Harriers During Lockdown

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. Greenock Glenpark Harriers should have spent the year with a number of events to mark the club’s 125th anniversary. When the world was put on hold in March, the club had to find new ways to commemorate this special year, and keep the members engaged in running.

One of the first club races to fall was the Doherty Cup, a ten mile road race. So instead of a race, that weekend the club held a virtual ‘how far can you run in an hour’ challenge, which kept within the government restrictions at the time. This was the first of many virtual running events put on by the club and latterly by Scottish Athletics too.

Graham McGrattan ready for one hour on the treadmill

The Scottish Athletics challenges proved very popular, and the club were regularly in the top 3 in Scotland in terms of participation numbers. One of the most popular virtual events was ‘how far can you climb in 30 minutes’ which challenged the runners to run continuously on a hill for half an hour to gain as much elevation as possible. Inverclyde offers a few good locations for this sort of fiendish challenge!

Social media running site Strava has been a great tool to help keep our runners engaged with each other. During lockdown, it was creatively used as a way to set up virtual leaderboards. GPS watches and smartphones allowed us to create routes across Inverclyde, and Strava compiles leaderboards on each of them. The routes were all 1.25 miles long (a nod to the 125 years) and involved some of the area’s steepest hills. The competitive juices were flowing once again! To give an idea of the toughness involved, try running from Port Glasgow’s Glen Avenue all the way to the golf course (and a bit further…). These routes were steep! There were 6 in total, and one of our runners Kevin Craig was mental enough to complete all 6 in one run, a total route of over 31 miles. If you’re on Strava, get involved!

Kevin Craig ready for action

Social media engagement was high throughout lockdown. Daily photos from the club’s archives were posted on our Facebook group to amuse and bemuse in equal measures. Somehow baby photos of the club’s committee members snuck their way in too! 

Erin McEleny during a SA Virtual Challenge on The Esplanade

Scottish Athletics have worked hard with the government to provide ever changing guidelines as the country eased its way out of Lockdown. In recent months, the club has been able to get senior and junior training sessions up and running again. Running was very popular during lockdown. Perhaps with the gyms closed, and also due to the various charitable challenges doing the rounds on social media. The club have benefited greatly from this, taking on a huge number of new members as a result. The senior training sessions have been the lifeblood of the club in recent months, with numbers almost doubling from pre-lockdown.  A huge credit must go to Alan O’Rourke, Alison King and a whole host of volunteers and coaches for keeping these organised and safe.

In recent months, some club time trials have also been organised, but held away from the public eye and in line with Scottish Athletics guidelines. Perhaps the public are not quite ready for the sight of our runners in the famous sky blue vests charging along the Esplanade. The lockdown put pay to our 2019/20 club championship after only 5/11 races complete. We will be carrying the points from these over to the 20/21 championship. The two time trials held since the relaxation of rules will count towards the championship. We have held these up Greenock Cut and at Ravenscraig Track. They have proven very popular, and have given our runners a much needed excuse to get the special 125th anniversary vest on!

Stuart Austin sporting the club gear

Our annual New Year’s Day race, The Lyle Mile, is likely to be going ahead as a virtual event. We hope we can get the community engaged with running to start the New Year, and we all hope that 2021 will see a return to something closer to normality. Not just for our club, but the whole of Inverclyde.

If you want to know more about the club, please drop us an email at greenockglenparkharriers@gmail.com. Big thank you to the Greenock Telegraph for publishing the article in the paper last Wednesday, and for their continued publicity.

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