In this series, we cast our eye upon other running clubs around New Zealand.
Wellington has abundant evidence that Napier Harriers produces some pretty outstanding runners. Lucas Du Ross has been regular presence in his Napier singlet, leading the field in Wellington-area cross-country races. And Scottish has been the beneficiary of an influx of talented Napier Harriers runners, with Ruby Muir, James Parsons, and Kristian Day all moving to Wellington, joining Scottish, and immediately getting amongst the medals in our inter-club events. Followers of the national scene will also know of Napier’s Laura Nagel, winner of the 2016 national road and cross-country titles, and Eric Speakman, one of the country’s best 1500m runners.
For all its prominence at the elite level, Napier Harriers prides itself on being a family-oriented club that serves runners of all ages and abilities. The club was founded in 1934, and for the last thirty years has been based at Taradale Park, where it shares a facility with a tennis club and a cricket club. Napier’s club rooms are one of its most prized assets. As Kristian notes – with perhaps a touch of longing – the clubhouse features a licensed bar.
Napier’s membership has been steady at around 150 for several years, and club president Nicole Speakman says that a major focus for the club is on keeping members engaged with club activities. One successful measure has been to pack the club’s winter schedule with club races; compared to Scottish, Napier has few Saturdays reserved for training runs. The club races are of varying lengths and formats. They include a range of team and relay events, usually with teams selected randomly, along with a number of sealed and open handicap races, usually with longer and shorter options available.
A regular feature of Napier’s racing season is the Memorial Road Race, held in memory of four young Napier Harrier runners who died in a car accident while returning from a road relay in 1967. A 24km run, always hard-fought, Kristian names it as one of his favourite club races.
The major difference in atmosphere between Napier and Scottish, Kristian says, is due to large contingent of junior athletes. Over half Napier’s members are kids, and a good portion of the club’s publicity, as well as a good part of its coaching programme, is directed at attracting and serving junior members.
Nicole is pleased to lead a club with stable membership and a dedicated team of coaches and officials. The club always has members ready to volunteer and to take on administrative roles. Nicole says that many of the club’s main challenges, as well as its main opportunities, have to do with adopting new technology. The club encourages its volunteers to take courses in the use of timing equipment, and is working on incorporating other technological advances. As harrier clubs face increasing competition from other sports and other running events, Nicole sees the focus on technological innovations – along with maintaining the club’s friendly atmosphere and the availability of experienced and approachable coaches – as a major part of Napier Harriers’ future.