It's London's turn to host their England Athletics Volunteer Awards evening, and the inspiring event was hosted at the grade II listed building St Bride Foundation near Fleet Street.
Shortlisted volunteers and their friends, colleagues and family were invited and were also able to meet some of England Athletics staff: Emma Davenport from the Senior Leadership team, Andy Anstey, Chris Mallender and Club Support Managers Amy Murtagh and Rich Ayling. and
Below, we reproduce a summary of their nominations which were read out during the evening, plus their reactions to their awards.
Newcomer to volunteering
Winner: Romany O'Dell (Mornington Chasers)
Since becoming her club's main Beginners Volunteer, this volunteer has taken running joy and engagement to new heights with her infectious encouragement, confidence and commitment. Her visible love of volunteering has injected new energy into the club and encouraged more and more of her club's members to want to volunteer.
Over the last 15 months, she has helped 150+ new beginner runners to take part in running. The vast majority are people who did not previously have the confidence to join a running club - and would never have envisaged themselves participating at track on a training session with speedsters who can 6-minute mile!
She also volunteers as Kit Secretary and has fast become central to improving the Mornington Chasers volunteering ethos. Romany O'Dell is a woman who can get 20 people who have never run before to get up the top of Parliament Hill on a wet Tuesday evening!
Romanie gave her opinion on how to keep people enthused, "If someone tells you that they hate running on week three of their course, I tell them they would learn to love it, but they also don't have to carry on -they can of course choose to not run and try something else."
Runner up: Chris Scott (Orion Harriers AC)
After discovering that his club was looking for coaches and helpers this volunteer was quick off the mark to find a Coaching Assistant course and get qualified over the summer holidays. He has since thrown himself into the role of Junior Coaching Assistant and quickly got to grips with organising the under 11 athletes. He is very organised, he always has a session plan; a warm up, a main theme and a contrasting activity. He takes them through drills, and giving them some practice in events from long jump to high jump, vortex hurlers to discuss. He encourages the athletes to participate in the club's under 11s competitions. He's always first to arrive to training and full of enthusiasm to set up and ask what other coaches and coaching assistants we have attending on the day.
The fact that the under 11 section is growing and everyone comes back each week speaks volumes about Chris Scott. He is an inspiration to the Orion Harriers AC junior athletes and a mentor to other coaching assistants and parent helpers.
Contribution to Running
Winner: Sofia Ali / Walk 2 run (Queens Park Harriers)
This volunteer set up a Walk to Run group 5 years ago to encourage and support women to run in their local park. The group has grown and achieved her ambition to reach out and attract a diverse community of older women, reflecting the community the park serves, including those with disability, physical and mental health challenges and those recovering form long term illness. A side benefit of this group is a collection of surplus running clothes for a charity for runners who cannot afford any kit.
She provides a quality experience for all by devising routes and challenges that can be tackled at many different levels ensuring all participants experience some success. A husband asked to join so now there are men who attend regularly too. The number of participants has risen steadily with a core of around 45 people, and some have joined a local athletics club taking part in track training. Sofia encourages members to assist and lead running sessions, undertake guide running to help include visually impaired runners, and volunteer at other events such as parkrun.
Sofia Ali has given a great deal to the community through this venture.
Runner up: Paul Austridge (Blackheath and Bromley AC)
The strong team structure this volunteer has built up has allowed many individual young athletes to compete and succeed at the highest level in County, Regional and National Competitions. For many this has been life enhancing and, for some, life changing giving them the opportunity to acquire the discipline, work ethic and confidence that will help them in their future careers, athletically and otherwise.
Using the club database, he collates all the athletes’ information to ensure they are entered into the relevant races by the deadlines, and then writes up reports and results afterwards. He's been the Young Athletes Cross-Country team manager for over 10 years, plus organises the National Supper for athletes, team managers and supporters.
Paul Austridge takes the time to make sure the parents and athletes know what goes on in Cross-Country and what to expect. He does this whilst working full-time and 3 nights a week coaching for the club, is an active member of the management committee and can always be found wearing many hats supporting Blackheath and Bromley AC at club events and competitions.
Coach of the Year
Winner: David Wilkinson (Thames Valley Harriers)
The stand out qualities of this volunteer coach of 30-40 middle distance athletes is the holistic support he provides, his genuine care for the athlete’s whole life beyond running, and how he takes the time to build athlete-coach relationships. He embraces the commitment an athlete can put in, no matter what ability, to allow them to achieve their goals.
