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Stamford Striders officials reflect on the rapid growth of their club

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Over the past 20 years Stamford Striders Running Club has gone from less than 20 members to more than 250.

While not able to run in groups that mix households under lockdown rules, many members continue to take part in club events in which they run ‘against the clock’, or follow trails that they can tackle at their own pace.

Reflecting on the rapid growth of the club, chairman Nick Wells said: “Striders was formed after Stamford Harriers folded in 2002, and saw the track and field athletics side dropped due to a lack of local facilities.

Members of Stamford Striders, pictured before the Covid-19 restrictions, at Burghley House.
Members of Stamford Striders, pictured before the Covid-19 restrictions, at Burghley House.

“Running on a track had meant members travelling to Grantham or Peterborough; the focus of Stamford’s new club was road running, cross country and trail running, which could be done much closer to home.”

After receiving approval from the town council to use the Stamford crest on their running vests, Stamford Striders was formed.

Veteran member Algie Audas remembers there being about 16 members on the new club’s first night.

Its base was Blackstones Sports and Social Club in Lincoln Road, which was to be the Striders’ home for the next 13 years.

In 2008, Algie and fellow running coach Alison Marvel put together a ‘Beginning Running’ course.

The aim of this free, 10-week introduction to running, was to encourage more people into the sport and to dispel the myth that a running club is for elite athletes.

“On the first week, after a warm-up session, the group was led on a one-mile run with four stops along the way, before a stretch session at the end,” explained Algie.

The coaches increased the distance each week, until the group was running about 10km (six miles), and was ready to join in with normal club training runs.

Algie, Alison and other members of the club got each year’s class of beginners to form a bond, and to enjoy their running while reaping all the benefits of a more active lifestyle.

While the coronavirus pandemic meant the course had to be cancelled for the first time last year, it is hoped that it will resume in late spring.

Coach Clare Morley, who led the Beginning Running course in 2019, said: “This sort of activity, which combines exercise in the fresh air with a chance to chat with other people is likely to be more important than ever following the lockdowns we have endured. We’re certainly looking forward to welcoming people back as soon as we can.”

While many of those who join Stamford Striders run on a purely social basis, many participate in competitive events locally and further afield.

Chairman Nick Wells. (44409191)
Chairman Nick Wells. (44409191)

Vice chairman of the club, Robin Ball, started running aged 56 by taking part in the 2009 Beginning Running course. He had never really run in his life. Eleven years and nine marathons later he is still going strong.

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘You don’t stop running because you get old – you get old because you stop running’ and age is certainly not a barrier to us,” said Robin.

“Two of their most senior regular runners, Morag Roberts and Brian Kearsey are both in their 70s and still running marathons – you might well have seen them running in the local area.”

Through the beginners’ courses, and word of mouth, the club has grown to have 250 senior members, who live right across the Stamford, Bourne, Deepings and Rutland area.

Several members have trained to be coaches with UK Athletics and more than 30 have become ‘leaders in running fitness’.

Because much of the running Stamford Striders do is on or alongside roads, membership had been limited to adults, but soon after moving home from Blackstones Sports and Social Club to the Borderville Sports Centre in 2015, a junior section was started.

This uses the sports hall at Borderville for winter training, and the sports field at Copthill School in Uffington in summer. Limited to 65 members, the junior section is full at the moment and has a waiting list in operation for children aged nine and above.

Meanwhile, senior training nights on Tuesdays, at 7pm from Borderville, are the club’s most popular sessions and can attract up to 100 participants each week.

Four carefully paced groups run slightly different routes but with the same four rest points along the way. The steadiest, ‘A’ group runs five miles taking 10min 15secs to cover a mile, with paces picking up through the groups. The ‘D’ group runs seven miles at 7min 15secs per mile.

Running leaders and helpers at a Beginning Running course. (44409194)
Running leaders and helpers at a Beginning Running course. (44409194)

The club also offers the option of an ‘AA’ group which run about three miles with rests, for those wanting a slightly shorter distance.

Robin, who puts together most of the Tuesday running routes for the club, said: “Each group has a pace-setter at the front and a tail runner at the back, so we don’t lose anyone.

“With the same rest points along the way, there is always the chance to swap between groups for a change of pace and, I have to say, it’s really pleasing to see four groups approaching the same rest point from different streets at the same time.”

For members wanting to take their running further, coached training nights are held on Thursdays, tempo runs take place on Fridays, and longer distance runs – often off-road – on Sundays.

However, with the main ethos of the club being about enjoying running, it is fine for members to do as little or as much as they want.

“Unfortunately the pandemic has had an effect on the club as a whole,” said Nick. “It has constrained us to running in smaller groups and in full lockdown it has stopped group-running altogether.

“Despite this, we have continued to set members individual challenges, from time trials on set courses to a running Cluedo Challenge Treasure Trail around Stamford.

“Members have also continued to compete in the many virtual races set up around the world.

“We are looking forward to running together as a club again, hopefully soon, and have our fingers crossed that the planned Beginners Course can go ahead, starting on Tuesday, April 20.”

To find out more about Stamford Striders visit www.stamfordstriders.org or email club secretary Elaine Allwood on info@stamfordstriders.org

Further details about the Beginning Running course will be featured in the Mercury nearer the time.

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