Describing themselves as ‘the fastest and friendliest group in St.Andrews.’ The joint athletics and cross-country club welcomes runners of all abilities, competing across all distances and over all terrains.
The club runs training sessions seven days a week, prioritising flexibility for their members, who can pick and choose how much they want to commit to. There’s an Athletics train- ing group for sprinters and jumpers, and an XC training group for endurance runners, with those specialising at middle distance moving between the two. The committee is 14-strong and training is led by captains and qualified coaches.
Alex, the outgoing club president, is adamant that there’s no pressure to commit to a certain number of sessions a week and that members won’t be dropped for absence. “We can meet members at their level, be it from a complete novice runner coming to our beginner runs, or a national XC Champion (Kristof Hornyik just won Scottish U20 Nationals a couple of weeks ago in a St Andrews vest!).”
Recently, however, they’ve been one of the first clubs to get back to in person events. “In these past 2 years the club has doubled in size from 80 to 160 members; this is definitely a result of providing more training, volunteering and socialising opportunities to all our members.”
When she joined, Katie was a complete beginner and had never run more than 5K; she admits she found it “initially nerve-wracking.” However, after trying the ‘Give It a Go’ session in September, she said the commit- tee’s love for the sport shone through above all else. “It became clear that they cared very little about distance or speed... I think lots of people though are very daunted by the distance and speed of the cross-country club runs, myself included – but I’m hoping I will be able to work up to being able to join the club runs by the end of semester.”
For Alex, seeing how quickly freshers and new members such as Katie feel at home has been very re- warding. “They become more confident, and I really hope that the club has a positive impact on everyone who comes through our doors.”
Oisin is next year’s men’s XC captain. Having got into cross country through high school – he reached the All-Irelands in his final year of high school with his team – he’s found the social element he loved so much then has carried through to his experiences with the club at St Andrews.
He’s excited to help guide and lead the club, and for the opportunities the role will bring: “Our club is in an amazing spot, we’ve an incredible quality and depth of members, from people who are going to compete at a crazy high level to those who just love the sport.”
There are many ways to get involved, including frequent training sessions to build up to going on the longer runs, including circuit sessions on Mondays and Fridays. “We put on music and chat while working out; it’s a great social environment, as well as good for strengthening!”
The club’s calendar for the year is always full. Locations include the Manchester Relays, Braids Hill Race, BUCS Championships, and Isle of Man Easter Running Festival. With biweekly competitive meets raging from long weekend trips to road re- lays, National races to indoor track meets, and Alex thinks it’s these races that provide the best memories.
“The team atmosphere is always amazing, running around watching your teammates leave everything out there is pretty special, and pushing hard yourself gives such a sense of satisfaction.”
Recently long trips have included journeys to Aviemore and Ullapool, and both Oisin and Katie agree that the long trips are the best for the social side of the club. Oisin says, “our club trip to Aviemore last semester was incredible. It was my first experience of running in the highlands, and it was beautiful. But being with an incredible group of people and just having fun made the trip what it was.”
Katie, too, has been inspired to get more involved with the club. “Before our club trip to Ullapool, I hadn’t gone to many socials but for the rest of the semester, I am hoping to get more involved with the social side of the club as well as the training sessions.”
All three runners have their eyes on the future. Alex hopes to spend the summer post-graduation touring mountain ranges in the and overseas. “Having been so involved in the club for the past 4 years, it will probably be a bit difficult leaving it behind, but I do hope they keep developing and having a positive impact on our members. The experiences I’ve had with the club have been some of the best times at University and I hope others can see just how special our sport is.”
Oisin’s feelings about next year and the increased responsibility? “I can’t wait! Whether deciding training plans or organising races and teams, it’s all exciting.”
Katie wants to get more involved socially, as “I’ve made friends I feel will stick with me for a while now, everyone within the club was super friendly and inclusive.”
Image: University of St. Andrews