By attending conferences, reading books, listening to podcasts and conversing with different coaches and athletes, Dave learns about athlete issues (such as RED-S) to fully support his athletes. This has resulted in a passion for advocating for women's sport - and has led to his exceptional athlete retention rate, particularly amongst young girls, who often leave the sport in their late teens.
His athletes helped Thames Valley Harriers win both the Southern and National league titles alongside road relay medals. However, he does not value this national level success over helping a new mum fight her way back to a PB (even if it means holding the baby while she does reps) or supporting an athlete through to complete recovery from an eating disorder or mental health struggles. His example inspires his athletes into giving back to the sport in turn through volunteering. Dave’s kindness and inclusivity is reflected by his own athletes, creating a supportive community within the group.
Dave Wilkinson is not just a coach for everyone. He is a coach for a lifetime.
We asked him what his most rewarding moment was. "This year coaching someone with a serious eating disorder and seeing them now and knowing they've recovered, It wasn't just my support but that of the whole group."
Runner up: Joe Everitt (Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies)
This coach has worked hard to develop young athletes teams in both cross country and track and field. This coach has ensured that the club target a variety of leagues so that youngsters of all abilities are included. In Joe’s race reports on our website, every youngster gets an encouraging mention.
Traditionally, most of the club's youngsters would do sprint or middle-distance training. However, he introduced twice-weekly 'multi events training' to encourage them to try other events where they may have untapped potential. This approach has seen club records in such events as hurdles, Javelin and Pole Vault being set by athletes who would never otherwise have considered them- and ensures the club has excellent coverage of all track and field events.
Joe Everitt has developed an amazing camaraderie amongst the athletes, coaches and parents, with all striving to help Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies succeed.
Club of the Year
Winner: Chessington Unity Running Club
A club that's only 2 years old but has gained a reputation for warmly welcoming everyone and offers short run/walk sessions for beginners. Inevitably a week 1 nervous newbie becomes a week 2 fully signed up member wearing club kit. Run leaders hold free 'zero to hero' courses to help people get into running or back into running. 95% of the free Couch to 5k programme finishers have joined the club and are still running. As a new club they used the club standards as a building foundation, and the standards have really made them consider welfare and inclusion.
There are free speed sessions, strength training and track sessions to complement the running, relay events to encourage team building, and plenty of social events such as an awards night and a Coronation Run and Picnic with other local clubs. Other sports are encouraged – there are now spin off clubs of cycling, paddle boarding, swimming, and triathlon. Also within the community, the club have funded an AED in the park, set up a junior parkrun, helped school kids running and support a charity that provide access to sporting activities for disabled or autistic children.
The members make Chessington Unity Runners special. Two hundred members follow the club motto "run as one", all with the same ethos, run: have fun, whilst encouraging each other to run further or faster.
They were very excited to receive their award. Their biggest challenge? "COVID! Every time we wanted to start, we had to wait for restrictions of the time to lift! But we managed in the end, and have grown and gorwn and grown!
How have they grown?
Word of mouth and lots of bright green tops in the pub after a run!
Runner up: Highgate Harriers
Recognising that the club could be intimidating for non-elite athletes, a package of changes has revitalised this cohort; a revamped website, a triage process for enquiries, trial sessions booked online, and new members (including para-athletes) welcomed to one of 14 specific coaching groups and who are linked through moderated social media channels. The new online store sells a range of branded products, and monthly socials are popular. As a result, over the past year membership topped 565 - a 20 year high.
Creating a unique identity for the Senior B group has increased training attendance 5-fold. The club are proud that two members of the successful senior men’s road relay team are refugees, and that 15 athletes benefit from a scholarship scheme. The club secured £2m local authority funding for track refurbishment including LED lighting and an electricity grid connection to promote sustainability. Young athletes gain sports leadership experience facilitating QuadKids events. Coaches and Officials are supported, and a range of technical and ancillary roles are offered including the Highgate Harriers annual Night of the 10k which is powered by 150 volunteers.
Winner: Street To Stadium (Blackheath and Bromley AC)
As part of their inclusion initiatives, this club held a taster session in October for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) students from a local school. The project resulted in new athletes with SEND joining the club and integrated into training groups, and many are applying for classification so that they can compete as para-athletes.
