Our club had its beginnings in 1983 when a group of social workers from the Lansdowne Children’s Centre, eager to get fit for the local fun run, formed the Lansdowne Striders. The following year in September 1984 a public meeting brought about a merger of the Lansdowne Striders and Hailsham AC to form Hailsham Harriers. Subscriptions at the time were £5 for seniors and £1 for juniors and the first annual dinner was held at the Horshoe Inn on Saturday 9th February 1985. Karen Bowler was the first club secretary and one of her first jobs was to acquire club vests. She was in luck when a club from the north, Wigan Harriers had just returned a batch of vests to the suppliers. Their constitution stated that their black vest had a red diagonal stripe from left to right but the suppliers had printed the stripe the wrong way so the newly formed Hailsham Harriers acquired the vests at a knock down price.
I think it’s fair to say that the driving force in those early days and right into the millennium was Derek Wells. He was appointed club coach in 1984 but quickly became president and remained so up until quite recently. His words and influence were both humorous and prophetic and each year he would present the annual awards and it was from him I got my inspiration.
Each year we host the John Faulds Hellingly 10k and I would like to say a quick word about John. John Faulds joined the club in 1989 and was club secretary for nine years from 1989 to 1998. John was a Scotsman who had an innate charm and a ready smile and his knowledge of athletics was second to none. He was also a dedicated coach and with Julie Chicken would coach the juniors and seniors twice weekly for many a year. John’s passion was for the Hellingly 10k and so it was only fitting that when John was taken from us on 5 May 2002 that we should rename our club event 'The John Faulds Hellingly 10k' for as the author Adam Montgomery said 'Nothing is really lost to us as long as we remember it'.
Within the last 25 years our main honours are with the Sussex Road Running Grand Prix. We have won the overall title more times than any other club in Sussex, a record seven times, in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000 & 2006. We have had five different lady champions in this competition, Libby Jones, Karen Bowler, Samantha Baines, Gill Wheeler and Samantha Alvarez. We have also won the local East Sussex X-C League seven times and the individual honours in this competition are too numerous to mention.
We have also had great success in what must be the club's favourite event, the South Downs Relay. We have dominated this event at different levels right throughout its history. The veteran team won the event seven times and won it six years in a row from 1992 to 1997. The B team event has been won by the club five times. It was only in 2007 when we first put in a ladies team but since then the ladies have won it four times most recently last year in 2013. In 2009 all three teams entered came back with medals, both the Ladies and B team came back with gold in their categories and the A team won silver, narrowly missing out on overall victory. But its not all about winning medals, I have personally took part in the SDR for 15 years and enjoyed every one, but I think 2009 was the most joyous occasion I have witnessed at the club.
If I may again quote the great man Ruffell, when writing the soap opera Twelfth Night “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them”. I would like to give a mention to some of the Harriers greats in the last 30 years. Ben Warren became the club’s first men’s senior county cross country champion in 2006 and again in 2010. He was only prevented from winning a triple crown in 2011 when he was pipped by fellow Harrier Todd Leckie. Todd has become a fine triathlete and in 2012 was on the verge of being picked for the GB Olympic triathlon team and he holds the men’s 10k record when in 2012 he ran the Chichester 10k in 30.06. Craig Ivemy became the first Harrier to represent his country in both cross country and track events and in 2004 was top of the national junior rankings for both 3,000m and 5,000m. We have a long distance legend with us tonight, Peter Daws who holds the fastest club marathon time of 2 hours 37 minutes and his veteran record was only 2 minutes slower at 2 hours 39 minutes. Gill Wheeler has to be mentioned for her marvellous achievements. On the cross country circuit in 2007 she won a unique treble. She became the champion of the East Sussex League, the Sussex County Cross Country League and became the club’s first ladies senior county cross country champion.
The progress and enjoyment of our club would not be possible without a strong administration. I have already mentioned a few names from the early years but would also like to give huge credit to the following:-Colin Burgess has been Chairman since 1997 and there is no doubt in my mind that the club is where it is today because of his superb leadership. We hope he will continue to lead us for many more years. Lesley Underdown, organised this event for us tonight and we are forever in her debt as she goes about her business so efficiently as club Secretary. Lesley is standing down in September and I would like to publically to say a big thank you to her for all her monumental hard work and the committee will undoubtedly miss her. An athletic club can’t run without coaches and we have one of the best. For years now Julie Chicken has been turning up to Tuesday and Thursday training nights to take the juniors and seniors through our paces. She has been doing this ever since I joined the club in the mid nineties and presumably long before that. She is one of the most dedicated individuals I have ever come across and on behalf of us all Julie I would like to present you with just a small token of our heartfelt thanks. And last but certainly not least, Norman Harris is also a valued coach, but he also our president and there is no one better equipped than he to guide us through the next 30 years.
