A Brief History of Baildon Runners
As running gained in popularity in the 1980s, Christine Walker (a local Baildon lady) who ran an aerobic class at the Baildon Link Community Centre (BLCC), advertised for “anyone willing to get involved with a running group in Baildon to go to the BLCC on a particular night”. Lil Toulmin who had been going to Christine’s aerobic classes then meets Beryl Hebden, who was already a close friend of Christine and decides to attend the meeting at the BLCC. Neil and Gill McKay, having seen the advert on a lamppost, also turn up with Keith Benson, a Baildon man who liked his sport (he was known to canoe on the canal and run around the town).
Because Christine was a member of Bingley Harriers, the five who attended the initial meeting formed the first ever committee and Christine took a back seat. Neil and Gill, having previously had an involvement with a running club in London, agreed to take on much of the administrative work of the embryonic club. Affiliation to the AAA was obtained, club colours chosen (grey and green to represent the moors), and Baildon Runners were in action. Thursday was chosen as club night, just as it is today. This was the only day the club met in the early days. The philosophy was that there were six other days when runners could train to their hearts’ content, but Thursdays were for running together as a club.
However, at this point, Baildon Runners had no base and runners met in the Ian Clough car park in the centre of town. And, after pounding the local streets, re-grouped for refreshment in ‘The Angel’ public house adjacent to the car park, having had a quick wash down as best they could in the pub toilets. Being so visible in the car park doing warm up and stretching exercises helped attract new members who would often sidle up to the group and join in. In this way membership grew and Baildon Runners gained popularity having a strong emphasis on a good social side to the club.
In 1985, a representative side was put out for the first time to compete in the Calderdale Way Relay, which is a 6 stage cross-country relay around the Halifax area. This brought Baildon Runners into direct involvement with other local clubs.
As membership grew, more runners arrived who looked for a more serious attitude to racing. In 1987 Alan Towriss and Dave Storrie were elected on to the committee with the intention of creating and keeping an interest on the racing front. They formed a team and individual club handicap as well as involving runners in local races.
At the end of 1987 Neil and Gill McKay resigned from the committee because of work commitments as well as the more serious direction the club was taking at the time, as they felt this was not the original intention behind Baildon Runners. However they remained members of the club for a further four years before departing for pastures new.
By 1987 the club had joined a winter league of local clubs such as St. Bede’s AC, Keighley, Ilkley, Horsforth and Skipton with each club staging an event over cross country and this proved to be very popular. At the end of that year Baildon Runners obtained their best position of 33rd in the Calderdale Relay, still modest by many clubs’ standards, but a significant improvement on any previous races.
Due to a major refurbishment of ‘The Angel’ in the late 1980s, members started to use ‘The Malt Shovel’ after their run but it was clear that a more permanent base with proper washing facilities was required. In 1989 Baildon Runners were able to have their own base, courtesy of Baildon Rugby Union Football Club, who offered their clubhouse and enabled runners to have showers and drinks in the bar on Thursdays. The following year the club’s summer championship was formed in order to improve personal performances and encourage members to take part in more local races.
By then on the running calendar were: the summer championship, the winter league, the Dales Run (a very popular Friday evening event in June), the Canal relay, the Leeds Country Way in September and Calderdale Way in December (now takes place in May).
In 1994 the first ever Baildon Boundary Way was organised, an off-road half marathon and has taken place each year since then apart from 2001 when the race could not be held due to the foot and mouth outbreak and 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The race attracts participants from all over the UK and a special award was given in 2004 to the only four runners who had taken part in all 10 events. Incredibly two of those ever presents were from Scotland! The race is over-subscribed each year and early entry is essential. The record stands at nine days for the race limit to be reached following entries going on sale - that was for the 2014 event.
The year is always rounded off by a Christmas bash where awards are presented and members celebrate the end of a good year.
Whilst over the years the club colours have changed (now red and blue), new members have come and gone, many new committees have formed and performed, the emphasis of the club still remains on having a good social side with a strong and competitive spirit. Membership has risen to around 250 and is still rising.
Baildon Runners has grown in popularity amongst competitive runners and now attracts some of the best local talent, resulting in being the West Yorkshire Winter League Champions for three consecutive years, beating 15 other clubs from across the county.
Besides the Thursday main club night, Baildon Runners now also has two other regular training sessions:
Tuesday nights for structured training including hills, fartlek and speedwork (and agility field sessions on alternate Tuesdays in the British Summer Time period); and
Saturday mornings for absolute beginners.
Many of our members meet informally on Sunday mornings for steady off-road long runs (when they aren't racing!)