The club night series makes a second visit to Kent to an outfit that has had its fair share of success both past and present
Invicta East Kent AC is an amalgamation of two clubs, East Kent AC and Invicta AC. In 1969 the formation of Invicta AC was made with a merger between Canterbury AC and Thanet AC. The new club had no formal headquarters and administrative meetings were held either at Dennis Townsend’s home or in the Royal Dragoon pub in Military Road.
The total membership, fewer than 50 and mostly male, comprised mainly of middle and long-distance runners. However, in the 1970s, what the club lacked in numbers was more than made up in quality with many outstanding track, road and cross-country performances by the senior men both as individuals as well as in team events at county, national and international level.
Local interest was particularly stimulated by schoolmaster Mike Gratton and his bronze at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games marathon in 1982, which was followed by a superb winning performance at the London Marathon in 1983.
The club found itself unable to satisfy the new demand within the existing set-up of mainly distance runners and the decision was taken in 1984 to amalgamate with East Kent AC, a predominantly track & field club which was based at a cinder track on the campus of the University of Kent, and Invicta East Kent was born.
In 2000 a new facility comprising a six-lane all-weather track, an indoor sports hall and a gym was completed. As the principal athletics club in the area, Invicta East Kent AC had been involved from the outset, raising £45,000 to relocate to a new clubroom within the new complex. Membership across all age groups has since risen to more than 380, covering all track and field areas involving running, jumping, throwing and hurdling.
Today the club still enjoys its reputation as a middle and long-distance one, although in recent times it now has three separate sprint groups led by coaches Marianne Underwood (who also specialises in para athletics), Sean Gilbert, Carlo Monticolombi, Claire Battersby (a multi-events group), and two large middle-distance training groups overseen by James Roberts with his grass running ethos and Peter Mullervy, who is based at the track. Both middle-distance coaches have produced athletes for GB teams in the last three years.
International athletes in recent times include Alex and Bobby Clay (pictured), Rebecca Weston, Phil Anthony (World Cup 50km silver medallist and world record-holder at 100km on a treadmill) and Abel Tsegay, who is currently stateless as a refugee, and was the winner of the European Trial junior race at Liverpool.
The club competes in the Southern Men’s League, Southern Women’s Leagues, the UK Youth Development League, Kent Young Athletes’ League and Kent Cross Country League.
The “points at all costs” mentality has been abandoned in favour of providing fun and enjoyable competition days out. However, the club encourages members to enter all appropriate championships and is a strong supporter of the British Milers’ Club.
Invicta East Kent promotes the Canterbury 10 which is held around the last weekend in January and in recent years around 1000 runners have toed the start line and it is a vital fundraiser for the club.
Due to the club’s close proximity to the Channel, they have organised trips to the Lotto Cross held in Belgium.
A typical track session would be long intervals of equal rest on a Tuesday ranging from 3km total volume for under-13s to perhaps as much as 8km or 10km for seniors. On Thursdays they will do shorter and quicker efforts. The sessions remain aerobic in the winter but become anaerobic in the summer. These are supplemented with drills before sessions and static stretching after a strength and conditioning session with Karl Clay lasting half an hour after the Thursday track session.
Invicta East Kent AC tries to be as professional in its approach as possible with its team of very knowledgeable amateur volunteer coaches. Given its success, it must be doing something right!
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