Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the East region

Tonight’s England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards for the East brings the curtain down on this year’s regional awards nights – celebrating the amazing contribution of Athletics and Running volunteers across the country and, for 2020, showcasing their vital contribution in helping navigate our sport through the impacts of Covid-19.

The ninth and last of our regional awards nights saw us make a virtual visit to the East region. Broadcast live online, it was a great opportunity to draw attention to the remarkable commitment, drive and sheer hard work shown by volunteers throughout the East region who have made such an impact on Athletics and Running in what has been a unique and challenging year.

East Region Council Chair Clive Poyner also added a special tribute to our officials and a minute’s silence was observed for those that we have sadly lost during the last year.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the East are…

Athletics and Running @home Award – East

Winner: Isabelle Mardle (City of Norwich AC)

The winner of the Regional Volunteer Award for Athletics & Running @Home for the East is 13 year old Isabelle Mardle of City of Norwich AC. At the start of lockdown, Isabelle (Izzy to all her friends), started a Microsoft Teams group for all the athletes she trains with, and invited them to do a workout with her on four nights each week – it has proved to be an invaluable resource. Isabelle planned the workouts thoroughly and began separating the workouts for specific areas of the body: core work, arms and legs, cardio work, focus on stretching and flexibility and skipping. Izzy researched exercises and now educates the athletes on the parts of the body and muscles they are working on. Izzy ran the workouts alongside her school work and her hurdles and sprinting training. As well as keeping many teenage athletes fit and involved in the sport, it has also proved a brilliantly simple way for them all to keep the social side of athletics alive and for their coach to keep in contact with everyone. They stayed online after their workouts to chat about what they’ve been doing and check in on how everyone was getting on.

Runner-up: Tracy Farrow, Duncan Jackson and Adrian Flintoft (Yaxley Runners & Joggers)
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Club of the Year – East

Winner: Stowmarket Striders RC

Congratulations to Stowmarket Striders on winning the Club of the Year award for the East. A friendly and welcoming club, it goes above and beyond to put on training and events that are completely inclusive regardless of age, ability or gender. All club sessions cater for all abilities and coaches are split at every session to provide sessions to groups of runners based on current ability. This is done by allowing the runners to put themselves into the appropriate group based on their current 5k time. Beginners are welcomed to the club on a trial basis free of charge before joining. They have weekly meetings before a session where people’s achievements in all categories are celebrated and certificates are presented to those who have earned club standards. All members are encouraged to volunteer both at sessions and as marshalls, race directors and support at races and events: training courses are open to all members who wish to take on a voluntary role with the club. Coaches also offer free training plans, support and advice at an individual level. During Covid-19, the club continued to provide weekly structured training sessions via email and has also put on some competitive events.

Runner-up: Norfolk Gazelles
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Coach of the Year – East

Winner: Mike Utting (City of Norwich AC)

Sprints coach Mike Utting of City of Norwich AC is the Coach of the Year winner for the East. Described as an incredible, kind-hearted person, he makes athletics fun and engaging. Mike is encouraging, extremely patient and goes the extra mile to help his athletes – he always has equipment and kit on hand to lend out. He reads up on injuries and is constantly sharing articles and information about athletics and how athletes can improve. Mike lives and breathes athletics and keeps his sessions enjoyable by creating new sessions and drills every week. He is heavily invested in para-athletes as well – an example of his caring nature is when an athlete was in hospital having an operation and Mike was the person she called at 1am for a chat. Mike has coached at two Paralympic cycles, coaching for GB at London 2012 and Rio 2016. He is currently helping a para-athlete who is due to race at the British championships. He gives his time freely to athletes, other coaches, parents and anyone who needs his help and support, including driving athletes to events when necessary and running one-to-one sessions is an athlete needs special attention.

Runner-up: Keith Passingham (Flyers Southend)
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Run Leader of the Year – East

Winner: Samantha Holmes (The RunFit Club)

Samantha Holmes of The Run Fit Club is the winner of the Run Leader of the Year award for the East. She encourages everyone with her big smile and positive approach. A non-competitive running and walking group based in Basildon Essex, Sam invites everyone to join in with the club’s virtual runs and she also encourages people to become run leaders. Sam has put all different levels of groups together from walking, couch to 5k, walk/run and also longer runs for more experienced runners. She encourages everyone to improve at their own pace no matter how fast, slow or what fitness level they have at the moment: no one is left behind. Like all the supportive Run Leaders, Sam is England Athletics trained, holds a current DBS check and is trained in safeguarding and first aid. No one feels worried that they won’t be able to keep up and everyone is supported to reach their personal goals. The mental health support at the club deserves special mention too as there is always a friendly ear on offer to talk things through on a run as everyone is encouraged to view running as helping to improve mental as well as physical health.

