A BIT OF HISTORY FROM THE EARLY DAYS

 

Elmbridge Road Runners had its genesis in the running boom of the early 1980’s, a time when many new running clubs were being formed by people who were using running as a means of keeping fit and who did not fit the ethos of the established athletic clubs. The first London Marathon in 1981 had made running the 26.2 mile distance an aspiration for many.

Dave Gleed was a runner who found himself without a club and at some point in 1982 placed an advertisement in the local paper under the heading ‘Run for Fun’. This led to a meeting at the Duke of York pub in Queen’s Road (now Cafe Rouge). Exactly who the people were at that meeting is now unclear but names known for certain, in addition to Dave Gleed, were Graham Powell, Brian Hayworth and Pauline Lamb. The meeting led to the formation Elmbridge Road Runners with Dave Gleed as its first chairman.    

In its early months the newly formed club used the changing facilities at two local recreation grounds. One was the Coronation Recreation Ground in Hersham and the other the Elmgrove Recreation Ground in Walton. Which came first is another of those memories obscured by time. Apparently neither was very pleasant on the cold winter evenings and with the help of Elmbridge Council arrangements were made at sometime around the spring of 1983 for the club to have access to the facilities of the Elmbridge Leisure Centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a token subscription. This made things more comfortable but the club struggled both financially and in terms of membership and came close to not surviving its first year. The on-going formation of new clubs resulted in competition for members and the Elmbridge Road Runners subs of £12 (over £30 in today’s terms) was a serious commitment. Even with this level of subscription the club’s financial situation was weak. In 1984 Derek Button, who had joined the club in June 1983, became its second chairman and two initiatives were implemented. Firstly the subs were halved and secondly a race was to be organized with the objectives of bringing in new members and bringing in some money. 

The club membership included Dave Rutter, who had organized a race – The Sunbury 5 - and who gave the club the benefit of his experience. The Elmbridge race was to be a five mile event held at time when there was low competition from other events. When the proposed course was measured (with a surveyors wheel!) it proved to be six miles rather than five and on 15thJuly 1984 the Elmbridge 6 took place. Every club member and their relatives were pressed into service and helped to make it a success. In terms of meeting its objectives; it failed to bring in new members but it did bring in money which put the club onto a strong financial footing, something it has enjoyed ever since. The following year the race was extended to 10K and was a sell-out and the club settled into a long period of stability. The chairmanship passed to Terry Knagg, then to Don Elms, then to David Crane.

An interesting episode from the club’s early days was a recruitment drive for more ladies. The Surrey Herald was approached and ran an article under the heading ‘Afraid to jog alone? Come and run with us’. It resulted in an influx of some 40 ladies and though many drifted away quite quickly some stayed for a considerable period of time.