The future of Lancashire Walking Club? Chris Bolton recommends a way forward

I can’t recommend enough that we all spend some time reflecting on this challenging contribution from Chris Bolton. Back in the mid-1960s Chris was a leading light in the transformation of the club’s sense of itself, shifting it from being inward-looking to viewing itself as a major force on the national scene. This change was symbolised by the creation of the club’s very own magazine, CONTACT’. It is to his great credit that almost sixty years on he is still concerned about the club’s future and creative in his recommendations.

For the moment I’ll desist from having my pennyworth and hope very much that our members/readers/supporters will be involved in the necessary and vital discussion opened up by Chris.

Chris close to the finish of the Blackpool

The future of Lancashire Walking Club 

Tony Malone’s story has prompted me to give a lot of thought to how we can improve the fortunes of Lancashire Walking Club. 

Tony came to race walking from his attendance at a young athletes’ course and in his first road race finished thirteenth well inside the hour for six miles. That means of course that there were at least thirteen novices inside the hour; how times have changed. These young athletes are however still there and we must do all we can to attract them. 

Our immediate problem is that we have an aging membership and don’t seem able to attract younger members. We are not seen as athletes and are no longer part of the athletic scene. When our HQ was at Longford Park we were included in the Stretford Track League events and we were seen and accepted as athletes, sadly this has been lost. 

Many athletic clubs In our area have a membership of over five hundred and we are missing out. 

Additionally, I believe that race walking in general has suffered from the demise of the six and seven in the hour badge schemes. The slogan of the novice walk was “Can you walk six miles in an hour?” I wrote to every affiliated athletic club in the area and it attracted huge interest – Dave Vickers, the winner, of course came from Bolton United Harriers. 

I believe that we should now make our One Hour Track Walk our flagship event and promote it to every club in our catchment area. If you agree I will supply and pay for an initial supply of cloth embroidered badges, maybe for wearing on tracksuits. They would recognise achievements of nine, ten and eleven Kms in the hour and could possibly be classed as Bronze, Silver and Gold standards. My first stab at a design is attached. 

Although controversial I believe that we must seriously consider a move of HQ to a venue with a track, parking facilities and situated adjacent to paths or roads suitable for race walking. 

Even more controversial I think we should eventually consider changing the club name to Lancashire Race Walking Club. 

Without being too pessimistic I see the club stagnating. We must do something before it is too late or we shall be composing the funeral hymn of this great club. 

I do trust that you will understand that I am trying to be constructive and truly have the interest of the club at heart. 

Chris Bolton. C332. 

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13 Responses to The future of Lancashire Walking Club? Chris Bolton recommends a way forward

  1. Stephen I Walker says:

    Think Chris makes some good points, although sure most will agree, that whilst at school students are encouraged to partake in sport, very few would be introduced to race-walking, and I don’t recall there ever being a race-walk event at any school sports. Sadly now some affiliations, don’t have race walking at regional events and even at Nationals the standards are so high that most of us mere mortals cannot enter. Think its going to be hard to get race-walking recognized again but we have to start somewhere, and more than happy to support the efforts. With regards the club name, I know when Ken Matthews suggested to me as I couldn’t run anymore to try race-walking that I went looking for Lancashire Race Walking Club, as I thought Lancashire Walking Club was for ramblers!! Totally support proposal to change the name, but I think constitutionally this can only be done at a AGM?

  2. Ian Vaughan says:

    I agree with all you have said, Chris. Also, by adapting the Club would provide a greater contribution to more competitors and to the community. The next few months would be the ideal time to begin to plan ahead. (A Zoom meeting maybe?)
    Two or three observations: when the Club was founded, was ‘walking’ (as in rambling) a thing? The Kinder mass trespass had not taken place and The Ramblers’ Association had not been founded. But today, search for ‘walking clubs’ and you will find rambling clubs, not racewalking. A change of name to ‘Lancashire Race Walking Club’ would make sense. The history of the Club can still be honoured.
    A key consideration: ‘What would a prospective member like to have from the Club?’ This could be at all stages, including: publicity and information, making first contact, training and advice, calendar, events, links to national and international events.
    At present fast and slow competitors can participate. Please don’t lose the slower competitors. To be more inclusive, consider lowering the bar for the ‘Bronze Award’. Race walkers of all abilities can compete if there are events for them, and handicap events are good for those of us who are never going to win!

  3. Chris Bolton says:

    Ian, thanks for your contribution and suggestion for a easier initial award. I will produce an eight Km in the hour but need to think of a name – any suggestions?
    I do believe that our track one hour walks should be the centre of our drive for new members. The six mile novice walk attracted entries from top class club runners who thought six in the hour would be a piece of cake. They generally finished in sixty five minutes and our respect was earned.

    We could of course hold two one hour walks on the same afternoon and grade the entries.

  4. Ian Vaughan says:

    Hi Chris, For the name of the award for 8km in an hour, how about ‘The 8km Award’? Or move them all down one and rename the Platinum award (e.g. the ‘Five Star Award’)? If the Club name is changed, the badges could inaugurate the new name.

