The North West Region celebrated their local England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards for 2023 at the home of Blackburn Rovers.
In a conference suite overlooking the hallowed turf of Ewood park, the shortlisted volunteers and their friends, family and colleagues were joined by Dan Isherwood and Nichola Skedgel from England Athletics, and North West Regional Council members Shelby Williams, Marie Cartwright and Uyai Ikpatt.
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: Suzanne Dale (South Cheshire Harriers)
This volunteer was initially coerced into helping to organise club nights about a year ago to provide temporary cover, and did such a good job and enjoyed it so much that she was persuaded to continue! She ensures there are enough run leaders and adequate cover for each run group across all abilities.. With her 'special notebook' she coordinates everyone making sure that they are all happy, and accommodating people's training plans and preferences. Her hard work and organisation - providing structure and organisation to weekly club runs - has meant club nights run like clockwork, keeping both the members and leaders happy!
I keep doing it because I never really handed in my notice!
Suzanne Dale is truly dedicated to her role, even volunteering to lead a few sessions herself recently to help out! She is now hoping to complete her LiRF qualification so she can help to support the smooth running of South Cheshire Harriers' club nights even further.
Runner up: Joanne Edwards (Cheshire Dragons)
This volunteer joined the club about 18 months ago after a long period of injury. She immediately offered her support to members using her professional expertise as a Personal Fitness Instructor as well as her own running knowledge. She trained as a Run Leader then volunteered for the role as Coaching Coordinator for all of the club's runs and sessions. As a club with no home base, she has been creative and developed a number of new training bases that can be used, and liaised with coaches to make the best use of a new venue. In a short space of time, Joanne Edwards has become an integral and key member of the Cheshire Dragons committee ensuring that all training runs and sessions are organised, promoted and wherever possible led by a trained coach or leader.
Joanne was unable to attend
Community Project of the year
Winner: Paul McIntyre / Dabber's Dash
This project started last year with the aim of showing the local council the park needed a perimeter path to encourage people in the area to take up running/walking/wheeling in a safe place. Runners meet on the 3rd Saturday of each month and run up to 5k. Guest charities are invited and include the local gym membership stall at the finish, representatives from Cardiac Risk in the Young, Bowel Cancer UK, Samaritans and St Lukes Hospice - plus themed months such as Mo-vember with men's suicide charity Mentell, Christmas food donation, Dry January with Alcohol Change UK, and the first Pride run in town.
It's been so rewarding – pulling together different people from different parts of town. The thing that unites people is to get them behind a cause -and it took off in a way we didn't expect.
Facebook photos raise awareness and provide evidence of local support for the path. What started as a simple show of feet has become a locally known run and members from Nantwich Running Club, South Cheshire Harriers, and Nantwich Tri Club all lend support to this community project.
Paul McIntyre's winning project is called the Dabber's Dash and he hopes to make a bid for the town to have a parkrun there to leverage the benefit.
Runner up: Paul Frodsham / Old Boys' Running Club
What started as a couple of old friends going for a run together has developed into tea and toast or breakfast afterwards, then social evenings were added. The original concept was to get older runners together to share experiences, help each other, and by running in different venues - enjoying the scenery of where they live. The social runs turned into the formation of the Old Boys' Running Club (OBRC). Whilst the name OBRC was initially used it is a group that is open to all young and old, male and female.
The OBRC has brought together many runners and ex-runners to share experiences, have a good time and reminisce about their running. The social aspect in particular has been beneficial to some of the men with them openly talking to each other about issues and challenges they are facing. In the past men in particular have been reluctant to talk about their issues or challenges and the OBRC has given them a platform to open up. It might be a quiet word on the run, or a one to one over a brew and even the social nights has brought in people who are not running but have welcomed the opportunity to just chat. Congratulations to Paul Frodsham and the Old Boys' Running Club.
Club Leader of the year
Winner: Nick Hume (Blackpool Wyre & Flyde AC)
This Club Leader's superb administrative ability has kept committees on their toes and ensured that fairness and transparency is key. His ability to turn a negative into a positive has helped shape not only his club and County Athletics Association but as secretary of his local cross country league, he has gone above and beyond to ensure events happen. This ensures we keep not only the large number of juniors in sport but also welcome adults into the world of mud and hills.