And now for our annual awards. Let us take a gentle jog to the first award tonight which is for the most improved Harrier of the last 12 months. Those considered were the jocular, the joyous Jacqui Lane. The arresting, the arousing Alan Thornton and the ardent, the admirable Alan Hide. The winner is someone who has to be applauded for turning out in what seems to be every event in this last year whether it be road, cross country or the track. She has excelled in cross country turning out for every race in both the Sussex x-c league and the East Sussex league and she was part of the marvellous O35 team that won gold medals at the veteran cross country championships. I’ll give you an example of how she’s improved, at the Hastings half marathon last year she ran 1.43.29 and only a few weeks ago she ran the same event in 1.32.59 over ten minutes faster. Ladies and gentlemen let your jaws plummet for our most improved harrier the auspicious, the awe-inspiring, Allissa Ellis.
Let us twerk our way to the next award for the trier of the year aptly named in memory of our friend John Faulds. Some consider, myself included, this to be the most important award of the night and those considered were the still jocular, the still joyous Jacqui Lane. The nimble, the noble Nina Rumsey and the profound, the proliferate Peter Drake. I am delighted with the winner as she is the epitome of what this award is all about. She is strong and determined and apparently asks for extra training at Maria’s classes, such is her commitment. She was unsure about taking part in the Harrier’s Sunday training runs on the downs but her fortitude saw her through and now she is a regular on the runs. Throw off the shackles of conformity and unrestrain your restraints as you welcome this year’s trier of the year. Ladies and gents I give you the perfect, the praiseworthy, Pat Hide.
I am delighted that our club has attracted so many new members in the last year. Three of them have been put forward for the award for the most promising newcomer. We have for third time tonight she’s still jocular, she’s still joyous Jaqui Lane and the perceptive, the pioneering Paul Henderson. But the winner is someone who didn’t think he would take to running but has been impressed by the support he has been given by his fellow Harriers. He has been a regular in the team this year at the East Sussex cross-country league meetings and he is the ample, the audacious Adam Davies.
We now turn to the best athletic performance. The committee, in their wisdom, have decided to now present two awards for this category, the first will be the traditional award for an individual performance, the Derek Wells trophy, and their will now be a second award for the best team performance to be called the Paul Eccles legends award. In the individual category those considered were Gary Judges for winning the Hastings 5 mile race last May in 28 minutes and 11 seconds. Alan Thornton for his performance in the Brighton marathon last year in a time of 3 hours and 5 minutes, Alan is running in the same event tomorrow let’s hope he can break the magical three hour barrier. The winner of this year’s Best Athletic Performance award is someone who has been on an incredible upward trajectory ever since she joined the Club and arguably is still to hit her peak. A quiet person by nature, we have seen her grow in confidence and stature and she is now a formidable competitor who lets her performances 'do the talking'. Despite suffering a few niggling injuries, her continuous improvement throughout the year has delivered a significant haul of medals including team gold's for the Sussex Road Relays and the South Downs Relay, as well as individual victories for the Haywards Heath 10 (in a PB of just over 1hr7mins) the Milland race and the Club Track Grand Prix. There were also some impressive individual wins during the Vets Track league across a range of distances from 100m through to 1mile! Most notably she ran the 800m in 2mins 28secs breaking the Club record along the way. However, the outstanding performance worthy of this award came at the Masters Cross Country championships at Lancing in January where she was crowned Sussex O45 champion and finished an impressive second place overall, only 20secs behind the leader in 27mins55secs. I am sure that you will all agree that she is a very worthy winner of this year’s award! It is of course the outstanding, the overpowering Olivia Webb.
