The Thames Valley Athletics Centre - home to Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC - in Eton was the venue for the South East Region Volunteer Awards evening.
The event was hosted by members of the South East Regional Council; James de Vivenot (Chair), Stuart Horsewood, Kay Reynolds, and Tom Easten. Representing England Athletics were Club Support Managers Rich Ayling, Kirsty Fardell and Amy Murtagh, plus Barry Hopkins, and Michael Davis from the Senior Leadership Team.
Below, we reproduce a summary of the Volunteer Award nominations which were read out during the evening, plus the recipients' reactions to their awards.
Newcomer to volunteering
Winner: Jacob Carpenter (Radley AC)
This young volunteer is unable to take part in athletics himself due to a medical condition, but wanted to help out while his sister competed. At her first competition he was introduced to the track judges and he became their runner for the day. Since then, he has helped out at home and away Junior League matches, and at the County Champs. He is keen to learn what is required of a track judge and has recently taken his assistant official qualification just after his 14th birthday. Over time he has been given more responsibility which he has risen to and enjoyed the challenge.
Jacob Carpenter is polite, enthusiastic and a very quick learner and is very at ease with the adults on the track stand. He is definitely the future of our sport.
"I want to move up the Levels and work at well known events at athletics and maybe the Olympics even."
Runner up: Sue Hughes (Marshall Milton Keynes AC)
Moving up from parent helper to Coaching Assistant to newly qualified Athletics Coach this volunteer now coaches in the largest Under 11s section in the country, and is their YDL Team Manager. From a club with no registered U11s at all, there are now over 100 kids engaged. She is supporting young athletes to take up coaching as well as developing another assistant coach. She also helped the local primary schools competition as a volunteer official over several weeks.
This enthusiastic volunteer is determined to get the best for the youngsters and support them and is a vital cog in providing opportunities for participation.
Plus, there is no louder supporter in YDL matches than Sue Hughes!
Community Project of the year
Winner: Reading21 (Harbour AC)
This pioneering initiative, led by esteemed runners, specifically caters to the local Hong Kong community in Reading. It was designed to address mental health issues among new immigrants . Over the 11-week half-marathon training programme more than 50 immigrant runners were engaged, with a remarkable total of over 500 attendances at organised events. Collaboration with Reading Hong Kong Runners, an existing running group, has exponentially maximised the impact of our efforts.
A series of three webinars were organised, featuring insights from elite runners. These were complemented by 10 weekly running practice sessions, offering on-ground application of the strategies discussed. To foster a holistic approach to well-being, three yoga classes were also incorporated to provide a platform for community engagement. The programme culminated in the Reading Half Marathon. Congratulations to Harbour AC for the winning Reading21 project!
Michael and Kieann accepted the award on behald of Harbour Athletics Club. Michael explained how the project started:
"In the past 2 years 150,000 people moved from Hong Kong to the UK. During the process and stress of relocation people stopped running and we wanted people to restart.""In the past 2 years 150,000 people moved from Hong Kong to the UK. During the process and stress of relocation people stopped running and we wanted people to restart."
Runner up: White Cliffs project
This project provides affordable athletics and running activities in Dover - one the most deprived areas in England. It was established in March 2023 by a group of coaches, parents and supporters who wanted to ensure that athletics for children continued after the loss of junior athletics provision in the Dover area. They quickly became an affiliated club and are supported by the Community Development Officer at Dover District Council. It now caters for 55-60 children a week and continues to grow. Cost to attend is just £2.50 and a grant from Kent Community Foundation enabled the purchase of new kit that athletes can be proud of and train and compete in.
The weekly track-based session consists of two athletics run/jump/throw activities and running fitness/endurance. The club took part in open meetings this summer and plan to expand the competition offer to include cross country, Sportshall athletics and local races.
An affordable and accessible adult running section was established at the request of several parents, and is held at the same time as their children are training.
Congratulations to The White Cliffs project.
Philip Coleman received the award.
Club Leader of the Year
Winner: Graham Bridges (Eynsham Road Runners)
An exceptional athlete in his own right, this Club Leader has also inspired many to take on volunteer roles and encouraged members of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to take part in club social and athletics activities. Through his engagement with parkrun and several cross country committees, he has promoted an inclusive ethos of volunteering for athletics events outside the club too.
