DON Longley started running for Totley Athletics Club shortly after the club’s foundation over 30 years ago to keep fit when the weather was too bad for rugby.
“Then we suddenly realised where we lived and what we’d got on our doorstep,” he said.
The S17 road runners, following the running boom ignited by the first London Marathons in the early 1980s, soon found their way onto the trails and tracks over Totley Moor and beyond. And now Totley AC, like many of Sheffield’s running clubs, is booming again.
“We’ve got over 270 members now, which is the biggest it’s ever been,” said secretary Steve Terry. “We had about 120 members 18 months ago.”
There are at least a dozen Totley runs every week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with groups from absolute beginners to elite athletes, and Steve proudly noted that at least half of the members are women.
“I was on a nine mile run the other day, and out of a dozen runners 11 of them were women,” said Yvonne Twelvetree.
Yvonne is a member of one of several Totley AC families: husband Geoff and daughter Helen Young are also keen members. Yvonne has been running for many years, with over 20 marathons to her name, and saw no reason to stop after claiming her pension.
“I love the countryside,” she said. “I enjoy being out on the hills, I never get bored of it.”
“I like running because it’s flexible,” said Helen Young. “You don’t need to drive to the gym, you can just catch the moment and fit it in with your family.”
The ease of finding a running group through the internet has helped boost the sport, which Totley members felt was growing even without the extra spur of the 2012 Olympics. In Totley’s case, the large number of runs to suit anyone has brought in new members, and joining up with Totley’s cricket and football teams and the city council led to the opening of a new sports and social club pavilion a year ago, with tea and shower facilities. This has also helped to encourage new runners, said Colin White.
“The new pavilion has become a focus for sport in Totley,” he said.
“There are a whole range of motivations and backgrounds in the club,” said Steve Terry, “from the highest achieving elite runners who will do insane things like ultra marathons and mountain marathons to people who just run for social reasons or to beat their personal best.”
One reason for the growth of interest in running is a desire to save gym subscription money: Steve said the only real expense for a runner is a decent pair of shoes and a top or two.
“I started running on a treadmill in a gym but after a few months I got bored with it,” said Tim Shiles.
“I can’t stand the stuffiness of being in a hot sweaty gym,” said Helen Young. “I’d rather wrap up and get out in the fresh air.”
New runners come to the club for a variety of reasons, said Steve Terry, including new routes, training tips, or often just to find a group of similarly paced runners to talk to on the roads or moors, or at the pub afterwards (a key part of the club’s activities, said Steve).
The idea of running against your own personal best time has led to a different kind of competitiveness in modern running, exemplified by the five kilometre Park Runs, which since 2004 have grown to nearly 200 events, with over a quarter of a million runners, who sign up for a free barcode which gives them entry to any park run anywhere in the world, and enables them to sign on and check their improvements over their park running career.
Sheffield has three weekly park runs at Endcliffe, Graves and Concord parks, with a new one planned at Hillsborough, on February 2.
Potential new runners have nothing to fear, said Steve, an ethos held by most local running clubs. The Totley way is to always keep in touch with newcomers: running back every now and then can add to your training, after all.
“I’d say to people who’ve been thinking about running, the first obstacle is just getting out and doing it, so just come and try, what have you got to lose?” said Stuart Anderson. In time, he added, you might even be ready for the more extreme events, like the 16 mile ‘Exterminator’ in September or the upcoming 10 mile Tigger Tor from the Sheffield Tigers rugby ground.
“I’ll be doing the Tigger Tor for my time,” said Yvonne Twelvetree. “But there will be some rugby players killing themselves when they realise it’s a woman passing them, and when the results are announced later and they see I’m a pensioner. It’s quite satisfying to beat a 23-year-old rugby player.”
More info: www.totleyac.org.uk 0114 2366389; www.parkrun.com.