The new award for the best athletic performance by a team was dominated by our outstanding ladies team. Considered were the victorious 2013 South Downs Relay team of Allissa Ellis, Jacqui Lane, Emma Richards, Juliette Sukoco, Annette Feakes and Olivia Webb. Also mentioned were the Ladies Vets league winning team, too numerous to mention! But the winners of the award were the over 35 team ladies team at the Sussex Masters cross country championships. They finished 2nd 3rd and 6th in the race thus ensuring themselves gold medals and they were Sam Alvarez, Sue Fry and Allissa Ellis.
There are two awards for our junior members. The award for the most improved junior went to Jenny Wainwright. Jenny has really improved since she came to the club last summer. Back then she could barely jog 400m but Jenny persevered and improved so much is now trying the senior sessions. I am delighted to say she is with us tonight. The senior coach’s junior award has gone to Reece Hinton. Reece is a very sporty little boy who lends his hand to most sports but mainly running and rugby. Reece always gives 100% at whatever he’s doing. He ran the mile at Brighton in 7.59 last year and he is hoping to beat that this year. In fact, hot off the press, I believe he ran 7.30 today!
The Carol Russell Trophy is presented each year to the lady who runs the fastest 10k of the preceding year. At the Horsham 10k back in May 2013 in a time of 38.59 Sue Fry won the ladies race by a clear margin as the 2nd placed female came home nearly 3 minutes behind.
Each year we hold our summer track grand prix series. The best six scores from seven races involved distances ranging from 5,000m to 100m. The series was a great success with more and more people participating each year. The final results were as follows:- Ladies: 3rd Kelly Tattam 109 2nd Allisa Ellis 113 1st Olivia Webb 120 points. Men: Joint 2nd place Martin Bell and Colin Burgess 83 1st Huw Jones 116.
The next two awards are connected with our annual event the John Faulds Hellingly 10k. The first award is for the most improved time and this year saw an improved time of 7 minutes 26 seconds. This person completed the 2012 race in 73.31 and in 2013 her time was 66.05. Hollow and shout as loud as you like for the winner is the ludicrously luscious, the lustfully lustrous and the lovingly luxurious Lesley Underdown.
The John Faulds Hellingly 10k is also the club’s 10k championship. In 3rd place in a time of 40.09 was Sue Fry. In 2nd place was Alan Thornton in a time of 39.47. This year we hosted the Sussex championships and so for our champion Gary Judges to come 8th in a time of 36.04 was a fine achievement.
An award we introduced last year is probably the most interesting of all. It is the award for the best age graded result. Age grading is a way of putting all race participants on a level playing field and lets you compare your race times to those of different runners, as well as to the standard for your age and gender. Some of the top performances included Liz Lumber, Steve Gillett, Fiona Bugler and me! But the top three performances were in third place, Frances Delves 83% for running the Bexhill 10k in 47m35s. Olivia Webb 84% for running the 400m in 65.9 seconds on the track at the Vets league. Top of the age grading was Gary Judges 85% for running the Parkrun, which is 5k in 16 minutes and 53 seconds.
Before I disrobe and plunge myself into my bath of asses milk there is just one last award I must give out and this is for the award for the Harrier’s Runner’s Runner. Many delights have we tasted tonight but the final award is the most succulent of all. It is the award that you vote for to choose who has done most for the club. The winner has polled a massive 45% of the vote which includes my own vote. I voted for him for two things, firstly his running performance. Like Allissa he seems to have turned out for the club in every race whether it is road or cross-country and his performances improve all the time for I have mentioned him constantly throughout my speech. Secondly I voted for his enthusiasm, he organises training runs and can be seen at all social events with his charm and ready wit. No I didn’t vote for myself, the winner of the Clifford Lowen Trophy is Alan Thornton.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are almost at an end. Before we gallop off it would be remiss of me not to receive into my heaving bosom for what looks like the last time my friend and cohort Lesley Underdown. May I say on behalf of us all a monstrously big thank you for organising not only tonight but also all the award nights in the past, everyone has been a gem.
And that, my friends was our annual awards. If you haven’t won anything just remember that by wearing the red and black you are all winners. That doesn't mean you have to be number one or be the best, you just have to do your best. Andy Ruffell tells us very wisely 'It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves'. Adieu my friends and may your enjoyment continue long into the night and if I can leave you with one last quote from the great literary genius that is Andy Ruffell when he wrote his sitcom Romeo & Juliet 'Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I may say good night till it be morrow'. Here’s to the next 30 years, the best is yet to come!