Melton Running Club: The story behind a runaway success
Monday evenings are traditionally drab, uninspiring affairs, the end of a dreaded first day of the working and school week, and the precursor to four more shackled days.
But drive or walk around Melton between 6.30pm and 7.30pm each week, and you’ll see hundreds of fluorescent figures lighting up the winter gloom.
While many grassroots sports club struggle to keep their heads above water, Melton Running Club has become a huge success story since its formation just four years ago.
Of course, it helps that it’s free to join and the sport itself is cheap compared to many other forms of exercise.
Once you’ve shelled out on a decent pair of running shoes and a few bits of kit you’ll get months and months of exercise, completely gratis.
Well over 100 runners turn up, on average, outside the Melton Council offices every Monday, and more than 200 joined its fourth birthday run in January.
The club was formed by Rob Beers, a mental health ambassador for England Athletics, who was partly inspired to start the group by his own battles with a depressive-related illness.
He is far from alone; many runners use the activity as an effective tool to combat stress and depression.
“We believe running and supportive running helps with emotional wellbeing,” said Rob.
“We have had people run with us who have had secondary mental health issues, diabetes, anorexia, learning disability and visual impairment; we will do our best to help with any barrier to participation.”
In 2015, Melton Running Club was voted East Midlands Run England group of the year, and the following year Rob was crowned Run England Group Leader of the Year at the Regional England Athletics Awards.
The club remains one of the largest and most successful Run England groups in the UK, held together by a committed group of run leaders, and the boom led to the launch of a second weekly session this year, in Asfordby.
Within two months, the Wednesday evening outings are already attracting 40-plus runners to the parish hall.
“We consider ourselves a pathway running club rather than just a beginners group as our runners encompass many levels and experience,” Rob added.
“Whether it’s a walk-run, recovery run, social jog, tempo run or PB, there is a place with us without any pressure.
“We actively promote a non-judgmental culture.”
To encourage beginners, there are Couch to 5k courses, staged around three times a year, which aim to help runners do exactly as the name suggests. Last year the courses were also introduced in Long Clawson.
Other special MRC sessions include Chip Cob runs and the Mad Mile to increase variety and keep it fun.
Rob explained: “We set up as a community project to encourage participation and spread our love of running to as many people as possible.
“We wanted to get people making new friends and perhaps a new hobby, and give runners somewhere to go so they don’t have to run on their own.”
In turn the group has had a positive knock-on effect in the wider running community, particularly as a feeder club for the Stilton Striders whose numbers have swelled in recent years.
Races in the region have also seen greater interest as running is seen to be more accessible, with several races selling out in record time, and others reporting rising entry figures.
“Historically, Melton and the surrounding region is not steeped in a running culture, but this has changed,” Rob said.
“There is a bigger percentage involved ion running than some towns traditionally seen as sporting centres, like Loughborough.
“But there are still many who could engage; this continues to be a target market; running is for all, not the select few.”
* For more information on the group, look for Melton Running Club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.