The South Devon club has come a long way in its 32-year history despite not having a track, writes Ruth Jones

Formed relatively recently in 1983 by former Plymouth AC member Richard Bristow for athletes based in and around the Dartmoor town of Ivybridge, Erme Valley Harriers soon established a small but loyal membership of 20 runners who shared Bristow’s desire to run for a friendly local club.

The Harriers were initially based at a converted garage in the south Devon town, but as the club grew, the headquarters moved first to the local leisure centre and then to its current location at Ivybridge Rugby Club.

Where they train

The main training night is on Tuesday and supervised by coach Steve Watson. It features a mixture of road runs and structured speed, hill and interval sessions. Once a month the club organises its popular handicap races which vary in length depending on the season and, every summer, members participate in the off-road ’Spirit of the Moor’ 6.4-mile event, which takes full advantage of the club’s close proximity to the wild terrain of Dartmoor.

The Harriers also offer training for beginners and improvers on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings, together with a popular Run England group that lures people off the couch to run 5km.

The popular junior section trains at Ivybridge Community College every Thursday and the youngsters concentrate on track and field in the summer. Sportshall events, sprints and endurance training are the focus during the winter months.

Recent successes

The club has grown considerably from its humble beginnings, with long distance legend Neil Holmes a regular winner of gruelling local races ‘The Grizzly’ and ‘The Haytor Heller’.

The Harriers’ senior women’s team includes top athletes such as Alison McEwing, Cleo Perry, Alison Thorn, Jayne Swift, Emma Lake, Sarah Hirons and Jo Edwards who, between them, won team bronze at the 2014 British Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff and placed seventh team at this year’s London Marathon.

Will Battershill represented Great Britain in the 2000m steeplechase at the 2015 World Youth Games in Columbia, having worked his way up from the junior ranks to international level with the club, and Oxford University student and triple jumper Sam Trigg competed at this year’s British Championships following his wins at the national under-23 championships and BUCS.

In the junior section, 13-year-old multi-eventer Sammie Harris has competed at the national indoors and English Schools, and has broken a number of club records. Successes are all the more remarkable given that the club does not have access to a local track with Battershill having no steeplechase barrier to train with.

Club ethos

The Ivybridge club has always considered itself to be ‘warm and welcoming’, to encourage members of all standards and abilities. It has successfully managed to maintain this ethos and progress considerably in just over three decades. In 2008, England Athletics named the Harriers ‘South West Region Club of the year,’ marking its 25-year anniversary in style.

Who’s who

The Harriers is still predominantly run by members involved since the club’s infancy, including secretary Keith Reed, who heads up the junior section and has officiated at major championships worldwide, chairman and regular county selector Paul Ross, president Monica Bristow, Jayne Reed, Sharon Terry, and Steve and Shirley Watson still intrinsic to the Harriers’ success going forward. Dave Fox also produces the members’ popular magazine ‘The Harrier’.

Club events

Erme Valley hosts the Ivybridge 10km and the Erme Valley Relays, with both events attracting record numbers of 700 for the 10km and 105 teams in the relays this year.

Need to know

The club has raised considerable sums for charities such as ‘Children In Need’, and, more recently, made a donation to Team Leo, a local charity raising money for Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Fast Forward Campaign, named after nine-year-old Ivybridge youngster, Leo Le Gal.

The club also has a vibrant social committee, headed up by John Lee, with regular events involving exploring different areas on the run, followed by visits to nearby hostelries, with the highlight being the annual ‘Ivybridge six-pub challenge’. The Dartmoor town’s only running club is also keen to keep its older members involved, and thus founded a walking group for those unable to run any more, encapsulating Erme Valley’s ethos of inclusivity.

CLUB STATS

Number of members: 215 (92 seniors, 123 juniors)
Main Base: Ivybridge Rugby Club, Cross-in-Hand, Filham, Ivybridge, Devon PL21 0LR
Leagues: Westward cross country, South West track and field, Devon Sportshall
Website: ermevalleyharriers.co.uk

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