ONE of the North-East’s oldest clubs, Darlington Harriers, has a proud record of helping athletes of all levels and ages make the most of their abilities. There have been a sprinkling of internationals over the years and the club punch above their weight in regional competitions, backed up by their highly regarded coaching team. Founded in 1891, the club has surpassed its 125th anniversary and, at more than 350, its membership is at its highest for a long time. Three Olympic athletes have hailed from Darlington Harriers – George Butterfield, who ran the world’s fastest mile in 1906 and competed in the 1908 London Games over 800m and 1500m, R.L Hawley in London in 1948 and Joyce Grieveson, an 400m silver medallist at the 1962 European Championships who also competed at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Other greats such as Max Coleby who along with Brendan Fosters team started the Great North Run, Bill Wylie a former Scottish Steeple Chaser, Fred Alsop former GB Long and Triple Jumper as well as Charlie Spedding along with his brother Michael have all graced the club over the years as well as many other superb athletes.
More recently, the club nurtured 2012 national indoor 1500m champion Lewis Moses, just one of many talented young athletes developed through Darlington’s junior programme at their base at Eastbourne Sports Complex. The Harriers moved to the eight-lane track almost 15 years ago and on club nights it is packed with training groups of all ages. Their oldest and longest-serving member is 82-year-old Ian Barnes, the club’s vice chairman, who is a former European M65 1500m champion and who still regularly represents England at British Masters cross-country events. He was also the inspiration behind Darlington’s booming parkrun, which regularly attracts more than 300 runners on Saturday mornings. Ian has also broke the 1 mile V80 National record this year proving there is life in the old dog yet. Phil Teece, Sue Phillips, Linda Noble, Val Clarke along with Ian have also been called up to represent their country based on current age grading performances.
Former club president Robin Rutherford, meanwhile, is the North East Counties Athletics Association, who have also recognised him for his services to coaching. Ian Morris recently succeeded Dan Hunter as chairman and is determined to carry on the good work that has seen an upsurge in membership whilst Paul Cook has taken on the Club Development officer position and who was nominated for Services to Sport for over 17 years old in Darlington 2017. The club has evolved over the last 2-3 years with a large uptake of senior runners of various age and ability all buying in to the team approach. Claire Rutter has come on board as Junior Co-ordinator which has helped ensure parents have a go to person with questions or concerns. We have also seen Thomas Andrews and Adam Mitchell step up to Coach Co-ordinators sharing the role from Andy Woodward, a sprint and Strength & Conditioning coach, who unfortunately left us for pastures new along with another outstanding coach in Tim Dredge who has been working with 10 county champions, 2 inter-county champions, 3 forces national champions as well as other NECAA medal winners and the dozens of children he has made time for. Both Andy and Tim will be sadly missed around the club, will be welcomed back anytime.
The club have a strong presence in the North Yorkshire and South Durham (NYSD) cross country and track and field leagues, regularly hosting summer and winter events. In recent years the club’s juniors have fared particularly well in the North-East championships, with the under-13 girls lifting several titles, and in 2017 their haul of track and field medals was the largest for some time. Two junior athletes, including the inspirational Kieran Maxwell who sadly passed away in 2017 and Sam Griffin, have been on national development programmers and four others – Lucy-Erin Hunter, Ryan Stacey, Layla Bell, as well as Sam Griffin – on regional development initiatives. The senior Track & Field team have joined forces with Chester-Le-Street as a composite team and currently sit top of their division aiming for promotion. The club has also seen an uptake of ultra-running to the club with Heather Ford a regular on the podium with Michael King, Matthew Capsey, Mark Milner, Dave Mckenna and Peter Foulds regulars on the scene
In 2015, the club celebrated its largest ever representation in the English Schools cross-country and track & field championships. The club has high hopes that the seniors can emulate their success at some stage, with their membership quadrupling, and the club is now able to field as many as 10 teams in regional relay events. This journey started over a quiet drink with Paul Cook and then chairman Martin Phillips who agreed a plan to revolutionise the club. A mere 12 senior runners had turned out for the club at the Darlington 10k in 2014 which was disappointing for the club on home turf. In 2016 129 harriers took to the start line at the same race and 166 seniors in 2017. A beginners’ group is now in full swing with many new developments including the launch of a new club website, weekly newsletters, new kit and merchandise as well as a team app all occurring over the last 2-3 years. The clubs summer Pitstop 10km at Croft Motor Circuit, just outside the town, has become a popular fixture on the local road calendar with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson a regular competitor over the years and Paul Cook has introduced two new club races a 10 mile and 20 mile race at South Park which have been popular since their introduction in the Autumn of 2016
But before we look to the now, lets take a look back through the archives to see what was happening at the club starting back pre 1900's to the formation of the club.
The club would like to say a big Thank you to Darlington Library for their support in supplying some of the archives for this site.