You might be wondering why I’m just getting around to publishing a reflection on last year, 2 weeks into 2021.
Well, for the last week, I have sat here with a blank screen struggling to do justice to the last 12 months.
2020 was a year like no other. We started it with huge ambitions and an events calendar brimming with races for the year ahead. Those ambitions, goals and plans had to be adapted and in some cases cancelled when the pandemic engulfed the UK.
And whilst these reports are usually light hearted and full of running, it is impossible to ignore the impact Coronavirus has had on Ramsbottom Running Club.
Our membership consists of people from all walks of life and includes doctors, nurses, paramedics, NHS staff and essential workers, many of whom have been right at the forefront of the pandemic response. Some of you reading this report will have suffered from COVID-19 whilst almost all will know someone who has.
Whilst 2020 won’t exactly be remembered for the usual adventures, trips to sunny climes and big race days, for many, it is the year that their running goals were put on hold, what it can be remembered for is the way that the members of this extraordinary club came together and for the way that we have looked out for each other. There is something to be said for that. And as we begin 2021 in a third national lockdown, our club values are more important now than as ever before as we look forwards to the year ahead.
Before the UK was plunged into the first lockdown on 23rd March 2020, the club championships were well underway, Brighda had treated us to a fantastic Burn's Night Ceilidh and for many, marathon training was coming to a climax.
So here are just a few highlights from the previous year...
For three RRC couples, 2020 will certainly be a year to remember for the right reasons.
In January, Isabel Urquhart and Sam Akerstrom were engaged when Sam popped the question whilst the pair were out running in the Lake District. The lovely couple then tied the knot at the beginning of November.
For Brenda and Scotty Webber, 2020 was also a time for celebration as they welcomed Caolan into the world and later in the year, Dean Corrie and Lisa Horbury celebrated the birth of their son Dennis and Kelly Partington brought little Isaac in to the world - congratulations to you all!
On the running front, we started the year apace with Preston parkrun on 11th January and, as is tradition by now, there was a bumper turnout of 95 Rams for our Club Championship curtain raiser. The two-lap course was the perfect place to blow the cobwebs away and saw many of our members recording new Personal Best times. What a way to start the year!
The fun continued on 19th January at the East Lancs Hospice 10k. The support at the finish line was immense and is something that still brings a smile to my face almost a year latest. Driven on by the support, many of you achieved personal bests and placed highly overall.
Two weeks passed before the return of the Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k, a popular event from 2019 which deserved its place in the 2020 Club Championship calendar. The second half of the February double header came in the form of the Standish Hall 10k which took place in hideous weather conditions on a mud slicken course. When the Roddlesworth Roller took place on the 8th March, little did we know that it would be the last club event of the year. 47 members took part and those present once again performed strongly with Paula Pilling and Sam Booth finishing as first female and first male respectively.
By this point, the pandemic was setting in across the UK and it began impacting the running community with the cancellation of both the London and Manchester Marathons in quick succession along with the Wilmslow Half Marathon.
On 23rd March 2020, the national lockdown was announced. We closed our doors and headed inside.
In the weeks after the national lockdown, Ramsbottom Running Club members began to gather virtually from the comfort of our settees for the RRC Tuesday Quiz nights hosted by Rowan and Paul. Afterall, Tuesday night is club night, even if we couldn’t meet in person. The virtual gatherings were popular and were a much needed boost to us all. Never before has Newsround's weekly quiz had so many website hits - with Rowan plundering it for topical quiz questions!
As the year progressed, innovative homemade events became the order of the day. When we could not make the trip over the Yorkshire border to the wonderful Endure24 (endurance relay race), Rebecca Turton and Bev Walker took into their own hands and reformatted the event. This time, Endure24 would be run from our own front doors. A live virtual leaderboard created plenty of tension and set competitive juices flowing. By midnight, the miles were pouring in and WhatsApp groups were aglow. The race was on. A strong showing across the Atlantic from Andrew Giles proved decisive in the end, as Team 4 finished at the top of the leaderboard.
The brief relaxation of restrictions in the summer allowed club nights to resume, albeit in smaller groups of 6. Having waited for this moment for months, it felt somewhat ironic for my own first club night back to consist of meeting for a walk at the Urn in a torrential downpour. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits though, even if we did attract some strange glances along the way. After a prolonged period of endless negative headlines, it was a reason to be cheerful again, being in the company of friends doing what we do best. The runs that followed were welcome catch ups with other members, many of whom we hadn’t seen since March.
Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic put paid to the rescheduled Manchester and London Marathons but the determination of our Autumn marathoners didn’t waiver.
Our very own 'Virtual Marathon Weekend' provided a unique and memorable marathon experience for first time and veteran marathon runners alike. As I noted at the time, the level of support offered to each of the marathoners embodied what this club is all about.
If there was one campaign last year that personified the spirit of RRC it was the incredible 'Ram'dom Acts of Kindness', organised by Catherine Shield.
The idea, to spread a little happiness with small acts of kindness for other members of our running community, quickly caught on.
Another brilliant idea came in the shape of the RRC Rock. Moving between secret locations identified only with a single photograph, the rock has proved to be an item of intrigue and a motivation to discover new paths!
118 Rams took part in the last club event of the year, the 2020 Challenge.
Spanning 3 months, teams were challenged to run 2020km each by the end of 2020. Norfolk and Chance emerged the victors with 2020 Vision and Easier Said Than Done making up the top 3. The event was enormously popular with 19 teams taking part, in total, we covered a colossal 55,565.05km or 1.39 times around the world. Andrew Giles, Andrew Norman, Nigel Hartley and Lesley Heyes surpassed 1,000km each. Well done to everyone on a brilliant achievement. Something to be proud of as we mark the end of this strange 12 months.
In a year like no other, so much has happened to bring club members closer together. (Whoa, careful, 2 metres remember!) Whilst it is inevitable that I have missed some highlights from the last 12 months, I really hope that this report has rekindled some fond memories for you all.
I have known for a long time that this club is about much more than running. Kindness, belonging and friendship take centre stage here.
In a difficult year, which few of us could have foreseen last January, this club has risen to the challenge. If you are in need of some positivity heading into 2021, I recommend reading the responses to Gemma Duffy's recent Facebook post where some of you have shared your ambitions for the year ahead. The start of last year, where we gathered in droves to celebrate the simple joy of running as club mates seems like a long time ago.
2020 was a difficult year, yet we achieved so much. With news of the vaccines beginning to filter through, there is hope that 2021 will be a brighter year. I know I speak for a lot of members when I say that the first run back as a group is highly anticipated. I, for one, can’t wait.