MEMBERS of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers have been in celebration mode with the new that the club has won two awards.

It was named running club of the year in Yorkshire and Humberside, by England Athletics, while Rob Burn, who set up a series of virtual races when members were unable to meet due to the pandemic, won the award for innovation.

The virtual races took place over a particular distance, with members running from their front doors and timing themselves. Results were published in order of recorded finishing times.

When Covid restrictions became a bit more flexible, set routes were arranged for those within the permitted travel distance, at any time over four days and points were awarded in the club championship as in more normal times.

Rob designed and measured most of these routes and members were taken outside their comfort zone at times, on routes, mostly off road, they hadn't previously used. The nature of the run was guided by the previous years' list of championship races, and if the race was a road race, Rob would find an out and back route which could be run on footpaths alongside roads. The London Marathon, for instance, was four times out and back from Lidl to Sandhutton.

The races attracted large numbers of members, and guests were invited to take part. Sometimes, almost 100 runners were involved, and a prize draw at the end was an extra stimulus. Several of these guest runners have since joined as members, and club numbers have actually increased as a result from 135 to 205 in one year.

Training sessions are also innovative, with male and some female coaches following a plan largely laid out by Rob.

Most club sessions these days take place at the new track at Sowerby Gateway, which was opened at the start of the pandemic to allow local people to go for fresh air and exercise. Sessions are organised in groups after a whole club warm up, which enables members to meet up and get to know one another.

Some members need extra support to train and this is freely given, particularly, at different times, by club chairman Helen Ashworth, Dave Baker and Duncan Fothergill to name but a few.

A time trial is organised each month, and handicaps based on these times take place three times a year, with prizes and communal supper.

The award ceremony took place virtually, and a few members gathered in the chairman's home to be at the Zoom presentation. This was available to see, in parts, by the wonders of modern technology, on Facebook and on the club chat app – another feature which has allowed members to keep in touch and have a view. The actual physical presentation will take place at a club session in the not too distant future.