The picture above is of the Clydesdale Harriers Novice Championship entrants in 1913 taken outside Whiteinch Baths in Glasgow. The club was the first open athletic club in Scotland and the club system has been important to Scottish athletics ever since. It may be however that the athletic club, which was the source of much that was good for the sport, is losing its place.
Athletics has gone almost from a club-centred sport to an individual-centred sport. It always was an individual sport, with a team dimension added, but the club aspect really mattered, and that was evidenced by the high individual standards that were reached, driven by or at least nurtured by club teams. The Fast Pack section on this website describes the clubs, their achievements and their runners. Virtually all of the best or highest-achieving Scottish runners ran for their club in most team events when at their best, and they all certainly turned out as new athletes learning their trade.
The team events exposed these young, or not so young, new runners to men from other clubs who taught them a lot, either by sitting beside them in the dressing room or by elbowing them onto the dyke when battering along the Switchback in the Nigel Barge. I know that my best E-G time – 5th fastest on stage 5 in 1972 – was achieved when teams like ESH, EUH&H, Shettleston, Victoria Park, Edinburgh AC etc were competing as well.
Parkruns are a good thing, I say that unequivocally; 10K races around the country, for everyone to take part in, are a good thing, of that there is no doubt. But in terms of improving the standard of running as a competitive sport, they are less effective than the club system. The benefits of the club system seem to be:
- They encourage athletes to train together and provide advice to all their club members.
- They provide graded competition. Club, County, District and National with all the open races added to the mix of venues..
We have a look at different aspects of the sport here. Use the links below to investigate further.
Edinburgh to Glasgow : This was, apart from the National Cross-Country Championships, the most important race in the calendar, with almost without exception the best runners in the country, plus ex-pats, taking part for their clubs.
An International Athlete’s Team Triumphs: As an illustration of the above: Colin ran in 30 Edinburgh to Glasgow relays for five different clubs and had a longer period racing than most. At the very top of his form, he ran for his club and used these team races, always top effort, as part of his racing plan.
Club Group Photographs : Club members have always been proud of their affiliation and, although athletics has changed with the years, the photographs, which cover the sport from the late 1800’s to the 21st century show that the pride is still there. They are in alphabetical order of the clubs rather than chronological.
Club Team Photographs If the members were proud of their club, they were even prouder when the club won a team trophy, whether it was a county title or a national. We have a selection of winning teams from -man teams to 8-man teams.
Scottish Harriers Histories : Hamish Telfer is one the best athletics historians that Scotland has produced and on this page we have several of his contributions such as Harrier Clubs before 1885, Harrier Clubs before 1900 and the first Scottish Harrier Clubs