Portadown based Kernan Run Club become NI’s latest affiliated club:


Monthly Feature:  Welcome Kernan RC…

The last few years has seen a huge influx of runners into the local running scene, and with this, new clubs have sprouted in various places around the province.

Couch to 5k programmes are taking place almost day and daily and with the relaxed atmosphere around local parkrun and similar events, so many more people are willing to give ‘racing’ a go.

The debate continues as to the absorption of new blood into existing clubs; many disagree with the setting up of new clubs, instead believing that newcomers should join already established clubs. However, it’s been said by many newcomers that they feel out of their depth when looking at already established clubs – What’s your view would you rather see these people walk away from the sport or stay around with a different/new club?

Another perspective is that sometimes an established club isn’t always the answer, nor feasible, it’s human nature to be more at ease when around people in the same or similar circumstances as yourself and it is therefore for comfortable, for some, to be part of a new club.  You only need to look at the strength of clubs who have sprung up to see that there was a need for different options, whether it be a difference in club philosophy (ie running for fun as opposed to competition) or possibly the location of the new clubs, which suites athletes better.

All in all, it would be easy to ramble on (I have already) about the rights, wrongs and various opinions of whether people should join a new club or opt for an existing club, but that isn’t the focus of this ‘Monthly Feature’.  What is, is the welcoming of Portadown based Kernan Run Club to the local scene.

Welcome Kernan Run Club…

Possibly the most recent club to affiliate to the sport’s governing body, Athletics NI, the Kernan Run Club was originally set up by Gareth Irvine after he took up running to assist with weight loss, one of the biggest reasons for many who have taken to running.  Kernan Run Club was born from a banter fuelled Beginners Running Programme in April 2013 and has progressed to become an ‘official’ club under the banner of Athletics NI.

“Never having run myself and coming to the end of a battle with a weight problem I needed to find a way to maintain the weight loss I had achieved. I trained myself to run and putting my personal training qualification to good use designed an 8 week exercise/running program to get complete running novices up to 5km. It was designed not just to focus on running but leg and core strengthening too.  If I’m honest what got most people through the program was the banter” says Gareth Irvine.

When asked about moving the club forward and making things official, Gareth added; “Affiliation for us means on paper each and every one of the members becomes an athlete in the eyes of Athletics NI.  However, the focus remains running for fun and not having to train like animals or busting a gut to try to be the best.  Affiliation simply means that we are registered with a governing body that will not only insure us but they provide training for coaches, discounted races and a host of other benefits.  Applying for grants to help develop the club is also impossible without a governing body.

Our 8 week beginner programme is the major draw to the club and sees approximately thirty or so beginners progress to 5k and then on to full membership within the club.  Gareth is clear on his views on the programme and what he wants to achieve from it, “the focus then, as it still is now, is to teach people to run and have fun doing it.  Since then the club has progressed to cater for runners of all abilities and has helped many runners to improve and often surpass what they thought they could ever achieve.”

The benefits of the Couch to 5k programme as an introduction to running is obvious, you only have to look at the amount of clubs putting hundreds through their own similar introductory initiatives.  Jennifer Cahoon is just one example of someone who has progressed through Kernan Run Club’s Couch to 5k programme to become a club member and over and above that, a runner!

“I joined the beginners after my 2 year old grandson was diagnosed with leukaemia; I wanted to raise money for children with cancer.  At that stage I was very unfit and the doctor was about to put me on blood pressure tablets.  I hadn’t exercised since school, so I had no confidence in running or any form of exercise.

I seen the advert for Kernan Run Club’s beginners group, so I asked my daughter would she join with me.  That very week we joined the 8 week programme!  As a 52 year old who was unfit, I cried most weeks and thought I can’t do this – I’ll not go back.  However, I am also a determined person and like to finish something I start, so I continued every week and as time went by I was building up confidence and running with great encouragement from our coach and the other team members.

When I run my first 5k I was walking on air and my blood pressure was down; I don’t need tablets now.  I was so pleased I knew then and there I would go on to run 10k and so I continued on to 10k because I knew at this stage I would do it and I had started to really love running.  Our coach didn’t make me ever feel that I was slow or that I couldn’t achieve my running goals.  I always felt as good as any runner because I always finished – I never stopped.  Kernan Run Club is fantastic because I now can run which is something, at my age, I never thought I could do. It’s all down to good coaching and determination.  That and the support from team members is what gets you round the course.”

At the last count (end of 2014), Kernan Run Club have had close to two hundred runners through the beginner program and they have approximately fifty active members and no less than six Athletics NI qualified coaches.  The last twelve months has proved successful for the club, who took sizeable numbers to numerous races, but most noticeably, to the Rathlin Run and the recent Run in the Dark.

Another club member, Patricia Doherty is also positive about the future; “A year ago I couldn’t run at all, but just over a month ago I completed the Clontarf Half Marathon.  This was never in my plans and I don’t know for sure what I will do in the future, as far as running goes, but what I do know is that anything is possible I will keep on running and I can’t wait to see where I go.

What makes running in a club work for me, is the friendship, encouragement and support from members.  I have built a network of contacts, some of whom have become friends, some of whom have become running companions, but all of whom have become buddies that help me through my tough runs and celebrate my great runs.  It’s a great platform I can use to share running experiences and learn from runners who are at the top of their game.” All in all the future look bright for running in the Portadown and greater Craigavon area.

Not only do you have the welcoming and newly affiliated Kernan Run Club, offering a more relaxed approach to competition and training, but you also have the well-established and popular St Peter’s AC, a few miles along the ‘Northway’.  St Peter’s AC, like Kernan Run Club also welcome new members and are well known for their junior section.  More details can be found on the St Peter’s AC website HERE.