England Athletics’ Chief Executive Chris Jones headed along to the club based in Chingford with Club Support Manager John Harris. The pair were able to meet and speak to a range of volunteers from the club which has a history dating back more than 100 years.
Orion Harriers were established in 1911 and on the year of their 100th anniversary moved to their current clubhouse at Bury Road, Chingford which is on City of London land in Epping Forest. They have recently carried out a refurbishment of the clubhouse and are also now applying for further funding to extend their space to enable further work to be done.
Chris and John were able to catch up with a range of volunteers on the visit including Brian Jenkins who is the club captain, club president Bob Jousiffe, junior manager Jane Farrier, SAL and Clubhouse manager Andy Day, beginners’ group leader Ann De Asha and Barny Foot who is organiser of the FASTFriday event AND committee member Tim Wright. Chris Jones commented, “I have been fortunate enough to visit a number of clubs who can trace their history back over 100 years while remaining as active and relevant as ever. This is a reminder and reflection of a fortunate position athletics and running are in. We can see clubs such as Orion which are able to draw on this rich heritage as well as continuing to attract and enthuse both young and older participants today.
The FASTFriday event organised by Barny sees a series of races held over both 5,000m and 10,000m. Last year’s event saw 180 athletes and 400 spectators being part of the action for the event which as well as four 5000m races also had three 10,000m races. With the nation’s appetite for racing over 25 laps of the track being re-ignited by events such as the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs events such as FASTFriday have given athletes more competition opportunities. In 2017 the A race was taken by John Gilbert (Kent AC) in 30.17.3, a time faster than his Highgate performance and showing the benefit of increased opportunities over the distance as John Eves (Bedford & County AC, Phil O’Dell) came in second in 30.39.4 just ahead of the ubiquitous Paul Martelletti (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets, Nick Anderson) 30.42.5
The club is a large one with a range of activities on offer. This means that they actually operate two committees who devote attention specifically to the Senior and Junior sections of the club. Training takes place at two venues with Tuesdays being hosted at the track at Walthamstow Feelgood Centre and then sessions at the Club’s home on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
The senior and junior sections of the club both have more than 400 members with a fairly equal balance between male and female athletes. The junior section starts from age 8 and has athletes up to Under 20. Meanwhile the senior section has members aged from 18 to 80 years old.
THE CLUB IS PROUD TO COUNT A NUMBER OF INTERNATIONALS AMONG ITS MEMBERSHIPS, INCLUDING Corinne Humphreys WHO made her Commonwealth Games debut IN THE 100M on the Gold Coast, GB Master track and duathlon athlete Nick Shasha AND LUCY CHARLES, WHO WAS 2ND IN THE WORLD IRONMAN CHAMPSIONSHIPS LAST YEAR.
The club has good relationships and links with local schools with coaches from the junior section going into them to deliver activities. The club takes a collaborative approach and works in partnership with coaches from other clubs in its work with young athletes. Another approach that the club utilises is that it has some of the juniors who are at the older end of the age range helping out with the younger juniors on club nights.
Club captain Brian Jenkins said "We are a growing club and very proud of our thriving juniors section, who make up half of our 800 members. We compete in the Essex and Chingford Leagues in the winter and the SAL, YDL, Scott's Travel Midweek Road League and ELVIS series in the summer. We also hold annual mobmatches against other clubs (which date back to our formation in 1911), as well as open races, including the Orion 15, our iconic 15 mile cross country race, the only fell race inside the M25, a 5 mile summer series and "FASTFriday"- a night of 5000m and 10000m track races, which this year will host the SEAA 10000m championships. We are a friendly club and visitors are always welcome to train with us either on the track or in the beautiful Epping Forest.
- The club’s young athletes compete in a range of competitions including the Youth Development League. At senior level the club is also involved in the Southern Athletics League.
- For the endurance athletes the summer sees the club’s athletes involved in a Midweek Road Race League and a series against other East London clubs which goes by the name of ‘ELVIS’ – The East London fiVe Interclub Series. The London Marathon is another event the club has strong participation in with club member Ken Jones one of the ‘ever presents’.
- The club’s winter fixtures are focussed on cross country events with involvement in both the Essex League and Chingford League. In keeping with the club’s long history there are also three mob matches against rival London clubs who can also trace origins back many years – the traditional rivals Blackheath & Bromley Harriers & AC, Ranelagh, and South London Harriers.
Club President Bob Jousiffe said, "It was good to be able to show Chris the club and watch the 50 runners in our under 9 and under 11 mid-week races. We share many of the same challenges as other clubs in recruiting enough volunteers, especially coaches and officials, as well as funding for facilities like our clubhouse to meet the needs of all our members. It was encouraging to hear how England Athletics is trying to support clubs and build the sport generally.”
Chris Jones concluded, “John and I were pleased to be able to see activities at Orion Harriers and to meet the volunteers who make such a wide range of activities happen. It is exciting to see the work already done on the clubhouse and to hear about the future plans the club has. When combined with the enthusiasm and skills of the volunteers these are exciting times for the club."