  5. Tony Bell says:

    A great idea to make the 1 hour walk the flagship event (a la Blackpool 50). Let’s give out prizes, something like Decathlon vouchers or Decathlon race walk shoes. Attract other local track runners, some of the fast boys and girls from Leeds. Can YOU walk faster than this bunch of old duffers? 🙂

  6. Joyce Harasimiuk says:

    Thankyou for your suggestions Mr Bolton, I agree with your comments. Racewalking needs new young blood, to attract same, the sport needs promoting in a better way. Unfortunately in the past racewalking has been viewed by the general public as a bit comical. This needs to change, the badges for distance covered would surely help. Youngsters love a challenge and in the current climate of getting out for your daily 10,000 steps, many more would be attracted. HQ with parking and track sound ideal. Finally, I also think the name should be changed from walking to racewalking. More power to you Mr Bolton. Yours in Sport Joyce Harasimiuk
    LWC

  7. Adrian Edwards says:

    Hi All, This years RWA president Colin Vesty has stated that rather than have a fund raising appeal he wants clubs to spend the RWA’s money. He wants clubs to put on come and try it days or organise similar events. I think Chris’s idea will fit with this. I had already talked to our friend Sailash about a come and try it day in Stockport, and as always he was very enthusiastic. Unfortunately the pandemic has put things on hold.
    The RWA committee may be small and pretty much all over 50 but they are enthusiastic people with good ideas. As well as this years presidents fund there is a coaching and development group, and funds, which would also help. I’m a coach at Stockport Harriers and have had a notice on the club house wall about race walk training for some time now, with very little interest; but at the same time I haven’t heavily promoted it either. I have keys to the facilities so access isn’t a problem; but the track is used on Saturdays when we usually have our meetings. Their is a 997m tarmac triangle right outside which Tony Malone uses for training on a regular basis. For a larger group we’d need permission from the local council.
    East Cheshire Harriers in Ashton is close to a tram stop and I’m sure would be available for hire, no idea of potential cost, there is also a cycle circuit adjacent. One potential problem there is football traffic and the other events (like cycle races) we’d have to work around. Sailash has previously sweet talked the land lady at the Lord Sheldon Arms in Ashton who agreed they could accommodate us, apart from at busy bank holidays and Christmas time. There is a three metre wide cycle path which was very quiet when Sailash and I trained on it.
    We have the potential to put on training days at a few venues and different days. The one thing we need to do if we invite other clubs; is, stress that people can compete in race walking events, including national championships, without changing clubs; and it is also OK to continue with other athletic training at the same time. If athletics clubs feel we’re trying to poach their athlete’s they will not be supportive. If someone does well or is interested enough they will probably join our club second claim, or convert fully in time.
    There is also an annual Manchester walking festival, where we can promote our events, and may pick up new members; but again I think that has been lost this year.
    The idea of producing badges is a great idea, I think the RWA will still have some; but we could do some in kilometres and some more attainable ones. If we are to develop as a club we also need to have regular accessible training sessions, which we had just started to do before the lockdown, the last one had a really good turn out.
    Thanks for all the ideas guys, please keep them coming and lets try and make sure we follow through with this project. As Boris would say, LETS GET THIS DONE!

  8. Adrian Edwards says:

    One more comment regarding the badges. When Fred was trying to get designs for the centenary mugs and the club badges he found that lots of red rose badges/pictures are patented, like red rose radio, Lancashire cricket club etc, so you have to be careful you don’t pinch someone else’s logo.

  9. Tony Taylor says:

    Posting this comment on behalf of Tony Malone

    Having read Chris’s article I am in agreement with what he has to say.
    Moving to the vicinity of an athletics track make sense to me as other athletes would see us training and maybe inclined to give walking a go.
    On a personal note, I’m lucky enough to be close to Stockport Harriers track which you know would be an ideal location being totally within a large park and having a 1000 metre traffic-free road surface ideal for training and racing.
    When I joined Stockport Harriers it was with the intention of doing my own thing, but I was introduced to the club as a race Walker. The members were then told if you fancy having a go see me (so much for doing my own thing!).
    Over the years I was there the club bought into walking and as you know we had a good walking section.
    When we put on the open 7-mile walks we included a novices race which went down well.
    I agree with Chris over rebranding the club to LRWC. we become more self-explanatory.
    Regarding Stockport Harriers, Adrian has a young athletes group on Wednesday evenings and is a keyholder at the club.
    I think what might be a good idea is for the club to associate itself to another athletics club so that their members could walk for us and our members could compete at other athletics events for them.
    This just a few thoughts of my own to supplement Chris’s.
    Cheers
    Tony 😇

  10. Tony Taylor says:

    Posting this comment on behalf of Dave Evans

    Chris has obviously given his presentation some thought and I would commend him for this. The environment in which we live has changed since the great years of race walking and as Chris says the activity is not held in such regard. It is not really part of the Athletics programme despite the efforts of Tom Bosworth and co.

