I’ve always been a bit of a running geek. Statistics, performances and records have always been at the forefront of my brain, ready to be grabbed at any time in a vain attempt to impress people or correct those who have the bare face cheek to think they know more than me!
‘Steve Ovett? Well even though he was Olympic Champion over 800m, he never ran under 1.44 and is only 8th on the British All Time list’. Or ‘No I think you’ll find it was Eamonn Martin that was the first British athlete to run under 27.30 for 10,000m. Brendan Foster and Dave Bedford ran 27.30.3 and 27.30.8 respectively in the 1970s’.
You get the idea……
I have always been secretly proud of my thirst for knowledge of British distance running yet ask me about female performances from the past and I soon become stumped. Why? Well before the likes of Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe came along there wasn’t really much to know. Oh how things have changed!
I joined my running club, Wallsend Harriers, in 1985 and there wasn’t a female in sight. It was wall to wall smelly, sweaty men, breaking wind and talking about beer, football and women. Out on a run, the lads would openly dive into the nearest bush when nature called, not making a great deal of effort to conceal themselves. Upon rejoining the group it was not rare to hear comments such as ‘that was a good’un, I’ve needed to do that for ages!’ There just wasn’t a place for females in a running club in the 80s.
I don’t know when it happened, or indeed how, but my running club now has a huge female contingent. We have a number of County Champions, former bodybuilders, mothers, teachers, accountants, students and even a solider. These women are everywhere! The changing rooms at HQ are a different place. The only bad language and wind breaking now comes from the girls and talk about football and beer has been replaced by the latest gossip from Coronation Street and the X Factor. Mickey taking is still prominent but has been toned down substantially and the calls of nature whilst out on a run are actually done in places that aren’t visible to the public!
So what can we put these changes down to? Where have all these women come from and why do they want to run? Well you would have to put a lot down to the aforementioned Holmes and Radcliffe; their achievements have made women realise that it’s not just men that can do sport. I have huge admiration for anyone that decides to don a pair of running trainers and take to the streets. You can read all the fitness magazines in the world, telling you how beneficial running can be, but until you have a role model you may not get any further than the front door.
There are the obvious fitness and aesthetic benefits to running as well. We all know how much women like to look good for their men (!) and if it means running to try to trim a few pounds off the waistline then so be it.
One thing that it obvious to anyone at my harriers though is how well everyone gets along. We are one big team and everyone is made to feel welcome. Women can come along, safe in the knowledge that they will be looked after and will make friends along the way.
In my eyes, team spirit and camaraderie are hugely important factors in the success of running and fitness and that’s what you get when you join a running club. It’s not like a gym where you pay a large monthly membership fee in order to run on the spot on a treadmill or lift weights a certain amount of times. When you run you are free. You can run where you want, when you want and you can be among friends while you do.
For whatever reason, the female section at Wallsend Harriers is growing and growing and I for one am thrilled about it. Wallsend lasses are cheeky, they are quirky, they are tough and they are friends. Those training nights in the 1980s are now, thankfully, a distant memory. That’s where male orientated running clubs should be, in the past.
Girls really are cool after all!!!
Anyone interested in joining Wallsend Harriers or seeing what we are all about then visit www.wallsendharriers.com