We begin a new series looking at what’s going on at a club training evening or a weekend morning nationwide

Since Reading AC was founded in 1881, without doubt its most famous athlete has been Ann Packer, who strode to an Olympic gold over 800m in Toyko 50 years ago to add to the silver she earned earlier in those Games over 400m. Not to be outdone, though, there have been other luminaries including Kathy Cook, Bev Callender, Simone Jacobs and Gerry Stevens.

In the early 1970s, the Reading AC male endurance team had built a reputation as one of the top teams in the country, finishing third team in blizzard conditions at the National at Sutton Coldfield in 1972, a month after winning the Southern senior title at Parliament Hill. Stevens, who was part of those teams and a UK record-holder for 3000m steeplechase in 1969 with 8:30.8, now coaches the junior and senior women endurance runners while other team members Geoff Biscoe and Keith Whyte along with Andrew Kinnersley take care of the younger boys’ development group.

Ray Stevens, the junior and senior men’s road and cross country team manager, said: “After a fallow period, resurgence is now under way.”

The club has a youth to senior development endurance pathway and club leadership is provided by the chairman, Richard Nevill, while coach lead coordinator Julie Rayfield, the supportive club council, coaches, officials and back-up support all contribute to improving team and individual performances. The club also competes on the track in the YDL, Alder Valley and BAL leagues and for cross country in the Hampshire league.

The most successful endurance athlete over the last few years has been Jonathan Davies, who recently turned 20 and has won English Schools’ track and cross-country titles, Inter-Counties cross-country titles at under-17 and under-20 and is also the current English cross country under-20 champion. Davies has also competed for GB, finishing 35th in the World Cross last year as well as clinching a European under-20 bronze medal over 5000m. Although now at Birmingham University, his lead coach is still Reading’s Rob McKim.

McKim says: “We have had many internationals at the club in our history and more recently youngsters who have reached GB standard across both genders. The club offers coach pathway options for male and female athletes and some mixed groups. As long as the athletes are prepared to put in the effort and enjoy themselves, then the performance improvements and achievements will come, no matter what their abilities.”

Sessions

During the winter, much of McKim’s club evening sessions are held on a grassed area which is lit and surrounds the club’s Palmer Park stadium. Training routes are identified by zones. Tuesday is for the mainly volume-based interval sessions. On a Thursday the group focus more on movement skills and variations on the Oregon circuit with some tempo and other running before during and after the session.

A typical session includes:

» Warm-up, movement skills and drills including use of hurdles
» A tempo run
» Multi-pace grass aerobic interval session ranging from 5min down to 1min with active recovery – “time tweaked” to pace and purpose
» Sets of strides at the end as well as stretches

The group also does a fair amount of technical skills within the sessions such as decelerating and positioning when approaching turns and corners and getting back into pace quickly plus responding to surges. On a non-competitive weekend, a weekend hills session is sometimes done with work on cross-country skills.

» To feature your club, contact AW coaching editor David Lowes (david.lowes@athleticsweekly.com) with details of what sessions have been happening across as many disciplines and age groups as you wish. Some history of your club would also be great. We look forward to hearing from you!