This year for the first time volunteers involved in the Run England programme have been recognised as part of the England Athletics Regional Awards, and in the North East their efforts were recognised along with the wider athletics community at Gateshead International Stadium.
In the first full year of England Athletics’ new recreational running programme, Run England has seen over 1,000 new runners registered who are supported by 90 new groups all delivered by qualified and insured leaders with open links to the existing affiliated clubs in the region.
England Athletics’ John Stacey got the evening off to a great start, saying: “This evening is our opportunity as England Athletics in the North East to say thank you on a personal level for your continued hard work, passion and commitment that makes the sport we love great!”
The first awards of the evening were for Run England, with Leader, Group and Project of the Year being presented by Craig Blain, Run England Area Coordinator for the North. The nominations for these new categories were very close and it was remarked by the panel that it was extremely difficult to pick between the nominations made, if not because of the sheer number of nominations submitted but due to the brilliant work that all volunteers involved with the programme have been doing making it so hard to pick one over another.
Run England Leader of the Year 2012 – North East
Winner: Dave Savage (SeafRUNt Smilers)
Runner Up: Mike Powell & Ian Young (Run Consett)
The SeafRUNt Smilers was Sunderland’s very first Run England group with the initiative of the group was to provide a stepping stone for complete beginners to be able to gain confidence, increase fitness and potentially aim for 5k and 10k charity runs. Beginning initially with one member the Smilers now have a steady team of 25 and have had to put on an additional evenings session to cater for the increased demand. From these humble beginnings they now attract beginners, improvers and occasionally club runners (from the local Sunderland Harrier and Stroller clubs) who come down when returning from injury or to offer advice and support.
Leader of the Year Dave Savage had a very successful evening in the end being nominated for three separate awards and he said: “To be nominated for three awards was a great surprise but to be runner up in two and win the Run England Leader of the Year was a massive bonus for me - I don`t think my Facebook status has had so many likes!”
Run England Group of the Year 2012 – North East
Winner: Teesdale Pink Ladies (Sarah Watson)
Runner Up: SeafRUNt Smilers (Dave Savage)
The Pink Ladies is a ladies only group, started by Sarah Watson who wanted a change from facility-based exercise classes. Started initially through word of mouth, the first night was a cold, wintery rainy night but 14 willing ladies turned up. The group has gone from strength to strength and now boasts over 50 members, with eight group leaders trained. The group started with just one session but due to popularity another was added recently which has been just as popular. The group caters for all abilities from total beginners to accomplished runners. All sessions are structured and are based around the runner’s abilities. The group allows the ladies to get some well earned ‘me’ time in a no pressure fun, safe environment. Many of the ladies also enjoy the group for the social aspect.
Teesdale Pink Ladies group leader Sarah Watson said: “I am so proud of the girls and what they are achieving, it’s hard to imagine some of them had never ran before but can now do a 5k comfortably, watching them all progress is such a buzz and we can only get bigger and better. Knowing that we have been recognised for our hard work is such an honour and it gives us a perfect excuse to celebrate together.”
Run England Project of the Year 2012 – North East
Winner: Run North Tyneside (Diane Williams)
Runner Up: Changing the Physical Activity Landscape – CPAL (Sarah Watson)
The Run North Tyneside relaunch in 2012 attracted regular referrals, participants, and professional relationships with NHS Mental health groups, weight management groups, Healthy Hearts, NTC Buggy Push (post natal mums), NHS post rehab (cardiac), and Nova international (Great North Run) and caters for men and women aged 16 to 70.
The programme created seven new regular sessions with 820 participants since April. Around 70 people run with the groups per week. Two sessions are progressive beginners groups, two are intermediate trim trails, and two are multi-ability groups. The seventh is a monthly mystery long distance run.
The success of the programme is down to the committed and enthusiastic leaders who provide a safe and welcoming social environment for all. Run North Tyneside prides itself on providing positive and progressive encouragement supporting participants to reach their goals and progress beyond the group environment and working with partners the North of the Tyne Athletics Network (N.O.T.A.N) to signpost and support to local athletics or road running clubs.
Project leader Diane Williams accepted the award on the night and said: “It was a great surprise to receive news of our nomination and in all honesty I didn’t think it would go much further than that! I’m just shocked that we have won on hope that this leads to bigger and better things for the future of the programme.”
The Run England Awards given at this year’s England Athletics North East Region Awards showcased the brilliant work and dedication of the hundreds of volunteers who help to drive forwards the Run England programme in the region. Without the hard work of the volunteers involved the programme would never be the success it is proving to be.