Part 8: 1980s to 1996

Written by Bob Lynch, in the Club Magazine March 1996

Some of the newer members of the club will find it difficult to believe that the club magazine has been published quarterly, nearly on time, since the first edition in March 1984. Before that a newsletter was issued on an irregular basis. For a club like Macclesfield without a permanent base camp, a broad based magazine has been vital in keeping members informed – particularly a club which boasts a wide range of activities. It is also your opportunity to voice opinions and write about things you have done, and even with the real prospect of a completed track and use of a club house – it will still be an important part of the future club and a record of its history.

So for the 50th edition of the mag I thought it would be appropriate to bring together the important things that have happened over the last few years.

Arthur Evans, our former president, who sadly died just over 5 years ago, was persuaded to write up the history of the club in the early editions of the magazine (1-4,7,8,11,12,13). If you have the back copies they make very interesting reading {ED: See Parts 1-7) and cover the period 1945-1984. Arthur was involved in the club from 1947-1990 so there was nobody better qualified to chart the history of the club.

Before I attempt to record the last 10 – 12 years I’ll try and do justice to the previous 40!!

The history can be divided into 3 parts. The club was formed shortly after the second world war on the initiation of Stan Spearing and others from Stockport Harriers. For the next 15 years a very strong group of senior men competed in road, cross country and some fell racing. It was only in 1954 that a boys’ section was formed with a minimum joining age of 14. The most prominent runners in those days were first Frank Grafton and then later Mike Corcoran who both won a number of high class races in their own right and formed very strong teams with other club athletes. During this time the club had ties with the Cheshire regiment, then stationed at Chester, and a number of races were held between the club and the regiment.

Throughout this period Arthur Evans was a key runner with the Harriers, but as most of them grew older there was very little new blood coming into the club and therefore the club went into decline around 1962 and for the next 12 years was virtually dormant.

The great revival came in 1974 and the club entered its second phase. Following an advert in the local paper and a meeting at the town hall the club was relaunched at the Macclesfield Rugby Club with a number of junior boys and girls training one night a week, and it wasn’t until a year later that any seniors showed any interest. Over the next 5 years the club developed dramatically with the membership increasing from just 12 early in 1974 to 180 by the end of 1976! Seniors were still very much in the minority until 1978 but the youngsters competed successfully in the Cheshire Track & Field league, the Cheshire relays and in 1978 joined the newly formed Indoor Sportshall competitions as well as competing in cross-country leagues throughout the winter months.

In the late 70s the seniors again began to strengthen both in numbers and resolve, and competed seriously on the road, particularly in marathons (just ask our current editor).

The years 1979/80 were the strongest for track & field athletics, with several of the club records being set at this time. In 1980,110 athletes competed in the club’s own championships! However, a bitter blow was dealt the club in 1981 when Macclesfield Borough Council postponed indefinitely the decision on a running track. This really marked the end of the second phase of the club even though it was still strong.

The third phase begins with a real upsurge in road running and a number of Harriers competed in the first London marathon in 1981, while a young Anne Stentiford set a club record for the ladies in the Birmingham marathon. In 1982 MBC restarted the twin town exchange with Eckensford a west German seaside town. What started out to be a multisport exchange ended with a bus load of Macclesfield Harriers traveling to Germany beating their hosts in both ‘Its a knockout’ and overwhelming them in the athletics match. Throughout the life of the magazine, spanning the last 12 years, there have been 4 chairmen with John Kershaw our current chairman holding the post since 1989, & 5 editors of the magazine including the current holder. Almost throughout this third phase there has been one person coordinating the fell running section of the club, namely Phil Cheek & it is largely through his efforts that the fell running group became so popular with the club from the late 80s and the early 90s.

The last 12 years has seen a very stable club with sound management and an increasing spread of events which have ebbed and flowed throughout the period. Membership has remained high ranging from 160 – 230.

The boom in marathon running occurred over a six year period 1980-86, with road running becoming progressively more popular, at first at 1/2 marathon and then at 10K distances.

Funnily enough as road races became shorter, people competing in fell running increased their distances dramatically and this will be discussed later.

On a different note, the club’s colours have not always been maroon with a silver diagonal and Lion emblem. Over the years they have gone from black, blue, green and lastly maroon with a horizontal bar. It was only in 1984 that this was eventually sorted out, so that we again started to compete in one strip.

At the same time the club set itself up to host and organise a number of races starting with the Boxing Day handicap, the Astbury 10 mile, Teggs Nose fell race and the Fairhouse 5 mile and the Macclesfield Silk marathon.

1985 saw Arthur Evans rightly elected president of the club. Also during the mid 80s the ladies road running group started to put together some cracking team performances and clearly outshone the men.

