Sub-groups and sub-cultures within the club

There is the club, and there are the clubs within the club. In our latest article on the state of the Scottish, club legend Grant McLean draws upon his depth of knowledge and experience to tell us about the different groups that form under the Wellington Scottish banner.

James Turner’s recent article A Sense of Belonging talked about the special social value provided by Scottish club being a point of difference and offering to members. I wholeheartedly agree. Further, Scottish with its advantage of critical mass and diversity, creates spaces for several sub-groups and sub-cultures that add further flavour, vigour and inclusiveness within the club. The club could market these sub-cultures more externally to the broader running market.

My favourite annual Scottish club event is not the Prize-Giving, the Night of Miles, or the Annual Supporters Club Dinner. No, while these are all great, my favourite event is the Scottish Dinner the evening after the New Zealand Road Relay. That night we collectively feel the universal sense of belonging and pride for ‘Scottish’ – the club and heritage. In addition, I really enjoy it when each team captain gets up and talks with passion about her or his team and the achievements and dramas that unfolded during their day at the races. Those speeches really provide a vignette of the sub-cultures that are evident in the club, and we get a chance to collectively celebrate the efforts of all our varied teams, groups and sub-cultures. In this way I think of Scottish as the nation and the teams and groups as the tribes within.

Many of our club sections and teams have built up distinctive and evolving cultures, histories and legacies over many years. Some have strived for high performance, and others strived to play up – but all at the heart are about facilitating shared experience and a sense of belonging together. Some notable ‘sub-clubs’ include:

The Masters Women: The most successful club section and team in the club’s history. Winner of 11 National Road Relay titles. Led by Michele Allison with a military discipline and precision that the Duke of Wellington himself would have been impressed with. Harbouring such aces as the late great Bernie Portenski, Anne Hare, Melissa Moon and a core of several stalwarts who have been loyal to the team for many years. They are almost as well known for their enthusiastic post-race celebrations on the dance floor.

Senior Women: This section has gone from strength to strength since its establishment in the 1970s. The senior women’s teams have become central to the club, and prominent at road relays over the years. There have been visionary and inclusive team captains, such as Heather Thorley and Andrena Patterson, who have moulded the culture of the section to be more than racing. The section is currently enjoying a period of real growth with many new members joining this year. Exciting times.

The J team: The J team was kicked off by a few parents, including Phil Sadgrove, Jenny McDonald and Bev Hodge, and the ‘J team’ name came into being. A special J team tee shirt was produced and a booklet on its purpose – which was an emphasis on fun and fitness. Robyn Holland advanced the team activities in the mid-2000s and since 2012 Jonathan Harper has been at the helm bringing additional events, variety and fun into the team’s season programme.

The P team: Currently in something of a hiatus (but it will rise again) is the P team – formed in the 1990s, it epitomised the social heart of the club. The team is firmly about the social side, fun and friendship and having the odd – well, quite a few – beers. Team membership is remarkably varied and transcends traditional club sections and teams with members ranging from the strictly recreational to A team members wanting a bit of ‘time out’ from racing or being part of both. The highlight of the year was the annual P team Pub Crawl held the night of the Wellington Road Championships. In more recent years the pinnacle event has become the annual P team World Mountain Running Championships, which is now becoming a pan-club event, and don’t forget the ‘beer mile’.

The Race Walkers – Our race walkers have a pedigree that extends right back to the formation of the club with founding member Albert Rowland representing ‘Australasia’ at the 1908 Olympics in the 3500metre race walk (placing fourth). Through the leadership of David Lonsdale and race-walking stalwart Peter Baillie the race-walking section grew to 30 during the 2000s and remains a strong and tight group today, which is well known in the race-walking scene across the country. They often have some of the best National Road Relay Dinner stories too.

Master Men 40s and 50s: Although starting to exhibit a few grey hairs, the M40s have become strong on quality, quantity and Todd Steven’s-inspired discipline and strategy. Several team members over the years initially resisted the magnetic pull of Grandfather Time and continued to be competitive with the top senior men (e.g. Steve Hunt, Stephen Day, Stu Beresford), remaining in the A team into their early forties. The squad’s depth since the late-2000s often resulted in the M40s being able to field two teams at the National Road Relays. Not to be outdone, the M50s have also built a strong internal culture and identity; donating the largest club trophy for the M50 club champion, generally agonising over team selections and which physios to call upon to address the long list of team injury woes to ensure a full team to relays. The M50s also have acquired an official team van (the Kettles Mobile) and celebrate all running occasions with a chilly bin of beers and crisps.

The B Boyz:  Once considered something of a ‘transit lounge’ for the A team, revisionism has revealed the B team to be a destination, rather than a place to simply try to pass through. The B team has been going since the early days of road relays in the 1940s, first winning the B grade at the National Road Relay in 1969 and in 2004 reached their zenith in running a remarkable third overall to the victorious Scottish A team. The team is known for near cult-like dedication and furious leadership with previous team captain Rohan Biggs memorably destroying parts of the team van during his pep-talks. So rather than being a holding pen for those striving for the A team, many a male club member strives to make it into the B Boyz and tries to stay there.

There are also other sub-cultures that have emerged more organically from within the club to meet the different running interests and paces of club members. Examples include the Scenic Sunday running group formed by Ken Howell. This group enjoyed roving the city for a more leisurely Sunday running outing (rather than thrashing out Makaras) and finishing with a well-earned soy flat white post run. The triathlon-based club runners are another sub-group. These members with the ability to master not one, but three sports really are a unique breed and support network as well as mingling with the rest of the one-trick ponies. More recently trail running is taking a stronger foothold in the club and building on the mountain-running legacy within the club. The Trail-Blazers boast a good cross-section of club members and has the potential to really grow and further connect with the large trail-running community out there.

In conclusion, the notion above that the B team is a destination, applies to all our club teams and sub-cultures. They are all worthy destinations, spaces and places for different club members to belong too and express themselves either permanently (if the body holds up), or for a visit at different times in their running lives. They are also all of equal value under the banners and flags of the great Scottish club.  Spread the word…