Part 9: Continuing the history of Macclesfield Harriers 1996-2008

Written by Bob Lynch, in the Club Magazine, 2008

I start by repeating the last paragraph from the previous history update: “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 that 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.

Since 1996 the club has gone from strength to strength. In 1997 we celebrated our 100th anniversary with a ball attended by more than 150 past and present Harriers. Only subsequently did we find a photograph of Macc. H at Sutton dated 1896!!! During the latter part of the 90s our efforts were concentrated on raising £50k to put towards the creation of the current T&F facility. The perimeter trail was completed first in July ’96 and we hosted a series of trail relays in celebration.

While in ’97 we organised a 100 x 1 mile relay race on the trail, again raising funds towards the Macc. track appeal. The track facility was finally officially opened in June 1999 with a high class open meeting. We had been fortunate enough, however, to make use of the newly laid track from Feb. ’99; while the rest of the facility was completed. (Pictures of the facility as it developed are displayed in the trophy cabinet of the club house).

It is from this time that we went from being nomads to being focused onto one training venue. We progressively became more proficient across all the athletic T&F disciplines. But as with everything there are ebbs and flows. Traditionally we were the strongest Cheshire club in middle distance; today we are multi-disciplined and talented.

The same is true of Indoor Sportshall, we continued to improve in these competitions early into the 21st century, but currently we now barely compete in each age group. A lot of this is to do with having strong team managers supporting specific leagues. Likewise other aspects of the club have changed. We now need a constant pool of coaches, helpers and officials to be able to produce multi-disciplined athletes and to host events.

Since 1996 we have put on a summer Star Track course each year aimed at introducing and improving aspiring athletes to the full range of T&F events. At the same time we have put on coaching clinics for specific technical events at the start of each T & F season. This has recently been replaced with an early season open meeting.

Club membership has progressively increased from around 200 to 500 members. Subscriptions have gone from £10 to £20 per year. However, £5 of this is now paid directly to England Athletics for competing athletes. The assets of the club have also increased from £5 – £30k.

During the last 12 years we have had 4 different chairmen (Rachel Pleeth being the first lady chair) and 3 magazine editors, who have increasingly raised the standard of the quarterly magazine. Alongside this has grown the club’s website which is held in high regard by other clubs.

On the other side press entries have sadly diminished substantially, due mainly to the fact that information is not delivered to the webmaster. However, with the increase in the use of the internet, results from events can be viewed almost immediately online (But this does not give the personal details that make it more interesting)

The club magazine (now named Go) while very professional, can always do with an injection of contributions from new writers, perhaps with some more personal experiences, jokes and anecdotes.

On the road, while marathon races still abound, they have been overtaken in popularity by shorter races, notably 10ks. Most of the club’s records still come from the ’90s or earlier, so road running performances in general have remained static. The percentage of veteran athletes continues to grow. In 2002 the Macclesfield half marathon was re-introduced and has grown steadily in popularity year by year from 700 to 1100 entries. During this time some £55k has been raised from this race going to local charities.

In 1999 the club introduced a tiered structure for road running training groups which put it on a more professional footing, with each group having a trained leader. In 2000 a section for beginners was mooted and this became a reality from 2002.

Multi terrain and ultra distance races have also become more popular with various ‘mad’ individuals attempting to outdo one another over the years. In the same vein, fell running has continued to strengthen. By the end of 1997, 25 harriers had completed the Bob Graham Round (approx 70 miles and 42 lakeland fells in under 24 hours) Since that time at least another 10 harriers have been successful.

Back to road running, and while we have had active road running managers the club has been focused and performed well in competition. Currently we lack such a person and as a consequence, we have not competed to our strength in the G P Cheshire road race series which was started in 2003.

X-Country has had the benefit of good managers, and as a consequence the club has continued its strong tradition in a number of leagues which have been re-shaped during the last 5 years. The Cheshire league stopped after the 2004/5 season and since then we have competed well in the amalgamated Manchester area mens and ladies league with the younger athletes finding their racing legs in the Staffs Moorlands league.

Prior to having our own track and trail, when we hosted X-country races, they were held at Riverside Park, which was an extremely tough course. Since 2001 X-country events have centred around the Trail, Fallibroome School and a field adjacent to the leisure centre. This has proved to be an extremely good course and has raised the profile of the club by using the club house and the leisure centre.

During the late ’90s and early ‘00s, the social scene at the club flourished, mainly because we had people who actively organised those events. Latterly this has diminished and we could benefit from a social secretary.

We have held the club championships each year (one year with a team from Scotland, which was a great success) and these remain extremely popular with the younger members. As we are such a diverse club we need to find common ground on which all members of the club feel they wish to participate. As I said previously membership has more than doubled during that time.

The charity – Macc. Track Appeal was re-opened in 2003, as part of a long term development plan. Its intention is to raise sufficient funds to push forward a proposal to provide an indoor facility alongside the home straight with a covered stand above. Considerable amounts have been raised in the last 5 years; however, we need to be sure of the intentions of local government before the next stage can begin.

Other ‘notable’ happenings along the way have been us winning the Cheshire T & F league in successive seasons (Mens and Ladies). Initially we progressed well in the Young Athletes league since we joined in 1999, where we competed separately in the boys and girls section. This culminated in us finishing mid table in our 1st year in the Northern Premier league, as a combined male and female team, only to be relegated the following year. We have since returned to our former glory as you can read elsewhere in this edition of the magazine, we have to make appropriate plans to ensure a successful 2009 season.

Blowing our own trumpet, we were the 1st club in the North of England to gain ‘Clubmark’ award in 2004, but like all things we as a club will need to redouble our efforts if we are to progress to the next stage.

I look forward to writing (or reading) the next chapter of our club history in approximately 10 years’ time.