He will always look at ways to engage with the younger members of the club and most recently, looking at how the new England Athletics PB Awards will recognize those that are often missed or are not winning races. At Blackpool Wyre and Fylde AC, Nick Hume has adapted the club membership system to make is seamless for parents and athletes, and has increased club numbers and renewals.
Nick told us that the secret to being a good volunteer is learning to say no so that you don't get overloaded.
"I am glad to be able to put something back. And I'd like to pay tribute to my wife – so many volunteers are supported by friends and family who don't see them as often as they could!"
Runner up: Michael Wilkinson: (Wirral AC)
This Club Leader is the lynchpin that holds his club together. A year ago, after the club lost two key committee members, he has been instrumental in making our club stronger through his motivational demeanour and sheer hard work. He has helped form a new committee comprising dedicated members, has been the main contributor to a rewritten club constitution, is expert at organising race events, has a great rapport with the local council from whom we lease our track - and he’s not a bad athlete either!
His professional background in safeguarding is greatly appreciated by a club with so many young members. Michael Wilkinson's impact is felt across Wirral AC with more members than ever prepared to train as coaches and officials to support their club.
"This is really nice – I never expected this; I just wanted to help and see people enjoy themselves." I appreciate everyone's help in what I do.
Club of the Year
Winner: Burnden Road Runners
This Club believes a great welcome, inclusivity and a positive vibe enables it to thrive. This year the club has listened to and acted on members' ideas. Simple, secure, accessible training routes were introduced, and has many inclusive modes (for example, muster runs, run and talk, tail walkers). This continues through to competition – achievements are recognised by an 'effort' virtual championship where achievements are celebrated independent of speed, age, or gender. For the more usual competitive opportunities, club coaches carefully planned adaptations to sessions to coincide with Club competitions, which has led to enhanced personal performances at Club level and beyond.
Meeting 7 out of 7 Club Standards has increased awareness that safeguarding is everyone's responsibility, and served to develop individuals the Welfare Officer, Secretary, and Chair each benefitting from the training and support resources to gain expertise in their area. With an eye for the future the club now fund Race Director training in addition to Run Leader courses. The new wellbeing group also now organise Run and Talk within the beginner groups. North West Club of the Year is Burnden Road Runners.
The award was collected by Andy their Chairman. He said, "All our Run Leaders and coaches support the Committee and the club – we're in it together and we run en masse!"
Runner up: Bury AC
A friendly and inclusive club supported by wonderful volunteers. The two most significant achievements in the last 12 months have been the resurfaced track and upgraded jumping and throwing facilities, and the achievement of the Club Standards. . The club's committee have worked hard to achieve all seven Club Standards as a commitment to making the experience of their members fun and safe. Achieving TrackMark accreditation for the club facilities has allowed the club to host local league competitions - the move to charity status has allowed the club to employ groundstaff to ensure the facilities are well looked after.
The club has worked hard to develop its coaches and officials to support athletes and local competitions. The club also work with local charities and schools to widen the participation in athletics and sport in the area. It is the energy and drive of trustees, committee members, coaches, officials and volunteers that makes Bury AC special.
Club Chair Mark Granby told us on the night, "What's special about the club? Our volunteers – the trustees, committee, officials and coaches. We all celebrate the love we put into the sport."
Contribution to Running
Winner: Nicola Harvey and Louise McLaren / Park View 4U Friendly Run Group
This RunTogether group offers diverse and inclusive running experience - membership includes those with dementia, learning difficulties, cancer, heart conditions and mental health issues. Sessions are designed to meet the different physical and mental health needs. It is run entirely by volunteers with no membership fees or charges.
