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Neil is in his own words "just a regular guy who has a big passion for running and getting others running". In 2016 he set up free running club BHAM Runners which now has over 200 members and hosts it's own trail race.
Read on to find out more about how BHAM has grown and how to get involved!
I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.
I didn’t set out to start a running club, why would I? I’d never been a member of one, and the few times I’d gone to local clubs for a taster session, I’d found them all a bit stand offish, and way to concerned about splits, strides and pb’s for my liking!
But I like to run with people, my weekly jaunt to parkrun and the few small races I’d done gave me the feeling that running is better together. So after kicking the idea around a bit, lots of googling and attending a UKA LiRF (Leader in Running Fitness course) I’d decided to set up a running group, for people who like running, live near me and want to meet up for a social run from our local recreation ground. So with a facebook page and a share to anyone and everyone I knew nearby, bish bash bosh.. our first session!
Easy isn’t it? Nope, not really! Just one lady called Alex turned up. We went for a little run around the village footpaths (when she realised I wasn’t a serial killer), had a nice chat and away she went! This was clearly not going to work.
So I went off for a little re-think, carried on running on my own, but talked to people about running and how they got started, how hard it was to motivate themselves to do a couch to 5k programme, and how much of a journey people have already been on to even get to a parkrun.
So I turned the (not very) catchy Bower Hinton, Ash and Martock Running group into ‘BHAM! Runners’, got my best crayons out and designed a logo based on a comic book POW!, made posters and social media content and launched a free ten week couch to 5k programme called #zero2hero – because anyone who can turn their bad habits around and start running is a HERO!!
And it worked.. fourteen people showed up that first session, ten of which graduated 11 weeks later with a 5km route around the village, that stopped in the pub halfway for a tasty beverage. But they wanted more. We kept running on a Monday night, road, trails, speedwork, just mixing things up a bit to give them more experiences in running. They started doing parkrun, signing up for races, and more people started showing up.
They started coming from all over, people who had seen us running in the village, friends, social media stalkers, people from local clubs who just wanted extra sessions in their weeks, you know the type… ‘real runners’ over the winter months we continued to grow, designed and had some custom running shirts made and opened up our second #zero2hero to start in March, where another twenty four people showed up and we kept growing, thirty, forty, fifty people congregating in the village on a Monday night.
On a hilly 10k run, my mate Steve who was chair of a local club, gave me £40 and told me to go and get ourselves ARC Affiliated. I’m eternally grateful for Steve for doing that because that was a game changer. We became an ARC affiliated Club, no longer bounded by the UKA and RunTogether Rules and regulation. A committee was formed, extra leaders trained and appointed, we built our constitution on it being a free running club that gives you affiliated status, no fees, no subs, buy tee shirt, vest or other (awesome) merchandise if you want but just join us to run!
And we kept on growing, in two and a half years we’ve gone from just two to over one hundred and eighty members, we regularly see 80 members on a Monday night social run, we have ran a half marathon beginners course, with over forty club members completing their first Half, we have ran hundreds of races, thousands of parkruns and eaten loads of cake. Members have ran their first Triathlons, we’ve got Ironman competitors (I’ve seen the tattoos to prove it!!), we have local race organisers offering us discount codes (thanks Immortal Sport) and organised our first completely sold out trail race that pays to keep the club completely free.
We still have runners of all abilities, genders, shapes and sizes, and we cater for them all, our fifth #zero2hero starts in March, we run multi-distance, multi-paced, multi-terrain options, if you want to get your sub 40, 30 or even 20 minute 5k PB, we can do that, if you want to go from 5 to 10k, we’ll help you and if you are worried you’ll be last in a race, well you won’t because one of us will volunteer to be tail runner so you don’t have to be!
We have a strong social media presence, Instagram and facebook are the bedrock of how we communicate, and we are really fortunate to have friendly supportive members, who look after each other.
It’s a good job I didn’t set out to start a club, as we aren’t a group of runners, we’re really just a club, we have just created a crazy running family!