On Saturday I ran race 8 of my 2016 5k challenges. This one was a special one. It was a Parkrun, and it took place at Albert Park in Middlesbrough. I had chosen to run this Parkrun to come and meet the members of a running group called The Fairfield Harriers. This is a free club, that meets weekly in my local area. It was set up by my very good friend Rachael’s dad, Ged Hall. The club was born, by mistake, out of his desire to own a running club T-shirt.
Firstly, I will tell you about the Albert Park Parkrun. I have never run this run before, which was one reason why I chose it. It is one small lap and then two perimeter laps of the park. The course is mostly flat with some small inclines and excellent for pushchair runners. Little Miss, who was with me, serenaded myself and Rachael throughout the first lap. By the start of the second, she got bored and fell asleep for the rest of the race. Waking up when she sensed that we had stopped for a post race cuppa at the finish line cafe.
The Albert Park Parkrun has a regular high attendance, and has strong support from across the Teesside area. The course is permanently marked, which makes it a great place to track any other training runs, if you are like me and happy to run without technology. Apart from the final lap being just a little too hot, with a shared effort on the pushchair pushing, Racheal and I came in within an acceptable time. Sadly, Ged wasn’t running with us today, but as the regular Fairfield Harriers Parkrun, there was a handful of runners to meet and the man himself came along to cheer us on.
In advance of the race, I contacted Ged to make sure I had the story of the Fairfield Harriers right. He explained to me, that he was a keen runner as a school boy in the sixties. Back in the days before technical running shoes, he completed cross country in his football boots and athletics track running barefoot. Something which he said that he preferred. At the time his burning ambition was to run a four minute mile. He confessed that this never happened but he said “never say never”.
In his teens, Ged quit running for cycling. He joined the Thornaby Wheelers, in Stockton on Tees and cycling became his sport until he married and had children. His life as a working husband and father left little time for sports. A story so many of us busy parents can sympathise with. He did return to running in his early forties. But unfortunately, whilst training for a ten mile race, he badly injured his knee. This resulted in him giving up running for the next twenty years.
“I couldn’t help noticing all the fit looking runners in the club T-shirts”
When Ged was sixty, Rachael persuaded him to join her on a 5k run as part of the Tees Trail series at Preston Park. His old knee injury was limiting and he came second from last. He told me that this didn’t matter, he was so pleased to have finished. A sentiment I share (Tales of the Last Man Car). During the race, Ged said he couldn’t help noticing all the fit looking runners in the club T-shirts. He decided that he wanted to run again, so he spent a few weeks gradually rebuilding his fitness whilst nursing along his sore knee. He did this with the help of the Albert Park Parkrun. Again he noticed even more fit looking runners in their club T-shirts.
Ged confessed to me in his message, that he is very young at heart and never takes life too seriously. From my few meetings with him, I know that he is a quiet man, with a very sharp wit and a kind heart. Everything is a joke and a laugh, and he admits to having a creative side with a head always buzzing with daft ideas. It is therefore, not surprising that he would want get his own club T-shirt, without the requirement to actually join a running club. Rachael sorted this out for him and he wore it on his next outing for another of the Tees Trail 5k series.
“It’s just me but you are most welcome to join us”
Coming in last again at the race, Ged was approached by a lovely lady called Tracy, who asked about the Fairfield Harriers. He confessed that it was just him, but she was welcome to join him and Rachael for a midweek training run. And so, the Fairfield Harriers was born. It started as Ged, Rachael, her husband and Tracy meeting for a run on a Wednesday evening and completing approximately 5k. After a few weeks the word began to spread and more people began joining them. Rachael began a Facebook page and now they have a reasonable following. Soon they all had T-shirts too, and they regularly attended Albert Park Parkrun.
Ged referred to the Fairfield Harriers as
“a group of likeminded people, who all love a good laugh and a joke, whilst also having a competitive edge. We are all very supportive of each other and offer help and advice whenever possible. That is the spirit of Fairfield Harriers.”
There is a wide range of ages and abilities in the group, therefore they use the loop back system. This where the front runners loop back after so long to support the slower runners at the back. Thus giving them a harder work out and the back runners greatly needed support. This ethos is what I love about the story of the Fairfield Harriers.
Tea? Coffee? Freddo?
After the run, while Ged was in the cafe buying teas, coffees and the Freddo frogs he buys all of the runners after every Parkrun, I asked some of the Harriers about him. They informed me that he had only one gear. He keeps a steady but competitive pace but neither slows down or speeds up. They like their group because it isn’t like other running clubs. There is no criticism of other running clubs, but for many it can be quite intimidating especially when the competitive front runners, with their eye on a PB are predominantly club runners. To some of the slower runners, who just want some companionship and support, finding a likeminded club can be difficult if you don’t know where to look.
The overall feeling from the Harriers, was that the group was competitive but not intimidating. According to Harrier Doug, a runners speed can be accurately predicted by assessing the length of their shorts. The others said that this is why Doug wears knee length shorts. It’s members describe the club as inclusive and welcoming, with a warm friendly atmosphere. Members train together and sign up for events together, some members completing 5k, 10k, half and full marathons. All of their achievements celebrated through the Facebook page.
My very own T-Shirt
After the run, and a very happy post run chat and drink, myself and Little Miss posed for some pictures with Rachael and Ged (and Rachael’s daughter too). I was over the moon however, before the pictures were taken that Ged provided me with my very own Fairfield Harriers T-shirt. I have always been wary of running clubs after some of my experiences as the last man. However, I had always hoped to join the Fairfield Harriers. When Wednesday evenings begin to settle down monkey wise. I will be out there with them.
In the meantime, I am hoping to meet them for a few more Saturday morning Parkruns at Albert Park. I’ll admit the draw of a post run Freddo Frog is overwhelming. Although I was a bit too hot to eat it post race, I enjoyed it later with a pre bed cuppa.
I am continuing to raise money and awareness for the wonderful work of Raindrops to Rainbows with my 5k challenges. If you feel inspired to support them, and their work to support mother’s suffering with postnatal depression, then click the Gofundme link. For those following my efforts, my next 5k race is another family affair. This time my father and sister in law, my sister, her husband and monkeys, Mr LMR and a full quota of LMR monkeys are undertaking the Teesside Hospice 5k Colour Run. It’s going to be a colourful day to remember.