Fundraising ensured there were enough Run Leaders, resources and First Aid training for all. Additionally, two group leaders have undertaken further training this year to become qualified Coaches to better support development sessions to help members improve their performance. Another leader developed a programme of Strength and Conditioning sessions, specifically for runners with progression opportunities. The group has three Mental Health Champions and run sessions dedicated to mental health themes. Members of Park View 4U Friendly Run Group volunteer at parkrun, deliver armchair aerobics, support food banks, fell restoration, Forest Tots, and Community Gardening. We presented the award to joint Group Leaders Nicola Harvey and Louise McLaren
There were hugs all round when these winners were announced, and maybe a few tears of joy! Group Leader Nicola said they were all shocked and surprised.
"Sharing the load (with co-leader Louise McLaren) has made the work easier. So we took it on and it's grown, and grown, and grown!" Our motto is "if you can't talk when you're running you're in the wrong group."
Runner up: Michael Sinkinson / The Trail Wombles
A volunteer-led initiative that’s not about competitive running but personal growth, learning, wellbeing and environment, with tremendous mental health support. It provides a series of runs to give runners an opportunity to gain experience on the trails and fells whilst developing strength, stamina and staying injury free. The Trail Wombles pull together leaders and runners from other RunTogether groups and affiliated clubs who share their skills: participants have been taught to plan runs over various terrain, understand the Country Code, and read and follow navigation aids by paper map and app. Plus suitable clothing recommendations, and techniques to run on varying terrain for safety, mental health first aid and even Pilates.
And finally, members adopt Trail Womble ethos of collecting ‘The things the everyday folks leave behind’ - every runner is encouraged to take home at least one piece of litter.
Congratulations to Michael Sinkinson who founded the group, and his dedicated group of volunteers!
Upon collection of his award, Michael said, "it's just a great way to get people running - from 5k to ultras."
Coach of the year
Winner: Andrew Fraser (Wirral AC)
With a growing number of athletes from new starters to international juniors this sprints and hurdles coach has a very proactive approach to development and is constantly seeking out innovative ideas to improve his sessions and to gain new qualifications. To get the most out of his athletes he splits some of his sessions into ability so he can not only tailor the sessions accordingly. However he also balances this with mixed sessions so the development athletes can learn from the more experienced and they, in turn, can help develop the less experienced. This has led to a fun, engaging experience for all athletes and has led to some of the older athletes bridging the gap and taking their own coaching qualifications. He has brought the confidence out in some younger athletes that have been suffering with anxiety; he helped them regain their lost love for the sport. Andrew Fraser's loyalty and passion for Wirral AC is what makes him special - and his mentoring of young leaders to take their first steps into coaching and encouraging parents to get involved in coaching or officiating has seen the club continue to grow.
While watching all the comments on the big screen video, Andrew might have welled up a bit…"They don't talk like that at the track! But it's their enthusiasm that keeps me inspired."
His advice to other coaches is "be patient" get emotionally involved and share their journey with them and their families. It just develops over time."
Runner up: Amy Crowe (South Cheshire Harriers)
Over the last 12 months, this coach has been pivotal in implementing positive changes to club nights to allow them to be more inclusive, including adapting interval sessions to include a wheelchair athlete. She's organised some new initiatives including a ‘beyond couch to 5k’ programme. During time off running during pregnancy she used the time to up-skill her coaching qualifications including Disability Inclusion Training. She developed a range of training plans for members, works hard to ensure sessions are inclusive, whilst helping members improve their technical abilities.
She is great at motivating members to improve and achieve their goals. As a county level fell and road competitor she can use her experience to help and inspire. Amy develops the rest of the coaching team, encouraging run leaders to complete the LiRF qualification. South Cheshire Harriers now offers junior membership due in part to Amy Crowe inspiring young people to get into running!
"It's a massive honour, "said Amy. "being a coach puts a whole new dimension on things."
Inspiring Official of the Year
Winner: Lydia Kelly (Manchester Harriers & AC)
This official recently qualified as a Level 3 field official and within last year and a half she has volunteered at a huge number of events - from grass roots all the way up to national champs - and gained a lot of confidence, knowledge and experience. This is in addition to working full time as a primary school teacher and coaching at the club each week. She shows an outstanding level of commitment and professionalism and is a real asset to officiating and she’s still only in her twenties! She has a mature approach to her role and this shows when she leads an event. She is capable and doesn’t get flustered even when faced with challenges. Lydia Kelly is well respected by officials, coaches and athletes and is happy to undertake any role if that means a competition can proceed smoothly. She tries to ensure that both officials and athletes enjoy their time at the event.
