The Green Heart Runners social running club turns one on 4 June, exactly one year since our inaugural Tuesday evening run-meet took place with myself and two trusting souls to whom I remain indebted for their support. That day, as I recall, it threw it down with rain and had they not turned up it would have been a demoralising false-start from which to bounce back from. But they did, it was fun, and since then the Green Heart Runners have not looked back.
In the beginning there was just me, an empty Twitter feed and a website. Following that first run-meet, over the first few months we expanded from an average of three to around eight runners. As the numbers grew the nights drew in, and we descended into darkness on our Tuesday evening runs, which meant we had to adapt our routes and our routines accordingly.
We kept growing throughout October and November and then in December, placed a little advert in the University internal newsletter encouraging new members in the new year. This had the effect of rapidly increasing our average number of runners to over twenty per run-meet, which happily (and not entirely by chance) coincided with Jess becoming a qualified run leader to help us ensure we had a safe run leader to runner ratio as we grew.
Jess’ enthusiasm, drive, organisational abilities and generosity of time has been a massive reason why our club has flourished over the past few months – thank you, this club wouldn’t be what it is without your support.
More people joined us in February, a month where we hit a peak of 30 runners on a single run-meet – impressive given that we were in the darkest and coldest month yet. It was also in February that we launched our logo and visible identity and teamed up with a company to enable members to order their own GHR-branded t-shirts, another important milestone in our fledgling club’s early months.
In early March we decided we wanted to grow still further and managed to leverage funding from within and beyond the University, to contribute to the cost of training up three more Run Leaders. In this month also, members started actively registering for a half marathon event in Sutton Coldfield, on 19 April – another milestone with runners entering as members of Green Heart Runners for the first time.
Then, COVID-19 struck. I was pretty devastated to have to email everyone on the morning of Tuesday 17 March to say that the run-meets were cancelled until further notice. It seemed at that moment, that everything would need to be put on hold, and that our first race wouldn’t be happening any time soon
How wrong I was! We quickly set-up a Facebook page for our members, membership continued (and continues) to grow with people wanting to join a virtual running community whilst partaking on a solo basis. Then, between a few us we decided that we should do something on 19 April as a club in lieu of not being able to run our first race. We chose a fantastic charity (B30 Foodbank), ran solo and virtually, and raised over £3,500 – a signature achievement in the life of our young club and one which every member was proud of and for which we received huge support from family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers.
Now we remain very active, virtually of course, with with photo competitions, running challenges, group chat and support. The most recent development is online circuit classes which can be done in their entirety or form part of the warm-up ahead of a Tuesday night run.
And so here we are, on the cusp of our first birthday and ready to celebrate and reflect on our achievements.
The biggest achievement for me isn’t the miles we’ve run, the fitness we’ve gained or the money we have raised. These are wonderful by-products of the most significant achievement, which is developing a supportive and friendly running community which all members have collectively created and cherish. This is what sustains us during these lock down and physically distancing months, and is the positive energy driving the innovation and creative ideas which has seen us develop as a club. This, I sincerely hope, will be the reason we will continue to move forward, welcome more people, develop as a vehicle for fitness, fun and community spirit in and around the beautiful Green Heart, on the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus, from which we take our name.
Happy Birthday to us all!