To ensure the club was inclusive and diverse, he has championed the ethos that 'age is no barrier' and as a result there are many masters club members who still enjoy running. He has restructured club runs to introduce different pace groups taking different routes. He has also redesigned the club website to make it more inclusive and reflective of all the club's activities and it has attracted many new members to the club who did not previously have an athletics background.
With Eynsham Road Runners Club roles including Chair, Vice Chair, committee member, championship administrator, newsletter editor, website administrator, club handicap race organiser as well as organiser of external events, Graham Bridges is a worthy winner of South East Club Leader of the year.
Runner up: Martin Lawrence (Redway Runners)
Chair and founder of his club, this Club Leader undertakes many administrative tasks and looks after the website. In twelve years, just a few members have grown to over three and a half thousand. He has set up litter picks in different areas of Milton Keynes, organised getting donated dried food, tins, biscuits and sweets to the food bank, and has helped to arrange collection buckets, etc. for Thames Valley Air Ambulance fundraising. This year Redway Runners purchased first aid training, six CPR dollies and a CPR baby, to allow a qualified nurse to train Run Leaders. After a fellow runner Pete collapsed and died whilst out running, Martin Lawrence arranged for a small group of Redway Runners to receive grief counselling and then organised a social run, Step Up run and a ramble for those who wanted to pay tribute to Pete.
Winner: Sue Slade (Chiltern Harriers AC)
This Level 3 Track Judge's knowledge of athletics and her professionalism as an official demonstrate why she is so highly thought of amongst officiating circles. However, her dedication is what makes her truly inspirational. As well as officiating, she is a committed and experienced coach.
She volunteered in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Call Room and has officiated at the YDL, Southern Leage, BMC, schools events and county championships. When a Level 2, she stepped up to be YDL Track Referee for another club, and successfully managed the match with a small team. This included using it to give another official further experience, helping him to gain experience and creating much-needed resilience. She overcame a number of challenges and learned from that experience – especially regarding steeplechase barrier heights.
Sue Slade brings heart and soul to athletics. When asked why she does it she said:
"When you have 3 children you end up helping. I really enjoyed my first officiating experience so I continued - I love the children and they giving me a lot - and their video [shown on the screen at the evening] made me cry!"
Winner: James Charles (Banbury Harriers )
This winner is multi-qualified! A Level 3 Field judge, Starter and Starter’s Assistant; Level 2 Track official; and Level 1 Photofinish. He regularly supports County Championships, schools, leagues, opens and many other events, plus taking on ancillary roles at regional and national level. He was also Chief Starter at the Oxford & Cambridge v Penn & Cornell Transatlantic Meeting. At club level he does a phenomenal amount of work, including the mentoring and support of other officials. He has a good grasp of the overall demands of event management but is also a popular team worker. He uses his excellent interpersonal and communication skills regularly in his officiating and broader involvement in athletics, including in helping resolve potential conflict. James Charles is dedicated to the sport and commits an amazing amount of time to other roles as well as officiating.
When you're so multi-talented you must get pulled in many directions, How do you priorotise, asked Regional Councillor Kay Reynolds
He replied - "First come first served! You have to try to divide your time with people who need you. It is often difficult to do - you have to juggle and decide."
Coach of the Year
Winner: Dave Ragan (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC)
This coach specialises in middle distance athletics. As a volunteer, he coaches athletes in the club all the way from 7 years-old up to senior athletes. The athletes within the club and the other coaches hold a huge amount of respect for him. He always has time to mentor other coaches and provide his athletes with support, helping them to build their confidence, all whilst keeping them motivated and inspired. He keeps the sessions and training fun and the group have social meetings outside of training, which means they train better together as a group.
He has supported one of his athletes in achieving a full athletics scholarship to Colorado State University. He now works in partnership with their university coach - gaining invaluable insight in the American collegiate system - and with a number of British university coaches for some of his other athletes. Dave Ragan is a fundamental and valuable part of his club.
When asked what are the challenges coaching such an age range, he replied: "It's a bit of a juggling act - started with the youth athletics - i helped with the post-2012 flood. Ben came in as a 10 year old. But it's all good fun!"