Lydia explained her athletics journey,
"I went along aged 8 to accompany my family, and when I got to Uni it was hard to train so I took up officiating. It's made me believe in myself and given me confidence even though I am shy."
And advice to prospective officials?
"Do it. They are my second family, They're so friendly and want to help you. Start the journey – you'll never look back."
Winner: Tim Palmer (Helsby Running Club)
This Level 3 Track Judge has been very and pro-active in the need to address the dwindling number of officials within the sport. He works with England Athletics to deliver Level 1 courses for timekeepers, track officials and field officials. He is keen to play his part to improve and strengthen the sport he loves, and as well as doing all he can to help co-ordinate and organise courses in a bid to put people on the first step on the Officials' pathway, he also coaches middle distance runners, competes for Helsby Running Club in road and fell races, as well as regularly officiating for West Cheshire AC at grassroots level and beyond. At events, Tim Palmer is always helpful to other officials, volunteers and athletes.
Tim commented, "I started officiating on the suggestion of my wife and we've never looked back. We enjoy every level from club to national events." One of his highlights was at the English Schools' AA champs seeing his athlete running past him in her 1500m while he was getting hurdles ready and being there to see her take silver by one hundredth of a second.
Services to Athletics and Running
Pam Green (Wirral AC)
This volunteer has been involved in many roles within athletics for over 40 years. She is an inclusive, approachable and knowledgeable coach, who looks to get the best out of every athlete no matter what their potential - and has number of athletes on the Youth Talent programme. She also has been a valued senior committee member and YDL team manager (with husband Joe) at Wirral AC over the years. However it is Pam Green's tireless work with the regions schools that makes her really stand out, she has been chair of Merseyside secondary Schools athletics for many years. She is the anchor in our club, making a vast difference promoting jumps and combined events, as well as forming a vital link with schools. to increase awareness and participation in the sport . She is well known and liked across the region's athletics scene region, quietly working behind the scenes to push athletics across Merseyside.
Pam told us, "As a PE teacher I was inspired by the young people. Athletics is something for every sort of child." She used to have a picnic after school with her athletes then drive them in the minibus to the local club and introduce them to the coaches there.
Joe Fallon (Wirral AC)
This man has worked his way up the coaching pyramid to gain a Level 3 both as a coach and field official. A well known and a highly respected top level throws coach in his club – running twice-weekly sessions since 1983, this volunteer's willingness to work with athletes of all abilities stands him apart from many top coaches who will often choose to work with the most talented. He has patience, tolerance and good humour and offers immense encouragement to his athletes. His presence commands the full attention of his athletes giving them the ability to follow instructions, to be self disciplined and to make enormous improvements.
He has also been Wirral AC's chairman, committee member and competed as a master – including medalling at the British masters championships, plus officiated with wife Gill for over 40 years . Joe Fallon is the epitome of dedication doing the job entirely as a volunteer and is an inspiration to us all.
Joe wasn't able to attend but fellow club member Mike Wilkinson accepted the award on his behalf.
Mike Lamb (West Cheshire Athletic Club)
This winner has been involved in the sport ever since his schooldays and is dedicated to his club. A former Club President and now a Committee member he compiled and regularly updates Club progressive records for every discipline on his computer. He has made a tremendous difference at club and county level because of the amount of time and effort he has offered throughout the year as a volunteer and official at cross country races, track and field competitions, and road race fixtures. He helps design and construct cross country courses for annual club and schools fixtures across Cheshire.
Mike Lamb's continuous hard work, dedication, and meticulous attitude in whatever he does in athletics are attributes that merit an accolade.
"My favourite role is keeping track of the club records and seeing a long-standing record broken."
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 North West streaming watch again