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Waterstown Warriors show fighting spirit

A successful couch to 5km (C25K) programme was the first step in establishing the Waterstown Warriors running club in Palmerstown. Ann Battersby, a member of the club, says its aim is to support recreational runners build their stamina and speed and have a good time along the way.

When a parkrun was set up in Waterstown park, Julie O’Connor led a group in their first C25K. Once people had a taste, they wanted more, and the club was formed. It is about to embark on its 11th C25K and the interest is still as strong as ever. It’s now called Couch to Warrior and the emphasis over the nine weeks is to help people to build up to running for 30 minutes and beyond. Members of the club who have completed training with Athletics Ireland lead the Couch to Warrior group and the other members come along to help encourage and support the team. The club is currently in the process of setting up another plan to build up from 5km to 10km in response to demand.
As well as new recruits to the sport, Waterstown Warriors is also attracting experienced runners. Ann Battersby, a member of the club, says runners are attracted by the ethos of the club, which is to make running fun.

IR: Why was the club set up?
AB: The club was set up in 2014, and in 2015 we affiliated with Athletics Ireland. We felt there was a gap in the market so to speak. We felt there was a need for a club like ours to facilitate those who just wanted to get out and run with like-minded people. We pride ourselves on being a club for recreational runners and often describe ourselves as a social club with a running problem, but, over the years, with the encouragement of Pat Hooper we have started to compete. Even so, we believe it’s not always about winning, its about taking part.

IR: What is the mission of the club?
AB: Our mission is to help people who want to run to achieve their goals and, after that, help and encourage them to progress. We offer speed training to all our members and this works very well as the experienced runners help and encourage the new runners and it is a really enjoyable and beneficial session for all.

IR: How many members are there?
AB: Our current membership is 170 and is made up of males and females ranging in age from 18 to 63. All our members are over 18, we haven’t ventured into the juveniles. Never say never, but we appreciate there is so much more involved and there is an excellent juvenile club in Donore Harriers, our neighbours in Chapelizod.

IR: Tell us about the name? Why ‘Warriors’?
AB: When we were setting up the group, it needed a name, we were always going to be associated with Waterstown Park so that part was easy. We had a few ideas, one was Waterstown Wombles, but that was when we had no idea how big and successful our club would become. Warriors was chosen because it seemed to fit the people that were joining. They weren’t your typical runners and they had to put in a lot of work to achieve their goals and they did. They were true warriors in every sense of the word. Now the call of ‘C’mon the Warriors’ can be heard whenever we run. How glad are we that they are not saying ‘C’mon the Wombles!”

IR: What does the club offer members?
AB: We have a range of classes, including pilates, and strength and conditioning; we also have Feidhlim Kelly coaching us on a Wednesday evening. During the summer, we held a paced mile once a month or a ‘smile mile’ as it was called. Faster runners took on the task of pacing other club members to a one-mile PB and then got paced themselves by Feidhlim Kelly to their own PB. It was very well-attended by all members and even got the injured warriors on board to do timekeeping, so it was a great way to get everyone together. We are planning to start this again once the bright evenings are back.
Last year, several members decided to take part in Tri Athy and The King of Greystones. Following their success they have now set up a group within the club that is hoping to take part in a few more triathlons, some are even training for Ironman. They meet for a swim on Saturday morning and also arrange sea swims during the year.

IR: Tell me about the Warrior Series.
AB: We have just completed our third Warrior Series, this is a series of runs/races that we pick early in the year, they include some of the very popular races and some parkruns to keep costs down. Warriors are asked to take part in, or volunteer at, five of the eight races in the series. For doing so, they receive a commemorative patch that can be stitched onto our very recognisable hoodies. It’s a brilliant way to get all our members running together and there is always a great buzz at these races.

IR: What other events/competitions does the club organise or run?
AB: We recently had two teams at the Dublin Masters Cross Country. We would have previously thought this was way out of our league; and for most it was way out of their comfort zone but, by all accounts, everyone had a great day and really enjoyed it

IR: What other competitive events has the club participated in?
AB: We took part in the Dublin Masters last year and two of our members won medals. Linda Casey and Bridie Bowe came second in their respective age categories. In 2016, a lot of Warriors took part for the first time in the Dublin Marathon and Jean O’Reilly won gold for first in her age category, Carmel Cavanagh won bronze and we had a winning team too. It was a huge surprise to us as we didn’t even realise we were competing.

IR: How important is the club to the community?
AB: The club has become a huge part of the community and on any given evening you will see people out and about running. Our members are also regulars at the Waterstown parkrun on a Saturday morning.

IR: When does the club meet and train?
AB: We meet in Waterstown Park on Monday and Wednesdays at 7.30pm. We realise these times don’t suit everyone, so we also have a private Facebook page where members post if they are planning a run and want some company.

IR: What are the benefits of joining a running club?
AB: I think the most important aspect of joining a club like ours is the friendship. We are always very welcoming to everyone and everyone is welcome! It’s great to see people who never knew each other running along and chatting to each other. It really is a release for a lot of them and it’s always great to get out and clear the head. We always say we never regret going out for a run, instead it’s the runs you don’t do that you regret. Our motto is ‘Nobody gets left behind’ and we can always be seen at the finish line waiting until the last Warrior crosses the line. We celebrate the last finisher just as much, and sometimes more, than the first finisher.

The Waterstown Warriors with their coach Feidhlim Kelly at the SPAR Streets of Dublin 5K at the CHQ Building in Dublin.
Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile. 

Work, rest and play

Ann explains the importance of the social side of a running club: “While, fundamentally, our club caters for runners who have never run before, we also attract a lot of people who are returning to running, perhaps from injury or after a break due to ill health or because life has just gotten in the way. They love the no-pressure atmosphere. We also have some excellent runners who have a lot of experience and their help and advice to others is invaluable. Our club has gone from strength to strength and we are confident that it will continue to grow. When our club was set up, we never thought, in our wildest dreams, that we would see so many members take part in a marathon or, indeed, an Ironman. The sky is the limit as far as we are concerned, and if we can continue to help and encourage people to achieve their goals that will be a job well done.

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