We continue our series looking at club training nights around the country and learn more about Rossendale Harriers
Rossendale Harriers formed in 1967 as a response to Rossendale Borough Council building a new running track and sports pavilion at Marl Pits in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. The formation of the club was largely the work of two men, Walter Whittaker, the then chairman of Rawtenstall Sports Council and Eddie Roberts, a local schoolteacher with a particular interest in athletics.
Whittaker was influential in many sports in the Rossendale area and his expertise was to prove vital in the formation of the new club. Roberts was the driving force behind the practical side of getting the club off the ground with his knowledge of training and racing not only on a personal level but also as an organiser of school sports. Initially, the founder members were drawn from the various Rossendale Valley schools and training and racing was limited to cross country and fell running until the track was completed.
The track presently is as it was all those years ago – probably one of the last gravel type tracks to be laid and before the era of synthetic surfaces. The local council were assured by the contractors at the time that it was to be an “all-weather track”. The completion of the track quickly saw the club transform into a multi-discipline outfit offering track and field training and racing at local and county level.
The club’s most renowned runner was Dave Lewis, who competed with distinction at national and international level on the track, although he will best be remembered for his cross country performances when winning the National on three occasions as well as victories in the Inter-Counties.
Although Lewis runs only occasionally these days, he can be seen regularly at club training nights supporting family members in their training. While bigger clubs were keen to get him into their ranks at the height of his running career, he remained loyal to his local club and is an ongoing inspiration to younger members.
As it is situated in the South Pennines, fell running and racing have always been an important part of the club activities. The first Rossendale Fell Race was organised in 1971 in an era when there were very few fell events available. This race attracted some of the best runners around at the time and past winners include: Jeff Norman, Alan Blinstone, Colin Robinson, John Calvert, Ricky Wilde, John Wilde and Dave Cannon – many of whom went on to excel in other running disciplines and run for GB in the Olympic Games.
The club can also boast members who have competed for their country at fell and mountain running namely, Bobby Ashworth and Ray Rawlinson in an earlier era and more recently Phil Bolton, Joe Johnston, Sam Tosh, Anthony Dalton and Emma and Rebecca Flanagan. The club currently organises six fell races.
Currently, the main driving force behind the club is the chairman, Graham Wright (known as “Lefty”) and the secretary, Steve Duxbury.
The club concentrates on endurance running with around 10 active coaches taking groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The junior section attracts 100 young athletes split into five groups based on ability and four adult groups train twice per week. Extra sessions are often set at weekends, usually at a local park or during the winter at the indoor track at Sport City, Manchester.
Michael Solomon takes a group of junior athletes aged between 12 and 18 and the training is usually threshold-based on a Tuesday with more speed-endurance and power running on a Thursday.
Extra sessions are set on grassy slopes which are usually “Kenyan hills” – 6x4min with 1min recovery. Solomon issues individual training plans and monitors that the young athletes are not over-training.
Targets are set for some athletes, including county cross country selection and the British Milers’ Club academy track standards. The young athletes receive plenty of support with regular nutrition talks and attendance at the BMC academy residential weekend.
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