The Street 2 Stadium project has helped Blackheath and Bromley AC become the inclusive environment it is striving to be. Club athletes have helped mentor and support S2S athletes, fostering inclusivity. The leadership team ensure that the S2S athletes are part of the club by reducing their membership fee, and providing additional support with GDPR and safeguarding. Team Managers have agreed to invite the S2S athletes to a YDL as a non-scorer and coaches are encouraging the athletes to compete at open events. The project has grown club members' knowledge, understanding and sense of community. Blackheath and Bromley AC are developing links with the wider SEND community.
Congratulations to the club and with special mention to Para Athletics co-ordinator Bobbie Simpson and, Lead Coach Jay Galley - who are supported by Paul Byfield from Active Athletics) and Sam Purser from British Athletics. Paul explained:
"We get involved with top athletes but with such good facilities, we wanted to share them with the community. We're very proud of what we've done; it's a great project."
F20 classified shot putter Nehemiah Dick came along as a representative athlete. When asked what he enjoyed the most he said "Making new friends."
Paul continued: "If your club wants to do something similar, throw yourself into it, Reach out to local schools, club officials and technical officials. It's a real partnership."
Runner up: Black Girls Do Run UK
Women who join this club are able to meet and surpass their activity and running goals but also volunteer at races and experience the diversity of the running community such as parkrun, ultra running, and community races. It's a much-needed first step for black women - usually from backgrounds that are very poorly represented in amateur running - to access running in a friendly, non judgemental club where they feel safe and heard.
The club gives back to running community through providing speakers at many events including discussions on inclusion and diversity in the running community. The club hosted some engaging and thoughtful Black History Month and Windrush events - again reflecting the need for spaces in the running community which reflect minority and marginalised experiences.
Black Girls Do Run UK is leading the charge and making our running community wider and more diverse and inclusive.
Winner: David Appleton (Blackheath and Bromley AC)
This Leader's experience as Club Treasurer and Trustee provided a wealth of knowledge to volunteer committee members. He led volunteer work on re-structuring of Club governance, incorporation of the Club, new Articles and Club rules, liaison with legal advisers, registration of the Club as a charity and bringing in the existing Track Management organisation as a subsidiary of the Club.
He was a leading member of the Norman Park Community Sports Centre development team, which ran the project to build the new community sports centre, Blackheath and Bromley AC's new clubhouse. He was responsible for the finance elements of the project, including a Charity Bank loan, issue of Debentures, and investigating revised arrangements for optimum VAT treatment. Additionally, David was a visible President in 2022/23. He presented the weekly President’s News in person and via YouTube and led club trips to Jersey and Spain. David also acts as co-ordinator of the athlete hardship and support fund.
His unwavering commitment to the success of this project has brought together all sections of the club into one home.
David firstly wanted to thank his wife for all her support, "Those of us here tonight are just the tip of the iceberg and every volunteer has the support of their families too."
Runner up: Bob Glasgow (Orion Harriers AC)
Club Captain, club committee member and an active club member for many years, this volunteer also manages and maintains the club website and Facebook page. He produces the monthly newsletters which include race information, items of interest, and discounts for athletes. In his spare time, he is also a Race Director for the local parkrun. He has supported every member of the current committee in their role at some point as well as mentor his nominator the new Junior Manager, reportedly "completely out of my comfort zone". There is no question too small or silly to ask Bob; his knowledge and resourcefulness are second to none. He is pro-active and leaves no stone unturned in his ways of working.
To make the club more environmentally friendly he recycles old trophies instead of buying new, has resourced eco medals and plant a tree for those who do not want medals. In addition, Bob, has set up an online recycling scheme where athletes can donate unwanted kit and the club can rehome it and raise donations.
Bob Glasgow is always looking for new ways to improve the Orion Harriers committee and club and bring it forward with the times as well as grow membership and encourage participation in running or volunteering.
Inspiring Official of the Year
Winner: Steve Marshall (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers)
This senior official officiates at a lot of the high level matches but also makes time for lower level track meetings such as County Championships and local leagues. Although a very experienced official with many major meetings under his belt, he now works a lot more with young athletes and with new officials. He has identified a number of people for progression and dedicated his time to sharing knowledge with them but not by telling them what to do but by coaching them through questioning and getting them to think about the answers themselves, which brilliant for developing long term understanding. He's fantastic at mentoring officials and supporting their development - working with Steve is always a learning experience. He explains things clearly, not just the what but also the why.
