AW learns more about a club which is approaching its 125th anniversary
One of the North-East’s oldest clubs, Darlington Harriers, has a proud record of helping athletes of all levels and ages make the most of their abilities. There have been a sprinkling of internationals over the years and the club punch above their weight in regional competitions, backed up by their highly regarded coaching team.
Founded in 1891, the club is approaching its 125th anniversary next year and, at more than 230, its membership is at its highest for a long time. Two Olympic athletes have hailed from Darlington Harriers – George Butterfield, who ran the world’s fastest mile in 1906 and competed in the 1908 London Games over 800m and 1500m, and Joyce Grieveson, an 800m silver medallist at the 1962 European Championships who also competed at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
More recently, the club nurtured 2012 national indoor 1500m champion Lewis Moses, just one of many talented young athletes developed through Darlington’s junior programme at their base at Eastbourne Sports Complex. The Harriers moved to the eight-lane track almost 15 years ago and on club nights it is packed with training groups of all ages.
Their oldest and longest-serving member is 80-year-old Ian Barnes, the club’s vice-chairman, who is a former European M65 1500m champion and who still regularly represents England at British Masters cross-country events. He was also the inspiration behind Darlington’s booming parkrun, which regularly attracts more than 300 runners on Saturday mornings and is currently busy planning a high-profile invitation mile event next September to
commemorate the club’s anniversary.
Club president Robin Rutherford, meanwhile, is the North-East counties secretary for England Athletics, who have also recognised him for his services to coaching. Dan Hunter recently succeeded Martin Phillips as chairman and is determined to carry on the good work that has seen an upsurge in membership.
The club have a strong presence in the North Yorkshire and South Durham (NYSD) cross-country and track and field leagues, regularly hosting summer and winter events. In recent years the club’s juniors have fared particularly well in the North-East championships, with the under-13 girls lifting several titles, and this year their haul of track and field medals was the largest for some time.
Two junior athletes, Kieran Maxwell and Sam Griffin, are on national development programmes and four others – Lucy-Erin Hunter, Ryan Stacey, Layla Bell, as well as Sam Griffin – are on regional development initiatives. Last year, the club celebrated its largest ever representation in the English Schools cross-country and track & field championships.
The club has high hopes that the seniors can emulate their success at some stage, with their membership quadrupling, and the club is now able to field as many as 10 teams in regional relay events. A new beginners’ group is now in full swing and exciting developments on the horizon include the launch of a new club website and the introduction of two new club kits.
Development is the focus of youth coaching. The club has 13 active coaches across all events and also have a strength and conditioning coach, with the coaches regularly attending professional development workshops.
The summer Pitstop 10km at Croft Motor Circuit, just outside the town, has become a popular fixture on the local road calendar with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson a regular competitor.
Club nights at the track are on a Tuesday and Thursday when up to 100 athletes can be in action. Growing membership has led to staggered sessions being introduced. The large increase in senior membership has also led to the introduction of further mid-week training sessions to cater for the broad range of abilities. Track sessions for seniors are typically timed intervals over varying distances.
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