Ben Pattison then took the audience through his world bronze in the World Championships 800m. He explained his athletics journey so far:
"Dave's mum Cheryl was my first coach and then I was coached by him a couple of years later. I stepped down to 400m and showed what I was capable of at the Commonwealth Games. The Europeans final showed my intentions this year. Dave met up with me every day and on the day Dave said did I want to race to win which shifted my mindset."
Runner up: Kate Sillett (Bracknell AC)
This coach enables her athletes to be the best version of themselves both within and outside of athletics. She consistently puts effort into every single athlete to ensure they perform at their best and stay motivated to improve. She makes the sport more enjoyable and accessible and inspires them to keep on pushing, through bad days, hard sessions, and hard periods of life. Her athletes say she tries to run varying sessions, and always makes it fun with blasting music and a happy environment.
Kate Sillett has a unique background, she was a skater originally, battled breast cancer, and since taking over her own group has seen nothing but success. She is always smiling at every session and views every athlete as an individual making them feel special and wanted.
Runner up: Luke Angell (Team Kennet Triathlon & AC)
A well-liked and respected coach of exceptional quality - and coach of a current British Champion - he inspires the next generation at club level. Irrelevant of background and ability, he shows new athletes how to enjoy an event and demonstrates that they have an ability to conquer any fear they may have in the athletics world. His training environment is healthy, with good discussions on what the athlete needs and wants to achieve. He works with them and alongside them, demonstrating maturity and the ability to show what can be achieved. He has a wealth of knowledge and always takes time to plan his sessions to ensure the athletes of all levels are catered for.
Luke Angell leads his athletes with passion and his expertise in javelin. He has continued coaching javelin champion Ben East (while he is studying), but always has time for each of his athletes.
Contribution to Running
Winner: Marian Hemsworth (J and M Running)
After retiring from a long teaching career, this keen runner not only became very active in her local athletics club but also sought to encourage people of all ages and abilities to take up running for enjoyment and good health in less formal settings. A single local group has since grown to seven groups meeting for short runs coached and supervised by trained run leaders. The group is completely voluntary, relying on members’ donations which have raised over £10,000 so far for local and national charities.
She inspires her run leaders and makes running 5k seem an achievable goal to novices by guiding them through her Learn to Run 6 week course which culminates in a first parkrun. She founded Clair parkrun ten years ago, now 470 have taken place, with over 62,000 finishers.
Since founding J and M Running with her friend Julie Essex, Marion Hemsworth's endless energy and enthusiasm have inspired hundreds of people to be active and look after both their physical and mental health.
An emotional Marion collected her award from Barry Hopkins.
It's for everybody - it's a great team of fantasitc people." And her favourite distance? "Half marathons on the flat!"
Runner up: Sue Bennett (West Berkshire Run Together)
An amazing and inspirational Run Leader and Coach who spends most of her evenings and weekends getting people back into running with her kind, gentle manner. She spends time encouraging individuals who are struggling and think they cannot run to working their way up to 5k, half marathons, marathons and ultras! She organises runs on the road, trail, in woods runs and fun runs always mapping out the most beautiful routes! The RunTogether group runs Monday to Thursday, Saturday morning, and once a month a Sunday trail run. All the volunteer Run Leaders are happy to dedicate their time and energy into making every run fun and enjoyable. RunTogether West Berkshire is a very friendly and inclusive running group and people have made some great friendships through it, thanks to Sue Bennett.
Services to Athletics and Running
Don Turner (Epsom and Ewell Harriers)
An international ultra-runner including a third place at the Comrades Marathon, this man eventually hung up his Dunlop Red Flash plimsolls and became a timekeeper. He was invited by Chris Brasher to join a group who travelled to the New York marathon to see how it was done. He played a key role in organising the finish and the timekeeping at the first London Marathon in 1981. In the era of clockwork stopwatches and wet film processing he was one of the first to get to grips with operating photofinish at Crystal Palace. In 1991 he was invited by Seiko to work for them at the Barcelona Olympics test event.
