John Hill was one of the founding members of Lliswerry Runners and served as Club Secretary from 1985 – 2005. He was made a Life Member for his services to the Club in 2005. As we celebrate our 30th year we thought it a good opportunity to catch up with John to find out how it all started.
Chris Matthews (CM): So who decided to start a running club?
John Hill (JH): Roy Skelton (Manager – Lliswerry Leisure Centre) ran an informal running session from the centre which met weekly. This coincided with the running boom of the early/mid eighties which had swept across most of Britain following the launch of the London Marathon. There were already newly formed running clubs in leisure centres in Risca, Cwmbran and Pontypool. Following a meeting in May 1985 a decision was taken to form Lliswerry Runners.
(CM): Was there anybody else there we might know?
(JH): Yes, Neil Chipper was present at the meeting and he continues to represent the Club on a regular basis – “ there is only one Chipper!”
(CM): What were the aims of the Club?
(JH): It must be remembered at the time Lliswerry Runners were formed, Newport Harriers were one of the strongest road/cross country clubs in Britain – with Steve Jones the World Marathon record holder amongst their members. I believe many people interested in joining a running club at that time were understandably intimidated and were looking for an alternative. From its beginning Lliswerry Runners wanted to be seen as Newport’s friendly running club which welcomed all runners irrespective of age, sex or ability – and I am pleased that thirty years later this still remains its ethos.
(CM): Where did you meet ….. and why the maroon and white?
(JH): Club sessions were held at Lliswerry Leisure Centre – attached to Lliswerry High School from 1985 until we moved to the new athletics stadium at Spytty Park in 1992. During this period membership ranged from 60 – 100 members, including a junior section. Maroon and White was chosen as they were the colours of the school.
(CM): How did the Lliswerry 8 mile road race come about?
(JH): In the late summer of 1985 myself and Bob Sweeney (Club Chair) were considering putting on an event and wanted something different from the 10k and 10 mile races organised by Newport Harriers at the time. The first Lliswerry 8 took place on 1st February 1986 and so the 2015 race will be the 30th time the event has been held.
(CM): How did the Gwent Leisure Centre League races come about?
(JH): Lliswerry Runners were instrumental in the formation of the GLCL alongside Risca Road Runners, Fairwater Road Runners and Griffithstown Harriers. Lliswerry Runners hosted the first GLCL race in July 1986 when four clubs took part. The ethos of the GLCL was to provide all its members irrespective of ability with free races they could take part in – within a competitive but friendly environment.
(CM): Any memorable moments over the years?
(JH): There have been many over the past thirty years, these are just a few:
- Club trips to races in Jersey, Spain, France and Holland;
- Winning the Men’s Track and Field League in Wrexham – and everyone being treated to fish and chips on the way home - what a Treasurer Martyn Lennon was!
- The many years of competing in the Welsh Castles Relays – and our regular overnight stays in Caernarfon and Crossgates – and no, Chris Davies (then Treasurer) would never treat the team to fish and chips!
(CM): Finally, what do you think today when you turn up to an event and see so many Lliswerry vests?
(JH): Firstly, I would like to thank Chris Davies and the other current officers of the Club, and all the other officers who have served in the intervening years, for the tremendous work they have put in to grow Lliswerry Runners to its present size. However, growing the Club so quickly could have led to a host of problems, and it is credit to the officers that the various initiatives they have introduced have managed to maintain and improve Lliswerry Runners reputation as Newport’s friendly running club.
I do feel a sense of pride each time I see so many maroon and white vests competing at events around the country – and that I played a small part in the Lliswerry Runners that everyone is able to enjoy today – thirty years after its formation.
(CM) On behalf of all current members, and the hundreds who have been part of this club over last thirty years, many thanks to you and I hope you'll enjoy participating in the Lliswerry 8 yourself.