Part 11: Continuing the history of Macclesfield Harriers & AC 2009-2019

Written by Bob Lynch, Hon President, November 2019

The last part of this history, saw the club gain the T&F facility after raising £50,000 while working in conjunction with the council and a successful National Lottery grant. This gave us the springboard to train for ALL athletics disciplines on a regular basis and to compete regularly in a number of leagues.  As a result, there was a significant growth in membership, parent helpers, coaches and officials. About the same time, a more structured approach to training for road running started to evolve.

I will refer to both these topics later in more depth.

As the club expanded the need for good regular communication through both the club website and the quarterly magazine became more important to cover ALL aspects of a club — T&F, road, XC, and fell. However, the club magazine started in 1984, which during this latest era it had become a coloured glossy publication, eventually ceased in 2017 after 137 issues. This was principally because although of good quality, and appreciated by those who read it, it could be 2-3 months out of date. Instant communication is now the order of the day. So too, emails have become outdated and have in a large part been replaced by other apps.

Everybody wants instant publication of results, whether, road, XC or T&F by using various tailored software packages. Equally entries for events during this latest period has almost exclusively moved to online entries.

While this move to communication via social media both by word and image can be viewed positively, to me you can very easily lose an overview of what else is happening in the club.  Hence this article spanning 10 years. Additionally the club website is being revamped, by segregating both the current and the historical. Its success depends on your help to update information through the various section administrators.

Conversely, the club’s publicity officer has successfully improved the amount of coverage we get in the local newspaper by producing themed articles on athletics, rather than just publishing results.

Anyway, moving on, the club continues to thrive and grow in each of its four main sections, so that by the end of 2019 membership now stands at 750.

Road running has bounced back, partly with the growing popularity of park runs (now 15 yrs old). More people than ever across all age groups are participating/competing. The trend I am pleased to say is to shorter distance ‘races’ of 5 or 10K, rather than just half or full marathons.

Because of a number of factors we now have 5 different road running groups, who in total train 6 times per week. The club has organised eight couch to 5K (C25K) events over the last few years. This has meant a significant increase in the numbers of runners continuing with the club. As a result there has been some subdivision of the D&E groups to accommodate the increase in members wanting to train during the week.

The club continues to organise quality races – the Forest5, Tegg’s Nose fell race, Macclesfield half and now 5 and 10K, plus the Langley 7 (now plus 1 mile).

All these races have a long history and it is important to point out that unlike some other commercially organised races, ALL the profits from them go to local charities. It is difficult to be precise, but over the last 10 years we have donated £15000 per year to nominated local charities.   The event requiring the most planning is the successful Run Macc Fest. The tough half marathon still attracts 600+ entries, but has also expanded to include first a 5K and now a 10K. It requires an array of knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers. ALL of our races need volunteers to run them, and it is gratifying to know that they are well received by the runners themselves.

The separate Macclesfield Athletics Development Fund (MADF) has now passed £100K in fund raising, but we have still to achieve the goal of having an indoor training facility alongside the track. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the latest maintenance/ improvement programme of work being carried out at the leisure centre to see whether sufficient funds remain for the indoor facility.

The track itself is now more than 20 years old. The synthetic surface was retextured and relined in 2010: paid by the council. This process will now need to be repeated in 2020 if it is to be suitable for competition and is required as part of the recently introduced Trackmark facility checks, brought in by EA. Nothing lasts for ever; the throws cage netting was replaced and upgraded in 2017. The buggy was replaced this year, while before that the high jump bed was replaced. The leisure centre trust, Everybody Sport & Recreation, has also carried out other repairs and accepts that routine maintenance costs on average £6000 per year. Larger fixed items are the responsibility of the council and it remains a challenge for them to be undertaken.

We, the club, continue to act as custodians and carry out what work we can. It has to be remembered that we do not own the facility, we just rent it. It has not been our policy to pay for maintenance items. However we did advise the trust following four years when the rent was frozen, that we would be prepared to accept an increase of 20% in rental costs in order for the trust to be able to carry out maintenance work.

