Winner: Halifax Harriers
Competition for this award proved every bit as fierce as last year, but in the end its excellence in virtually every category is what made Halifax Harriers the stand-out choice.
The Harriers have long been seen as a vital part of the West Yorkshire community since their inception 125 years ago in 1884, and have worked hard to achieve this status – they boast an impressive 485 members, around half of whom have joined in the last two years.
Such a sudden boost in numbers has come about partly due to a 40-year campaign for a new running track finally coming to fruition in 2007, and partly due to their ongoing commitment to investing in youth. Of the 485 members, 337 are under the age of 20, and 152 of those are between eight and 12 years old.
Vice-president Nigel Rigg says that this is a deliberate strategy, and one that they plan to continue.
"The club has a group initiative known as the Schools Partnership, where all the club coaches go round all the schools in the local district and engage in athletics sessions," he says.
"We hold taster sessions every day at primary schools to encourage children to keep healthy through running. We see around 650 kids a week and also attend after-school clubs – including disability and learning disability groups – which involves a further 450 people. A lot of them end up joining the club."
Rigg says that getting to the kids early also establishes the club ethos of 'you get out what you put in'. "Our younger members are as fully involved as our senior ones," he explains. "They are happy to be a part of the club in all areas – marshalling at races with their parents, helping out with fundraisers – things like that. There's a real one-for-all spirit," he says.
The club's new running track, which cost close to £1 million to install, was mostly funded by Halifax Council and lottery funding, but the club itself raised £100,000 towards the cost.
"About six years ago our chairman decided to take the bull by the horns. He set about joining committees, going cap-in-hand to local businesses, organising fundraisers and so on," says Rigg.
The Harriers also make an impressive contribution to the local race calendar. They already organise five well-attended races – the Pennine 10K, the Norland Trail Race, the Helen Windsor 10K, the Mytholmroyd Fell Race and the Calderdale Way Fell Relay, and will this year add a
new one, the Halifax Town Centre 5K, to that list.
New Balance commends all running clubs for their commitment to driving the long-term development of the British running community. This award aims to find a truly British success story – a club that enhances the running experience for all – and this is why New Balance is keen to support this award. New Balance is still the only running brand to make all its elite running shoes in the UK. In fact, across all product categories, 73 per cent of demand is supplied by British factories. To find out more, go to newbalance.co.uk.