Performances in track and field must not be forgotten. After the flurry of club records that were set in the 79/81 period it took some time to improve them. However, from 1986 they again started to be bettered with a number of records being reset a number of times by different athletes over a 2-3 year period. In 1986 we achieved 3 Cheshire champions at the track & field championships. In nearly every subsequent year we have had 3 Cheshire champions up to the present day. That’s consistency for you.

For several years we trained on the shale track at Tytherington School and at one point we were hopeful of making it our permanent home with improved facilities and/or club house.

However, in 1990 we had to move when it was announced they were changing it into a synthetic surface for hockey. We then spent 2 years at The Kings School before moving to a very rough grass track at Congleton road playing fields and then on to Ryles Park in 1993.

From the mid-80s various points awarding schemes were set up for athletes to compete to be club champion at either Fell, Road or X-country, and these have basically remained unchanged to the present time. We also got so confident with our race organising that in 1987 we set up our road races and the Teggs Nose fell race to become a race series. This was successfully run for the next 3 years. We also took over the running of the Langley 7 race and incorporated it into the series.

In 1987 we also prepared a feasibility study on the provision of track and field facilities in the Macclesfield area. After discussion at the AGM of 1988 and subsequent amendment it was submitted to all members of the Macclesfield Borough Council. After some delays and debate MBC announced in late 1988 it was shelving any plans for a track in favour of providing the town with more car parking facilities! The social side of the club was quite strong during the late 80s with several functions being organised on a regular basis. So we were able to drown the disappointment about the track quite frequently. Incidentally all the committee meetings throughout the 80s were held at the Millstone Inn.

As I alluded to earlier – long distance fell running became a feature progressively form the mid-80s. Events varied from the 3 peaks yacht/run to the Karrimor 2 day, and the Bob Graham round – a 24 hour or better Lakeland peaks course. Some outstanding achievements were recorded by the likes of:

  • Mark McDermott run and scaling 76 [Lakeland] peaks in 24 hours in 1988 [ED: breaking Joss Naylor’s Lakeland Peaks Record, which had stood since 1975]
  • Mike Hartley running the Pennine Way in 1989 [ED: a record time of 2 days, 17 hours and 20 minutes]
  • In 1991 Anne Stentiford successfully completing the Paddy Buckley round in 19 hours 19 minutes [ED: the overall record holder until Mark Hartell did 18hrs 10mins in 1992] and 4 weeks later setting the ladies record for the Bob Graham in a magnificent 18 hours 49 minutes.

 

However 1991 was not a good year for other reasons. After building up our club coaching squad to 10 coaches in the late 80s we were dealt two extremely severe blows with first Arthur Evans, club President, club stalwart for 40 years and senior coach, dying of cancer. Then later in the year John McClellan (senior club coach) after a protracted fight against cancer also succumbed. John had been a coach for nearly 10 years with the club and had shaped the coaching structure of the club, the careers of some individual athletes, as well as being instrumental in setting up both the Astbury & the Fairhouse races.

The number of practising coaches suddenly became 3, Mark Pass, Pauline and myself. So 1991 & 1992 meant a lot of hard work to hold on to our athletes and at the same time try to rebuild the coaching structure. Only now at the turn of 1996 do I feel that we are getting back to our former strength.

1992 also saw the rebirth of the attempt to persuade the council to invest in a track facility with club house. A sub group was formed following the AGM that year and it has worked tirelessly since then under the chairmanship of Barbara Murray to succeed where others before had failed. Completion of the first phase of preparation of the track, £34,000 raised towards the facility by the action group (not forgetting the efforts of some individual club members) and the successful lottery bid are testament to how far we have come.

To prove that the marathon was not dead Sue Rowson in her first and only marathon became the British vets Marathon champion with a new ladies club record.

Back tracking a bit to the late 80s, the young athletes have competed regularly in the NW sportshall league. Several times we have made the area finals but it wasn’t until 1993 when we achieved the big one. The Under 11 girls were nearly unbeatable in everything, winning the area title outright!

During the 90s we have continued to organise road & fell races and more recently have majored on hosting X-country meetings for the Cheshire league, Cheshire championships and now the Manchester X-country league.

For the last 3 years we have competed very successfully in the 4 rounds of the Cheshire track and field league and despite being up against some very strong clubs have always finished in the top half of the league table.

The most encouraging thing about Macclesfield as a club over the last few years is that we continue to do well in a number of diverse areas of athletics. People are still competing in ultra-distance events, we still have a strong fell running section. Road running has taken a bit of a back seat but I’m sure it will bloom again. Essentially we are a well-rounded club and can meet everyone’s requirements as the club grows in size with the advent of the track, club house and training trail at the leisure centre.

My apologies for any important points that I have left out – I look forward to the club entering its 4th phase which should be its strongest.

Bob Lynch March ’96

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