Juniors End-of-Season Newsletter

As the 2016/17 season fades into memory we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our junior members and their parents for their contribution to the club during the year. We’d like everyone to read the rest of this message to help us plan for the year ahead.

Our club

Juniors prizegiving 26th September
Juniors prizegiving 26th September

As the 2016/17 season fades into memory we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our junior members and their parents for their contribution to the club during the year. On 26th September we rewarded the kids for their participation in some key club events during the season and we welcomed a new group of under-11s, a fresh initiative for the club. We also presented two of our juniors with their club championship prizes. A social get-together for kids and parents will follow on 12th December which will be subsidised by the club and we hope to have a special guest present (to be confirmed).

Serpentine Running Club is a London institution with a proud legacy and possibly the biggest senior membership of any running club in the UK. Everywhere we go, our distinctive club colours are recognised and appreciated. The club prides itself on its friendly and welcoming approach and its ability to cater for athletes of all levels. Alongside our weekend warriors we have county and regional champions in our ranks and we were proudly represented at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

5 years old – where do we stand?

The Juniors section is now five years old. The same ethos that successfully prevails at the senior club is what we are aiming to foster among our younger runners. But over and above that we want our juniors to feel they are part of something bigger and something they wish to remain part of, whatever path they take in adult life. During this summer’s Middlesex Young Athletics League meetings it really struck us how our juniors competed and supported each other as a team and as a group of friends. We want this to continue and we think we can build on this through 2018.

The season ahead

Winter: Cross Country, Road Racing and Indoors

We have to be honest and say that juniors’ participation at some key club events such as the Start Fitness Metropolitan Cross Country League ("Met League") was disappointing in 2016/7 with only a handful (at best) of our juniors embracing this series of races. The winter cross country season is fun and an excellent way to develop running strength and stamina and to help the kids with any races they are entering with their schools. The distances are fair, the London area locations are generally accessible and the races are free to enter. We also provide free cake and sweets. What’s not to like?

Jonah Kramer after the 2017 Saucony English National XC Championships in Nottingham. It’s back in London again this year – no excuses for not participating!
Jonah Kramer after the 2017 Saucony English National XC Championships in Nottingham. It’s back in London again this year – no excuses for not participating!

We appreciate that our junior members may have competing commitments at weekends but there are only five Met League races, each spaced a month apart (starting on 14th October), and only a handful of other key races. The National Championships – a genuine spectacle to behold – will be back at Hampstead Heath in late February 2018 and this is a great target to aim for. As one newspaper put it, it’s the best race you have never heard of. Hundreds of kids from clubs all over the country eagerly participate in a sea of muddy legs and a kaleidoscope of club colours before the main senior events.

This year the coaches and I would like to launch a coordinated effort to increase Serpentine participation in the winter cross-country season and we’d really appreciate if parents and kids can buy into this objective. We ask now, where possible, that you try to put some time aside to allow for participation. Please don’t hesitate to call Peter or Grace for more information.

To further the sense of camaraderie among the group we may selectively pick some parkruns (junior or senior) to participate as a group wearing club colours during the winter. Highbury Fields and Queen’s Park are the most likely junior parkrun venues (Sundays), and there are many other senior parkruns in London we can go to on Saturdays. These group outings will be infrequent but we think they’ll be fun. Parkrun is a great initiative and we encourage all our members to participate in your local event from time to time.

Many of our junior sprinters already participate in indoor meetings during the winter. We aim to continue this and encourage others to give it a try, especially those interested in middle-distances. Peter will be having a go at indoor running for the first time this season, a rookie 50 year-old. Don’t wait for as long as him to try it out!

Spring / Summer: Road Racing, Track & Field, Multi-sport

Fintan Delaney in the Virgin Money London Mini Marathon
Fintan Delaney in the Virgin Money London Mini Marathon

Then as the spring and summer approach we’ll be targeting some key road and track and field (T&F) events. In March there are the London mini-marathon regional trials through which three of our juniors successfully gained selection for their borough in 2017. Spring and summer also offer some challenging but fun triathlon/duathlon/aquathlon opportunities.

We will again participate – this time as a scoring full member – in the monthly Middlesex Young Athletes League ("MYAL") which runs from April to July. The organisers have taken note of some of the logistical hiccups that led to delays and overruns during the inaugural test season and 2018’s version will be a slicker affair and a great introduction to what a track & field meeting entails. During the pre-season we aim to offer hurdles and jumps & throws training to further equip our young athletes to do well and to get the most out of these meetings.

We’d also like to co-operate with the senior club in some key T&F events in the summer. This year the seniors were relegated from Division 2 to Division 3 of the Southern Athletics League. It struck us how much of a disadvantage we faced without some of our better juniors regularly participating. For example, where other clubs were represented by teenage sprinters, we were regularly represented by a 64 year-old in the 100m (and other events)! We are aware that other clubs insist on their juniors doing these events but this just isn’t the Serpentine way. We don’t want to force people to participate but we would really appreciate if anyone aged 15 or over on 31st August 2018 can contribute to the team effort during the summer. It’s a perfect gateway into the world of senior athletics and a great way to test yourself and secure PBs.

Happy young Serpies at the Finsbury Park MYAL in July
Happy young Serpies at the Finsbury Park MYAL in July

We’d also like our Juniors to consider competing in some or all of the club Grand Prix races, a series of races held in July over 1k (road, Hyde Park), 1 mile, 3000m (both at the track) and 5k (road, Battersea Park). A few of our juniors are good enough to compete directly against our seniors but there is also an age-graded handicap system which adjusts all participants’ results for comparison. There are prizes for best age-graded results and the Juniors will have a great chance.

[Note: due to England Athletics rules the 3000m is open only to the U15 age group (15 or over on 31/8/18), the mile and 5k road races are open to the U13s (13 or over on 31/8/18), the 1k road race from U11 (11 or over 31/8/18).]

Next steps

To help us all prepare and to help clear diaries, Grace and Peter are compiling a season calendar which we will distribute shortly. Please look at which events you / your child can target and help us field more red and gold vests through the season. To facilitate advance notification and planning we have adapted the club's online Event Planner to highlight events suitable for the Juniors. This is still work in progress but will be a valuable tool to help us coordinate season goals and calendars.

If you have any queries about any of the above, please email us juniors@serpentine.org.uk or call Peter on 07776 143 419 and we can talk discreetly about you or your child’s involvement. We can’t emphasise enough how much we want the Juniors section to thrive not just in its own right, but as a part of this fantastic larger club. And if any parents feel inspired by their kids, please consider joining yourselves or training as a coach or race official (details available) so we can all harness the skills and enthusiasm you obviously have.

Go Serpies!

Peter, Grace and Fraser

Submitted: 4 October 2017