Club Feature: Lliswerry Runners
Co-founder, John Hill (who is still an active member at the age of 70) explains:
We’ve always encouraged members to achieve to their best abilities. We’re so proud when the club does well in competition but it’s all about the enjoyment of participation.
When membership dropped to 37 in 2003 however, it was necessary for the club to rethink how it was operated. Not only was there a concerted recruitment drive but training sessions on the track were reinstated at the club, which were safer and more secure for female members. The lean time also necessitated the launch of the website & social media to help recruit membership.
Fast forward to 2011, and the transformation of the club followed the creation of the Newport parkrun and the Junior parkrun a few years later. In 2017 the club created Riverfront parkrun in collaboration with Newport Live - which is the charitable trust that provides the city’s sports & leisure facilities.
Lliswerry's hard work and smart transformation has paid off as the club membership now stands at over 500! This includes a junior section of more than 80 members from the age of 4 years upwards with many new members arriving and interest growing since the pandemic.
And as the membership has grown, so have the achievements at club level. Lliswerry are proud to regularly top local leagues and they were the winners of Welsh Athletics’ virtual mixed team club competition during lockdown, going on to represent Wales in the home nations equivalent. At individual level, the club supplies members for East Wales teams and has some Welsh vests too.
Lliswerry are quick to highlight that not only did the set up of parkrun across the city boost membership but it helped trigger the mindset change towards volunteering and support to the wider community. Not only do the club regularly organise activities for non members, there are day-time running groups aimed at retirees, Couch to 5k programmes for beginners and they have even collaborated with Newport MIND.
Links with local charities have become the norm. The club’s annual “Lliswerry 8” race has raised thousands of pounds for good causes and every year the club supports St David’s Hospice Foundation by managing the start & finish of the Newport Half Marathon.
To preserve and sustain the positive environment, a panel of members updated the club’s Constitution to include the “Club Values”. Together with an annual survey, everything the club becomes involved with, is guided by the members themselves. An example of this is the creation of the “Inclusion Officer” as a key role on the Club’s Committee to drive inclusivity & diversity.
An environmental conscience has also developed significantly in recent years. The club has been engaged in litter picks on training & race routes. This generates a strong sense of pride in the organisation.
They go further than this though...
The willingness of club volunteers has been extended further recently as club members have been helping in the relief effort for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, assisting the “Women of Newport” group sorting donations of food, clothing & essentials.
And again, Lliswerry Runners are looking at how to provide help within the world right now, with the support of Newport Live, the club is organising a 24 hour track session to raise funds for the various charities under DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee) who are engaged with helping the millions of displaced Ukrainian people.
Club Chair, Chris Davies explained:
I’m sure we can do more but we can start with our 24 hour #run4ukraine. Hopefully other clubs will follow.
Interium Head of Development & Participation at Welsh Athletics and Lliswerry Member, Hannah Pretty is quick to discuss how fundermental Lliswerry's development and transformation of the club has had such a positive impact on the environment it has created:
It’s fantastic to see a club that takes so much pride in its ethos and it’s members, and works hard to create a positive environment for everyone involved – from joggers to runners, coaches and all the volunteers. The journey the club have been on since 2003 is remarkable and to see the club grow, not only in junior & senior membership, but in its community presence and partnerships is inspiring.
To find out more about Lliswerry Runners and how you can get involved visit their website here.