This time last year I was a member of a local running club, a running club with a lot of history starting up in 1981. I was secretary, committee member, and coach. The little club had given me friends and added fuel to my passion for the sport I love, running. I was a proud member and showed my club colours where ever I could – even signing off my emails with the club website at the bottom of each one. I was the proud caretaker of the club chairmans cup and thought I’d be with that club for all of my running career.
How wrong could I be?
Also at this time last year I was becoming nervous about a personal challenge I’d set myself, a challenge to organise and create my own 10k. I’d had the course measured, I’d completed all the health and safety requirements and I’d secured a licence. I also contacted the local press about the event who printed an article about it. This is when I got wind that ‘the club’ or certain individuals were not happy about my arranging my own race. The press had printed the article stating that my race was organised by my club. This was a genuine mistake on my part, the clubs details were in my email signature. I apologised officially to those members concerned attempted to get a reprint in the paper who felt it was a ‘petty issue’ and continued to organise the 10k
The 10k was a success, the participants feedback was great and I had some support from some club members. I was so chuffed to have achieved what I’d set out to do and also help raise money for The Cold Aston PTA – it was a success!!
A few weeks passed and in email form I received a message from a club member saying that I had to provide them with the finance details of the run and proof that all monies had gone to charity – and then, if this was the case, they would be fully supportive of my venture (although a little lare by then) I was shocked to say the least. I responded, not giving all the information requested, however explaining my monies raised and costs and my passion. This was possibly the wrong thing to do as this opened me up to what I felt was a nasty and personal attack via email from this individual. It stated personal and hurtful things about me and allegedly other club members thoughts of me. I felt as though I had been punched, deep in the pit of my stomach. I had only ever meant to encourage activity and provide another local village event.
This time I did not respond I followed procedure and forwarded the mail to the chairman. In hindsight I now wish I had taken the issue to England Athletics and followed procedures I now know they have in place.
What followed for me was a hush hush committee meeting approach to the problem where I realised that this behaviour would be accepted. During a meeting it was deemed that any club member would possibly, have to pass any outside activity (making money through running) arranging events, which was what I did for work by the committee every time. The letter I was sent was read only by the committee and in the meeting the perpetrator sat and said calmly that someone in that room had felt that what was written was acceptable because they had asked them. The committee was split, some of them felt it was okay some of them didn’t.
There were other issues about my coaching qualifications gained in the club and my coaching for a fee to non club members – I would challenge that I’d coach any and every club member for free.
Committee split!! I was broken. My years of support, enthusiasm, the one time I’d committed to a group with time and passion, I was broken. During that meeting I knew I could not stay, their views were narrow their thoughts unkind (not all but half of that committee) and the membership were never to really know.
I resigned a while after. The bully had won, that is what they had suggested I do. But despite the love for the club I had, I could not stay. Running is for everyone, activity is for everyone. Yes it’s my business too. To run and share my passion, I have to be where I feel comfortable and encouraging and most importantly free to be me.
It transpired after my resignation that others would leave the club too, about 8 or so and others have their own tales to tell or keep quiet for the sake of that lovely lovely club.
I’m in a new club now and not involved like I would have been before. I appreciate that club, for its diversity and it’s size allowing anonymity if that’s how you wish to be (not likely for me) I’ve also helped build a new local Tri club too.
If you have any issues I’d urge you to go through the correct procedures. Go to your governing body, they are there for you!! Don’t keep things quiet for the sake of a lovely club – this kind of thing is not nice and should not carry on.
If you’re scared to write it, it’s probably true!!
Thank you Liz Goodchild for the courage to write this post x