He is a committee man across many athletic organisations, providing wise counsel. Using his auditing skills he has been co-opted as treasurer by many. But most notable is his commitment to the sport's grass roots. Recently he was a lead timekeeper at the prestigious Night of 10,000m PBs - getting home close to midnight. By 11am the next day he was timing young athletes in Epsom. In his 9th decade Don Turner is still single-mindedly devoted to athletics. He was asked How has running compeittion changed 60 years on? He replied:
"There are loads more people running now. It's exploded in recent years!"
Dennis Daly (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC)
This winner started in athletics as a schoolboy and has now been involved for over 65 years. He has held many roles within club athletics, officiating,coaching and announcing. In the early years he even helped dig a long jump pit in a park - quite literally grass roots level involvement! Now 85 years of age he is still involved on match days and always available to help and advise. One of his great qualities is that he inspires all to reach their full potential, encouraging many to try a different event, get involved in coaching, team management and officiating etc. He recognises community and cultural benefits, initiating a long running cultural exchange with Osnabruck in Germany.
His club is indebted to him; Dennis Daly was the initiator of the merger of 2 local clubs to become Windsor, Slough and Eton AC. And then he was a major player in the further merger to become Windsor, Slough, Eton and Houslow AC. Dennis was a great negotiator between the club and other important stakeholders, to enable an important move to our current venue.
He was asked the same quesion as Don.
"More people have become involved which is good and I enjoy coaching although I am not so active any more. I am delighted to have been involved in Club Athletics for so many years."
Graham and Lesley Taylor (Dorking and Mole Valley AC )
This couple have between them given over 120 years to athletics and running! Both competed at a high level, have coached athletes and are both qualified officials. With their involvement at club level, local schools and officiating at Surrey events, their dedication makes a huge difference to athletics for school children through to veterans. Graham & Lesley Taylor are still inspiring athletes today; both attend veterans events, sometimes switching from their officiating role to competing to score points for the club!
Graham ran at the 1966 European Championships in the marathon with Ron Hill, and even in his late 70's Graham is still a remarkable athlete, with a sub 23 minute parkrun. Lesley won the National Women's 4000m cross country championship in 1970 and gained selection for GB Juniors at 800m. She has run for England in the Masters cross country team on 3 occasions.
It is their selfless attitude to volunteering, giving so much of their time, without any need for recognition which makes Graham & Lesley worthy of this award.
Club of the Year
Winner: Redway Runners
This club is enthusiastic, motivating and supportive, and very welcoming with lots of events set up to ensure that all runners come together and have a good time. The club offers a 10-week Beginners' programme, with a 'graduation' at parkrun alongside a Buddy who already belongs to the club. There’s a smooth process into the next running group which could be Gentle Step Up, Step Up or Social Run. Twenty-eight runs per week and two monthly rambles are offered. The groups Moving up to 10k, Half to Marathon training, Improvers, Find your Running Mojo, and Sunday Runs are geared to running for longer amounts of time for those who want to run further or are training for an event.
Members have raised nearly £7000 for the local hospice! There are litter picks on rambles, food bank donations and support for local businesses by working with them to supply coffees and cakes. Members have become race directors at parkrun, or volunteer at other events being held in the area. In house first aid training is offered and grief counselling was provided to a group of people who did everything they could to help their fellow runner who sadly died on a run.
Redway Runners wear their green Redway Runners Club shirt because they are proud to belong to a great club.
Martin, Annette and Michelle represented their club tonight.
Martin said: "What one thing has made it a success? Fun, social, value for money (£5 a year). We cater for every level, and we do 30 beginners' groups a year."
Runner up: Reading Joggers
The club has recognised and provided many training opportunities for all runners to get involved. This includes organising winter and summer handicaps, club championships, social events and award evenings (including awards for improvement). They host social runs, schedule training sessions, provide written training plans, organise track nights, Couch to 5k, parkrun takeovers, and charity events. Members raised over £9000 for a local special baby unit through various fundraising events.
The Club provides advice, guidance, and support to runners from nutrition to pacing. It has created polls to gauge interest from runners on what they want more of in the club. New members are warmly welcomed and receive a Reading Joggers mug. A photo of them is uploaded to Facebook which creates engagement and gives that community feeling within Reading Joggers.
Jonathan and Corrine collected the award for the club.
Certificates of Recognition
These were awarded to Nia Thomas, Anneli Sydenham and Margaret Whitham for their contributions to athletics in the region.
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 South East streaming watch again