CEO club visit - Huntingdon BRJ Run & Tri Club

Chris Jones visited the Cambridgeshire club on a track training night to see and hear more about their current work and plans for the future.

Club Chairman David Newton welcomed Chris and explained the set up for the training night that was just getting under way. The club’s junior section which has about 80 athletes had already been in action with a strength and conditioning session at nearby indoor facilities. But braving the cold were a group of athletes ready for their track sessions.

Everyone warmed up and did some drills together before the session was divided into two groups based on what people were training for.

This year around 18 club members will be running the London Marathon so they and others wanting a longer session got underway with one session while those looking more towards 5K and 10K started work on a session targeted more towards their goals.

As well as making regular blasts on an air horn to mark the start and end of timed reps and shouting encouragement David explained more about the club.

The club has its origins in the 1980s when the Club headquarters used to be the BRJ Working Men's Club in Huntingdon. (B, R and J are the initials of the three founding members of that club - Bastini, Rigden and Jaques).

While the BRJ Sports and Social Club itself has since closed the Huntingdon BRJ Run & Tri Club now has more than 285 members including the junior section was has grown significantly over recent years. There were recently 16 new members from a beginners’ course run by the club.

As the club is a running and triathlon club the junior section, as well as the seniors, do a range of training, not only running. David explained, “They do strength and conditioning, running, swimming, cycling and brick sessions.”

While the junior section has its own sessions the club is also about to introduce a new ‘intermediate group’ to help the younger athletes make a smoother transition between the junior and senior sections.

While David spoke to Chris the friendly nature of the club was in evidence. Flasks of hot drinks and cups were stood on a table at track side ready for everyone post-session. Dave said the club have found that this makes it easier to not only get warm but also socialise after the session has been done, whereas adjourning to the bar/ café area nearby would mean people heading for home rather than deciding to stay on.

David told Chris about the club’s work to recruit new coaches. “We have about 24 coaches, some of whom are triathlon coaches. We recently put seven people through the Leadership in Running and Fitness course. It has increased our coaching base. Three of those are here tonight.
“The coaching is very much focussed on being supportive. They are not screaming and shouting at people.”

David himself has recently taken the Coach in Running & Fitness qualification. He explained the club is evolving its approach to training and in addition to the endurance work is introducing more emphasis on agility, balance and coordination in sessions.

While the atmosphere is friendly the club members do all tend to have an eye on improvement and a desire to improve, “All of our members want to go into races and all want to get better each time”.

Around five years ago a few members of the club started to do triathlon. This led to the club also affiliating to the BTA and adding the ‘and Tri’ element of its name. They are part of the local Frostbite Friendly League – a series of six 5-mile races which are run monthly from October to March. The club organises one of these fixtures as well as events such as the BRJ Mayor’s Race 5M in May, a Duathlon and the new Ouse Valley Way Marathon.

The club is looking to continue to evolve – to improve its offering and how it works. David said, “We have a committee of 12 people, then members with specific responsibilities like the Frostbite League coordinator. We have been working on a development plan to chart the future of the club over the next four years.
“We have got resources, including some money, and it is about how we put those to work”.
“We have done a survey of members, track session are very popular. People are happy with what they have got but don’t know what they could get from the club if we were able to offer it to them”.

In addition to the various training sessions associated with being a running and triathlon club Huntingdon BRJ Run and Tri hold regular social events through the year such as BBQs, a Christmas party, and quiz nights. They also have a chosen charity each year which they raise funds for.

Chris commented, “It was good to meet David and other members of the club. While it was a track session we saw in action I was able to hear about the range of activities that the club is involved in and providing for members. It is always interesting to hear about club’s ‘big picture’ plans and see about some of the smaller details they introduce. Whether it was the way the club are getting more people qualified as coaches or seeing the more subtle touches, such as having the hot drinks at trackside ready for as soon as people finish training on a cold night, it was good to see and hear about how the club are acting to evolve what they offer and achieve a really friendly atmosphere.
“Its valuable to have the chance to talk to club members and volunteers to see what goes into making a club run smoothly and try to gain more insight into how we as England Athletics can help and support their work.”