Welcome to the latest article in our Club in Focus occasional series as we look at clubs across the length and breadth of Scotland and assess their growth and development in various circumstances.
Here, we are looking to Bellahouston Harriers following on from their 125th Anniversary celebrations late in 2017. Club member Stuart Rennie reports with a version of this having appeared in the last PB magazine . . .
Since the club’s foundation, the distinctive vest of Bellahouston Harriers has been worn by Olympians, international athletes and Scottish record holders.
It has crossed the line first in the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay and was at the forefront of a ‘golden age’ of Scottish marathon running in the 1980s.
However, for a time, one of Scotland’s oldest running clubs was at risk of extinction. Just a decade ago, members could consider themselves fortunate to see more than a handful of others on club training nights. Forget competing at the sharp end of district and national competitions; Bellahouston Harriers was doing well to field a single team.
When the latest generation of members came together to celebrate 125 years of the Harriers on a crisp and sunny Sunday morning last November, though, they did so with the club in a healthy state and fast rediscovering its confidence.
That 125th anniversary run – a multi-terrain ‘paper chase’ linking three Glasgow parks – was a nod to the club’s first known event.
On 5 November 1892, members raced across Glasgow’s southside following a route marked by paper dropped by two ‘trail layers’ who had set off in advance. The five-mile handicap was recorded at the time by the Glasgow Herald which described a thrilling pursuit of the trail by members who exchanged the lead several times.
Like then, today’s members set off in packs, hunting down the trail that unofficial club historian Iain Morrison had earlier laid using flour and chalk.
In following the route, members crossed grassy fields in Bellahouston Park, traversed the muddy trails of Pollok Park, and skipped over leafy pavements. Once in Queen’s Park, runners were free to abandon their group and make a solo break for the line.
As the heat rose from exhausted bodies gathered at the finish, members were able to reflect on a fun and fitting tribute to the club’s roots.
Now the club is looking forward. There are plans to expand the fledgling junior section, grow the club’s coaching team and modernise the way the club operates.
Some of the building blocks are already in place – an expanding membership and new constitution means the club is well-placed to grow.
The club’s flagship event – the Brian Goodwin 10k – is a hugely popular event. Runners are attracted from far and wide by the flat and fast course, the chance to run in beautiful Pollok Park on a summer evening and the prospect of a free beer and burger at the finish line!
However, Bellahouston Harriers is not just a club for athletes interested in road racing. People with an eclectic range of running ambitions are welcomed on training nights.
The club supports members pursuing PBs on the track, and has a cohort of marathon regulars – including three who have a realistic chance of breaking the 2.30 barrier in the next year or two. It also boasts a number of ‘ultra’ runners who have completed the West Highland Way race.
The membership spans from social runners and prolific parkrunners to seasoned competitors hunting medals for themselves and the club.
As a Harriers club, competing at cross country championships remains a central focus. In recent times, there has been a major spike in the number of Bellahouston Harriers pulling on the vest at cross country events, reflecting the general trend for record entry levels seen across Scotland.
At last year’s Renfrewshire Championships, approximately half of the women competing were sporting the light blue Saltire of the Harriers, while the club believes it had more finishers in total across the senior male and female races than any other club in the country at December’s West District Cross Country Championships.
However, while increased participation reflects a membership enthused by competitive athletics, Bellahouston Harriers is not just there to make up the numbers.
The last decade has seen improving results for the club. The women’s team has regularly taken home Masters medals, while the men’s team recorded top 10 finishes at both the National XC at Falkirk and National Road Relay Championships in Livingston in 2017 – the best results for the club for 30 years.
More recently, there was individual success for the club’s Jack Arnold in finishing second at the Renfrewshire Road Race Championships.
Beyond participation and performance, Bellahouston Harriers prides itself on being a welcome and inclusive club. Individual successes are celebrated collectively and, with the absence of elitism, there is plenty of opportunity for members of all backgrounds to mix through its thriving social scene.
As the club moves further into its 126th year, Bellahouston Harriers is a happy club inspired by its rich history and energised about its future prospects.