Runner-up: Keith Passingham (Flyers Southend)
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RunTogether Group of the Year – East

Winner: HLB Runners

HLB Runners, the winner of the RunTogether Group of the Year award, is a fabulous, supportive group with people from all walks of life joining together to run every week. Everyone is welcome, whether they run a 5min/km or 10min/km, they will not be left behind. The members are all pros at ‘looping’ to allow for every pace maintaining the group’s ethos that nobody runs alone. During injury there is always someone who is happy to walk and chat too. From this group everyone has made new friends within the small community of Maulden, Bedfordshire, so the sessions become both a social occasion and an opportunity to run. The Run Leader is an interpreter, as a proportion of the group are deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure nobody is left out. During lockdown the social virtual events were held via video calls to enable sign language, as well as social media posts to facilitate all language strengths. During lockdown the ‘virtual pub nights’ proved invaluable, especially for those more isolated in the community. The group has chosen six charities to support by fundraising with virtual bingo nights and run challenges as their small way to help charities during this incredibly difficult year.

Runner-up: Flyers Southend
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Services to Athletics or Running – East

Winner: Elaine Larkins (Peterborough & Nene Valley AC)

Elaine Larkins of Peterborough & Nene Valley AC has been involved in athletics for over 50 years as an athlete, coach and official. The winner of the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Services to Athletics award for the East, she was instrumental in merging two clubs together which had been rivals for over 40 years. She now leads the merged club with huge enthusiasm and passion. Elaine encourages all the athletes to try their best and she celebrates their successes and consoles with their disappointments. She is always there to listen and lend a hand wherever and whenever help is needed. Elaine actively involves others in the general running of the club and isn’t afraid to ask for outside help. She has pulled together a strong team of volunteers to help steer the club in the right direction. Elaine is described as a great leader who works hard to motivate and encourage all the members despite the obstacles Covid-19 has thrown at everyone. It has been hard for everyone to stay motivated but her passion for the club and sport has really shone through. She has also produced a monthly newsletter to help keep everyone informed of events throughout lockdown.

Runner-up: Tim Cook (Werrington Joggers)
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Volunteer of the Year – East

Winner: Peter Gooding (Harwich Runners)

Winner of the Volunteer of the Year award for the East, Peter Gooding of Harwich Runners readily gives advice and support for any venture to promote running and fitness. Without people like Peter no club can exist and he is described as a shining example to us all. He is always first to arrive at any club event and the last to leave. From chairing committee meetings to race director roles via marshaling, managing the club’s social media and cleaning up at the end of events, Peter is at the heart of everything which happens at Harwich Runners. As an example, he collates race results from all members every week and calculates handicaps, club standards and club records. The club’s expansion through a new couch to 5K initiative in the last couple of years has been down to the enthusiasm he encourages in the members. During lockdown he devised and managed many lockdown challenges to keep the club members’ motivated. He welcomes new runners and ideas from any member are always received with an open mind. Throughout his time as chairman the club has paid for coaching and leadership courses for any member wishing to learn more about coaching others.

Runner-up: Melanie Brookes (Diss & District AC)
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Young Volunteer of the Year – East

Winner: Ella Robinson (Huntingdonshire AC)

Ella Robinson of Warrior Group at Huntingdonshire AC competes herself but also gives so much time to the younger members of the group. Winner of the Young Volunteer of the Year award for the East, Ella is described as a one in a million young lady who is always looking to help and assist younger athletes as well as train herself. She has only just turned 17 but she mentors the under 13/15 girls. She plans and leads sessions as well as motivating and inspiring the youngsters during competitions. During lockdown she travelled to do pair sessions with all the younger girls as well as setting weekly quizzes to enable the squad to stay connected. Ella loves athletics and always has an inspiring word to share. She sends cards and messages of encouragement and speaks weekly to the younger athletes particularly when they were in lockdown. She has completed many online courses on disability and mental health and is always looking to develop her athletics knowledge . She also helps all the athletics teams at school as well as studying full time. Ella balances everything well and she is such a positive and inspirational role model for young athletes.

Runner-up: Matthew Bailey (West Norfolk AC)
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Click here to find out more about our 2020 England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards.