PAST GLORIES: Reflecting on club history are the founders of Teesdale Athletics Club, from left,  Ken Sanderson,  Alan Bray,  Anne Sanderson, Jim Lee and John West, current president
PAST GLORIES: Reflecting on club history are the founders of Teesdale Athletics Club, from left, Ken Sanderson, Alan Bray, Anne Sanderson, Jim Lee and John West, current president

Editor Stuart Laundy, a keen cross country jogger in his youth, catches up with those who helped establish the dale’s running clubTHE highlight of my athletics career, such as it was, came on a sodden field at Longfield School, in Darlington, back in the dim and distant early 1980s.

I finished ninth in the county schools’ cross country and was duly paraded in front of the Hurworth Comprehensive cohort during assembly the following Monday.

Those halcyon days came back to me when I caught up with some of those involved in establishing Teesdale Athletic Club, which turns 40 this year – and shows no sign of running out of steam any time soon.

The club was born out of a ten-mile event staged at the 1984 Barnard Castle Meet.

Founder member Ken Sanderson recalls that were the event to be deemed a success, a committee would get together with a view to forming the club.

“It went very well,” he said, and the rest is history.

His wife Anne, who was also there at the beginning, adds: “There was a public meeting and 80 people turned up – there was huge interest 40 years ago.”

Fellow founder member Jim Lee recalls having several discussions with police at the time who had to be convinced that the race would be a well organised event.

The ten-mile run at the Meet continued each year, attracting the likes of Charlie Spedding, the former London Marathon winner and Olympic marathon bronze medallist, to Barney to tackle the course in front of huge crowds.

The Meet ten-miler continued until the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001 after which concerns from local police put a stop to it prompting the switch to Raby Castle.

Current president and fellow founder member John West explains: “I had a meeting with Lord Barnard, who allowed us to stage it free for the first year.”

Although costs have inevitably risen, the Raby Run remains the club’s main fundraiser, attracting hundreds of runners from across the region, lured to Staindrop by the testing off-road course and the picturesque setting.

Raby Runs were held each year from 2003 until the outbreak of Covid.

Long serving member and coach Alan Bray says it has been a tricky route re-establishing the event post-pandemic.

“The first year after Covid, it was a case of getting it going again. Last year it carried on but this year we are back to accepting entries on the day.”

The hope is that the Raby Runs event becomes the family day out it had become renowned for before 2020.

Ken adds: “Covid has a lot to answer for.”

This year’s Raby Runs take place on Sunday, May 12, and feature three events – a 2.5km fun run, mainly for juniors and families; a 5.2km race and the full 10km.

Like any organisation, Teesdale AC has seen membership ebb and flow.

“There were more than 200 people on the books in 1986, with an active membership of about 80,” said John.

Anne adds: “We once took two coachloads to a fixture at Whitby, but there is a different emphasis now.”

Ken recalls: “In the 80s and 90s, the running scene was the place to be. The UK ruled the middle distance events with the likes of Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram.

“In its initial stages, the club had a lot of families and camaraderie. The scene in the 80s and 90s was about making friends for life. We were just like one big family.

“There were not just youngsters, but their mams and dads and even grandparents who would help out.

“It was about bringing these youngsters on to reach their potential and seeing them grow in confidence.”

At its lowest ebb, the club was down to “half a dozen” active members.

Alan says the club is “holding its own” at the moment with a membership of more than 50, half of whom are out running regularly.

The club was initially based at Teesdale School. These days, training sessions are organised with the help of modern technology so everyone knows when and where to meet and the coach leading the session knows who is turning up.

“Last week, we had 25 at a session on Bridgegate,” says Alan.

Looking to the future, all agree that attracting new coaches – especially those who can lead junior sessions – is key to the club’s continued success in the face of people’s changing lifestyles, a more fragmented sport offering alternatives such as Park Runs and with a drive to take more events off-road.

Alan says: “It’s developing more on the social side, although there is still the competitive element to it and it is a lot more off-road.”

The club continues to field a team in NYSD cross country fixtures, but reflecting the current position across the region, where once up to 600 runners would turn up to compete it’s now down to about 150.

Alan sees it as a chicken and egg situation.

“Membership is not as it was and it could do with being better, but we need more coaches – we only have four and because we don’t have junior coaches at the moment we are not running junior sessions.

“For anyone interested, we can help people become coaches and cover the costs of attending courses.”

So, are we still out pounding the streets?

Well for my part, I gave it all up for cricket after completing a few half marathons in my early 20s.

Alan says he still runs “in a fashion” and last November took part in a new event, the Raby Castle dog trail with his pet pooch.

John says he “still does a bit”, while Ken reckons you are more likely to see him on a bike these days and Anne enjoys walking with the ladies she used to run with.

Anyone who would like further information about the club can go online to