clubs means it is essential for me to spend time speaking to people such as Mandy about the organising of the Grand Prix, William Scott about his experiences as club treasurer, Glyn who is also the membership secretary and Katie and the team who have who have worked with the beginners.
“Having face-to-face discussions with these people shows what a great sport we have and, as well as giving some extra insights into what we should do and how, it always helps to fire my enthusiasm for the sport.”
For more information on Holme Pierrepont RC please see www.hprcrun.co.uk.