One of his nominators says, "I have greatly valued Steve Marshall's guidance during my officiating journey and I know many others have too."
Steve said: "New and experienced officials should never stop asking questions and always be prepared to learn."
Note: Steve was London Official of the Year in 2010, this nomination is to recognise that he is now working more often with newer officials and is taking the opportunity to help them develop.
Winner: Peter Kerr (Sutton and District AC)
A field official - who has helped at club level fixtures, county and inter-counties- and is a great role model and leader to other officials and volunteers. He makes other officials, volunteers and the athletes comfortable, especially with the younger age groups. He always goes above and beyond, organising kit lists with our host venue, turning up prior to fixtures to check all is organised and then on the day arriving early to help with set up. During a period of injury he's offered guidance to other officials and then taking on a less physical role for the event.
Peter Kerr is the official that all clubs need, committed, professional, dedicated and supportive of all those around him.
Winner: Xavier Brown (Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies)
A level 2 timekeeper who officiates for his club and also alongside more experienced officials at league matches. But he also supports timekeepers of less experience and PE teachers, often by taking multiple times – not an easy task under pressure! He is also happy to talk to officials from other disciplines, even if not directly working with them. He also makes the extra effort for athletes – for example recording relay split times for athletes who don't have a coach with them.
Xavier Brown does everything in his power to make athletics meets more enjoyable for everyone. A real star.
Xavier echoed Steve's 'advice to officials': "Be confident, ask questions!"
Services to Athletics and Running
Steven Bosley: (Herne Hill Harriers)
You can find him coaching juniors most evenings and on Sundays and on Saturdays he will be team managing or helping out as an official - sometimes he does both on the same day! In his role as Club Secretary he arranges volunteers for meetings, organises transport and kit, and anything else the club may need. He has endless patience, attention to detail and most importantly an infectious enthusiasm for anything to do with club athletics. Working in an inner city area with athletes from many ethnic and social economic groups, the coaching and safe space that he provides is essential to many children's mental as well as physical wellbeing.
Recently he launched the Herne Hill Harriers Primary Academy; an initiative where HHH provide free coaching to 10 local school kids identified with talent by their PE teachers, but barriers to participating. Congratulations to Steven Bosley who has been involved with athletics for over 20 years and has provided opportunities for must be many thousands of people.
Upon receiving his award Steve was asked what had kept him motivated all these years. "The enthusiasm from everyone you meet at the club, and listening to the stories from people here tonight. All these people add to the club, but YOU can add to their experience."
Hansel Joseph Gabriel: (Sutton and District AC)
This volunteer's journey in athletics began at age 13 and has continued for 23 years, inspiring numerous individuals to embrace the sport. Recently he has qualified as a Coaching Assistant and also as a Technical Official - so he can he nurture young talents AND ensure fair competition. His coaching positively impacted the club, improving athlete performance, and his role as a technical official showcases his commitment to maintaining fairness and integrity in competitions, benefiting the entire athletic community. He has encouraged lot of young children to participate in athletics .which has been transformative for the club, county, and region.
As an official, he exhibits a calm and composed demeanour even in high-pressure situations, earning the respect of athletes and fellow officials alike. He leads by example, motivating others to give their best. Hansel Gabriel's passion, technical acumen, and positive influence make him a truly exceptional official and a valuable asset to Sutton and District AC and to the athletic community.
Barrie Saunders: (Thames Valley Harriers)
Having joined his club more than 70 years ago, competing as a middle distance and endurance athlete with much success before starting as an official in 1975, this volunteer is the longest serving official in Middlesex County, qualified in both Field and Endurance as a Level 3. Although a track, road and cross country athlete, Barrie is best known as a Field Judge and embarked on his long career as an official after being asked to help on field events at a meeting he attended - and progressed rapidly from there.
He has been Middlesex County Athletics Association President and Subscriptions Secretary at his club for over 20 years, he has helped many volunteers starting out and gaining experience as officials. He has been a constant presence at the club, advising and supporting athletes of all abilities. He is always approachable, takes a real interest in individuals and is willing to give advice to everyone.
Barrie Saunders has made a significant and longstanding contribution to athletics at Thames Valley Harriers and in Middlesex.
Barrie was unable to attend the Awards evening but was presented with his trophy at the clubhouse the following day.
Live streaming - watch again!
You can watch the evening online via youtube and we have set chapter markers so that you don't have to watch the whole event but just your favourite volunteer being awarded!Go to London streaming watch again