    The idea of having a “safe” and practical base at say a track is great in principle especially if you can walk your events from and back to the venue. We use the Bury track a couple of times a year at a reduced rate and aside from the track at Stockport I know of no other track facility generally available on a Saturday. The cost of the conventional arena is prohibitive and it’s only down to dear old Fred Pearce that we can use Bury at a much less than the commercial rate.

    I think the suggestion of hour badges has plenty of merit although in the old days it was a real target and has a lot of prestige. I’m not too sure how many club members would strive for one to sew on their tracksuits given the environment in which we currently compete.

    Race walking is a fine activity but in the modern-day, it is not seen as offering something attractive to newcomers. We have tried to “advertise” walking via local athletic clubs and seem to remember we did have some newcomers on one occasion for Fred’s relay who didn’t do badly at all but they came and went. As for youngsters, it’s a non-starter given the draw of football and computers.

    I think we are extremely lucky to have a club in this day and age with enthusiastic individuals of all standards who have personal targets and who enjoy the banter and the company regardless of what other sports are doing. It is easy to sit on your haunches and leave things as they are but realistically would Chris’s ideas make any real difference to our existence and if we found a commercially attractive venue at even a reasonable hire cost would it make us any more viable than at present.

    Just my thoughts. Stay safe

    Dave

    PS Forgot to add that I mentioned changing the club name to what Chris suggests some years ago but Fred wasn’t keen. Clearly the current name does not currently reflect what we do but perhaps it should be given some serious consideration if we want to appeal to new racewalkers.

  11. Tony Taylor says:

    Posting this response to Chris from Maurice Ireland

    Your views are sensible and well thought out but my reaction is to first change the name to Race Walking Club.

    If you read the history of the RWA you will see that it initially came about as the Road Walking Association in the south of England but the sporting bodies of the day I.e. the A.A..A.began to introduce track walk racing. Because the then RWA was doing such a good job with the national management of road walk racing they decided to transfer the total entity of Race Walking to the RWA. This arrangement proved to be most successful and national events and awards quickly followed, However the then RWA as it is today soon realised that its name did not adequately describe its position as an athletic organisation so the name was changed to Race Walking Association as it is still

    If you remember when I proposed the change of our headquarters from the Midland Hotel in Didsbury to Longford Park Stretford, my argument was that we should be more closely associated with an athletic centre and a successful Athletic Club. The present arrangement has destroyed my idea. I also proposed we change our name to Race Walking Club but this was too much for the dedicated “Old Guard” I.e. jJoe Lambert and Co.

    The move to Stretford proved to be most successful. We attracted many new younger members and provided a safe road circuit along with track races on show in front of spectator crowds.

    There is a future for our Club but we must create it by careful planning with constructive ideas. Let’s move forward and reinstate the Six miles in the Hour Badge Race. Such races have proved to be major incentives and I am sure they will be again

    The Met 7 in London often had an entry of 200 to 300. I strongly recommend that we should contact the R W A and ask for their support and look to the possibility of both the 6 miles and 7 Miles star badge being reintroduced.

    We urgently need a Club meeting to progress this.

    Maurice Ireland

  12. Tony Taylor says:

    Posting this response from Roy Gunnett as relayed by Dave Evans

    1. Roy has a supply of vests worth between £400 and £500 so changing the name to the Lancashire Race Walking club would mean these being “void”.
    2. The badges for the 1-hour event are a good suggestion but Roy wondered if the RWA had supplies of the metal pin badges. I think Roy has one. Like me, he might have to find a tracksuit to sew a badge on!
    3. Roy wasn’t too keen on using a track permanently for all races,if that is what was intended, preferring our current style of distribution with events in 4 venues.
    4. Roy thought, like myself, that any decisions we make would need to be by a majority of the members and club members who rarely appear can have their say as expected but would not have the same weight as regulars.
    5. The red rose emblem might be fine going by our club vest logo but we might have to ensure it is in an acceptable format. ie no copyright design.
    6. The cost of the hire of whichever track might be used is a factor and seemingly some might be affected by other users and/or other factors(traffic)
    7. Risk assessments and race permits will need to be acquired for any new venue.

  13. Mick Entwistle says:

    Hi, it’s many years since I did any race walking, but what I do recall was it was as a member of an athletic club who saw one of Novice walks organised by Chris . As a result of a number taking part LWC gain a number of Juniors from the club, being Bolton.
    I agree that being little need to an athletics stadium provides the a more visual blue print for the sport.

    Not sure people are aware but Park Run now include walking at park run at all its events every Saturday morning before lockdown there could be potential in tapping into that organisation.

    There is certainly potential in having targets be it for badges coat pins etc, people like to have recognition for their efforts, I’m out of touch with abilities/ times but well recall my first six and seven in the hour.

    Good luck for future.

    Mick Entwistle.

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