The club continues to be well managed financially and although not its objective, it has made a surplus year on year. We try to give value for money by controlling the running costs of the club. Subs have remained largely static. However, the levy now paid to EA by competing athletes has progressively risen over the last 10 years, so that it now costs as much as the club membership.

Club use on track training nights has risen over the last 2-3 years. Traditionally this was paid by athletes, by cash on a weekly basis. As this became more onerous, we took the decision to go cashless in 2018. Now athletes pay up front for track usage as part of their annual membership. The cost will be reviewed for 2020.

Indoor training for u/11s once per week during the winter months has been expanded, and we hope that this helps with retention and in preparing them for competition in the Indoor Sportshall league, to which we continue to belong.

There is an ever-increasing need for more volunteers, coaches, officials and road running group leaders to meet these extra requirements and for succession planning. These courses are run by EA and the cost of attendance is born by the club.

One extra benefit of having more people in the club is that it gives a bigger pool from which we can seek volunteers when needed.

On the track it has become necessary to introduce waiting lists for a number of junior ages. When appropriate we move people through the various categories, based on ability (induction, transition, development, and then performance).We have considered offering another training session, but currently we do not have sufficient coaches. Instead we continue to offer specialist coaching clinics pre-season, plus a mini competition to assess performance and to increase confidence. We still run the summer Startrack course and this has now been operational for 23 years.

We continue to perform well in the three T&F leagues that we contest – the Cheshire League, Youth Development League (YDL) for U13-U15, and the Northern League. For three years we formed a composite team with Crewe &Nantwich in the Northern League. However we now compete on our own again, encouraging U17s & U20s to compete alongside the seniors to strengthen the team performance. In 2018 we were promoted; while in 2019 we also gained promotion in the YDL to NW1: a great effort.

Returning to road running, the number of road races has grown locally as people look for new challenges and fun opportunities. This can mean sometimes people want to run somewhere new, perhaps to the detriment of club team performance. Nonetheless the numbers of our club athletes competing in road races has increased. Unfortunately the Cheshire road running grand prix came to an end in 2018, partly because there were too many other races and that it became too onerous to administer.  It has to be remembered that when putting on road races, road closures have become obligatory and this significant extra cost has to be passed on to runners.

Park Runs have mushroomed over the last 10 years. They operate in a relatively safe, confined environment, are self-administered and offer instant results.

Cross country leagues have continued to develop and we belong to two leagues (the Manchester Area League and the North Staffs League), but as the fields increase, it becomes more difficult to provide suitable venues. Again the leagues are having to evolve by sub dividing the senior runners into divisions. The club continues to perform well in these conditions. XC remains an excellent winter grounding for aspiring endurance athletes to improve their physical and mental toughness.

In fell running, runners in this sector continue to be an important section of the club and recently have become more integrated into the club, as well as competing and helping to organise events for XC and sometimes road races. Quite a few of our fell runners are veterans, but they have been joined by quite a few ‘youngsters’ and now the number of women fell runners has increased. Together they form a strong nucleus that are well respected in the FRA community.

The number of members who have now competed the Bob Graham round has steadily increased. It now stands at 62 with 10 of them women. However, I am sure that those who undertake the feat, readily acknowledge their support teams before, during and after their respective attempts. It takes a lot of training to take on the challenge. Some not content with the Bob Graham round, then move on to ultra-distance ‘runs’.

The club still runs a members-only annual fell handicap race in early December, approx. 14 miles long depending on the route taken. It is now in its 34th.year and continues to be run by the evergreen Phil Cheek; some achievement in its own right. He is also responsible for putting on navigation courses for those new to fell running.

Another club tradition is the Boxing Day handicap run around Langley, which is now organised by some younger members of the club.

So in conclusion, since I last wrote in 2009 the club has flourished on all fronts.  Membership has risen to a steady 750 and has clearly been bolstered in the last 4/5 years by increases in the number of juniors (U18) and seniors,  quite a few of whom have come through the C2 5K courses.