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On the right track

December 2019 marked a major milestone for Clane AC, which opened a brand-new athletics track, the culmination of two years’ hard work and dedication by a passionate team of club members. The €240,000 facility was officially opened by CEO of Athletics Ireland, Hamish Adams, at the end of 2019, marking the start of a new era for the club and a legacy that will live on throughout the generations

Clane Athletic Club was founded in the 1970s but lay dormant over the eighties and nineties, until 2012 when a small group came together to revive the club. Since then, thanks to the tireless work of these volunteers, the club has gone from strength to strength developing strong juvenile and adult running groups. The club has seen a steady growth in membership numbers year on year.

In the summer of 2018, Clane AC was successful in securing funding from the Kildare Leader Partnership fund and start-up funding was granted to build a 200m running and sprint track with an in-field events area for jumps and throws. The funding model required that the club fundraise for a portion of the costs and on completion of each construction phase, would then be reimbursed by the funding body of the awarded amount. A range of fundraising activities were held including such as race marshalling, bag packing, church-gate collections, jersey days in local schools and many others. The club was also fortunate to receive funding from several corporate sponsors and local companies.

The project commenced in November 2018 when PST Sport, the main contractors, broke ground at the site. This current phase of the project was completed in June 2019 with the completion of the running track and the installation of floodlights. Further work is planned, subject to the necessary funding, to construct a long-jump pit at the track, to install a club meeting room and toilet facilities and to construct a walking track on the outer perimeter.

The track is situated on the grounds of Scoil Mhuire secondary school in Clane on a strip of land, which also adjoins the two national schools.

Irish Runner spoke to Paul Hawkins, vice chairperson of the club, a juvenile coach and member of the sub-committee for the track project about the future and the impact the new track will have on club and community.

IR: Congratulations on Clane AC’s new running track. What does it mean to the club to have such a facility available now?

PH: Having our own facility has opened up a very exciting future for the club and created a great excitement about athletics in the community for both kids and adults. As a club, we now can decide when to hold our training sessions and we also have the scope to coach a greater range of events, eg. hurdles, high jump. Our adults can train during the winter months in a safe environment away from the dark and wet roads, and having a facility to do specific training like speed work has seen a huge boost in membership enquiries. For our first Coach-to-5km programme of 2020, use of the track has brought plenty of benefits and helped cater for the variety in abilities in terms of keeping the group together.

IR: Describe the track and general facility?

PH: We have a six-lane 200m track with 100m straight sprinting lanes. It is comprised of a 2G synthetic surface and is secured with surround fencing. LED lighting means we can run all year round in almost daylight conditions. To complete the facility, it is planned to construct a walking track around the perimeter, to install a long jump within the inner track area and to erect a small clubhouse. An elevation at one end will allow for spectators when we host events in the future.

IR: Can you describe the work/effort involved in developing the track?

PH: A significant effort was required over 18 months by a dedicated sub-committee of the club with expertise in fundraising and a dedication to achieve our goal. We engaged with the local community and talked to lots of other clubs who had completed similar projects.

IR: Explain the fundraising efforts involved in covering the cost of the new track development.

PH: We have a five-year loan with our local credit union and plan further fundraising in 2020 in the local community as we further develop the facility. We have a very supportive community, and received a number of donations from local people and businesses, and in recognition of their invaluable contributions, have erected a permanent nameplate at the track. 

On our official track opening night, which was performed by Athletics Ireland CEO, Hamish Adams, we were excited to announce Pop Up Races as our new main sponsor and Croí Laighean Credit Union as our juvenile sponsor. Fundraising will always be ongoing as we strive to provide our community with a facility that offers athletes, both young and old, with the best possible opportunity to chase their dreams.

IR: What advice can you give to other clubs around Ireland who might want to follow in your footsteps?

PH: Define your goal and set up a sub-committee tasked with delivering the project. Then, reach out to the local community to determine what sources of finance are available. It will always be a combination of fundraising and grants. There are a surprising number of different funding options at a local and national level as well as philanthropic sources. Also, reach out to other clubs and to other local community groups who have done similar projects. There will also typically be expertise in the community who can offer support for the different aspects that will be required, eg. professional fundraisers, development of business plans, engineers, etc.

IR: What plans does the club have for 2020?

PH: We plan to continue to develop our club by delivering more specific training focused on the needs of both our adult and juvenile members; to maximise the use of the track by making it available to the community, local schools, etc. We will also continue to develop our skills as coaches and hope to host club competitions for juveniles.

IR: How many members are there?

PH:We are currently enrolling for 2020 and expect to register over 250 members with 130 juveniles. At the juvenile level, we typically have a few more girls than boys.

IR: What age categories are there?

PH: We have lots of juveniles in the U8-U13 age groups and we hope to retain many of these in the years to come now that we have our own facility.

IR: What are the benefits of joining a running club?

PH: A running club is very social and joining is a great way to meet new people in your community. It is hard to walk down the main street of Clane without bumping into someone who asks you how training is going! Joining a club does not mean you are aiming for Olympic glory, it is about making new friends and having a good, healthy social outlet. While many join Clane AC to improve their physical fitness, very common feedback we hear is the unexpected mental health and general wellbeing benefits it brings. Out on a group run chatting with fellow runners is a great way to clear the head with many referring to our Saturday morning run as ‘my time’. You do not have to be a runner either to join an athletics club. Volunteering can be a very rewarding activity and clubs are always grateful of the support. Some of the backbone of Clane AC are non-runners but their contribution to growing the club has been invaluable – they bring other great skills to our club.

IR: Tell us a bit more about the social aspect of the club within your community?

PH: The social aspect of Clane AC among our adult runners has been instrumental to the success and continued growth of the club. Our Couch-to-5km programme has brought the club so many great members, who having discovered the health and mental benefits of running in the social environment of the club have then helped to encourage others to make the first steps into running.  From there the membership has bonded socially and become great at encouraging one another to challenge themselves by signing up for races. Signing up for races is a daunting task for new runners but as a group it is an exciting memory-making adventure you get to share with new friends. Getting a clap on the back on finishing a race from a fellow runner is special, as they know the journey you have been through to get there and appreciate the effort that goes into it. Last year was a great example of our club comradery as for the first time ever Clane AC found itself arranging a bus to the Dublin Marathon to take the large number of members undertaking this challenge. Many of them only hoped that by joining the club two or three years earlier they would, one day, be able to run 5km nonstop. Now they can proudly call themselves marathon runners. That’s the power of a friendly supportive club atmosphere, which Clane AC is very proud of.

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