Lewes Athletic Club is volunteer-run and is based behind the Leisure Centre – on the all-weather track there. The club exists for the community and caters for all abilities and ages.
“Right from the very beginning, ‘community’ was an integral part of the DNA of the club” Peter Masters (pictured), the Club Chairman, tells me. “Back in 1984, when we started with three or four founder members we faced a choice: community approach, or an ‘elite’ approach? Community won hands down. We started the club because we saw a community need; and every effort since has been made to keep on meeting it.”
Any adult can turn up for a chat and try-out at 7pm any Tuesday or Thursday, or 10am on Saturdays. Juniors need to sign up via the club’s website. The club has a beginners’ 10-week course called ‘Run Lewes’. The idea is to get you running for about half an hour nonstop, and ultimately, to run 5km. Plus, to have some fun! The next course starts in February. Tempted? Check out the website.
“Over the years,” says Peter, “the club raised all the money to pay for and construct the Lewes community athletics track that was opened in 2000; then, all the money to resurface the track about three years ago; and just recently, we’ve raised the money to replace the floodlighting. All of this has been about the club making a real contribution towards the community of Lewes and the wider area. We saw that an all-weather athletics track and an athletics club were missing! We provided both.”
And yes, people came. And still they come, literally, in their thousands.
“The track has over 45,000 individual uses in a year and is used by all the local and Ouse Valley primary schools, East Sussex College, Priory School, the two universities, the general public, other clubs and groups and so on”, explains Peter.
“We put on a range of athletic, recreational and fitness type events for the local community: the Easter Monday Fun Run, the Downland Runs in October, and other events.” The club marks out and organises the primary school cross country races, as well as helping schools raise money by lending them all the equipment they need to put on fund-raising ‘fun run’ type events. “One of the Lewes Bonfire Societies also borrowed our equipment for a similar event”, he adds.
The club now has over 450 members with 250 junior members in the Lewes AC Academy. As well as putting on beginners’ courses, the club is part of the England Athletics initiative called ‘Run & Talk.’ This is organised in conjunction with mental health charity Mind. “It encourages people to enjoy the sociability of running, and highlights that running is good for mental and emotional wellbeing”, Peter says.
“The athletics club is open to anyone to join, whatever ability and age. Regrettably, we do have a waiting list for juniors just now – but check out the website to keep updated. Anyone and everyone is welcome.”
Photo © Edward Reeves