Restrictions on outdoor exercise have been slightly relaxed since last week and while the ‘rule of six’ applies to households mixing in outdoor spaces, for those taking part in organised sport, larger groups are allowed as long as social distancing is exercised.
For Chichester Runners & AC, group training was paused over the winter in accordance with Government restrictions and England Athletics advice. This allowed the club to plan and reorganise for the return to training in 2021.
Keith Akerman is head coach at the club but he was conscious that with smaller groups likely to be required for some time, the club needed many run leaders to ensure sessions continued and created capacity for new members to join.
The club have more than 500 members of all ages from pre-teens to the over-80s but more members are encouraged to join to enjoy the running in locations across the picturesque Chichester area.
Akerman and his group of run leaders have developed a series of different training sessions for all adult runners, including those who are new or returning to exercise. The groups are restricted to a maximum of 12 people and social distancing is always maintained.
Akerman said “We use lots of different locations around Chichester for our training. Sometimes it is laps of a park, or repetitions on a hill, or a trail run in a beautiful area.
“For those who want to improve and to compete there is encouragement and advice but for those who just want to feel fit and to socialise when Covid restrictions allow, then our club is fantastic.
On the first evening after restrictions were relaxed, 80 Chichester runners took part in training sessions in locations which allowed social distancing, led by Akerman and run leaders Vicky Balandis, Helen Wilkins, Amanda Godfrey, Lorna Cowan, Mike Moorcraft, Richard Miles, Nadia Anderson, Charles Rodmell, Lynette Woodward, Sasha Vargin, Jon Grave, Tom Blaylock and Jon McElhill.
Forty-eight hours later, 80 members took part in a trail run organised by Peter Shaw at West Stoke, with staggered starting times over a two-hour period which enabled runners to keep their distance from each other and avoid bunching.
After the return to training, members were full of praise for the excellent management.
Donna Leleu said: “Having not run at all since last October I have to admit to being very nervous but I needn’t have worried… how lovely to be back.”
Michelle Daniel was grateful to the run leaders: “I wasn’t very keen on returning to training because of a lack of fitness. So glad I did though. Great session which I really enjoyed! Training in a group makes so much difference.”
Training sessions for juniors are organised separately with coaches Andy Hall and Helen Dean leading. 75 junior athletes who enjoyed the return to training on the first evening, suggesting they were very eager to return to track and field.
Club chairman McElhill said “We are a small club with growing ambitions. If anyone of any age is interested in joining, you can come along to some tester sessions to see how you enjoy it. Contact us via the club website Chichester-Runners.org.”