Steeple Chasers Running and Cycling Club first started from a Facebook post in their local village group and has since seen a rapid rise since first forming in January 2020, becoming an important hub for members both physically and socially.
“I put out a Facebook post on the local village group asking if anyone was interested in joining me doing Couch to 5k,” Club Chair Victoria Bovill-Lamb recalled. “I was thinking that I would just get two ‘likes’ and nothing else. I pitched up at the village hall one morning and about 14 ladies all turned up on a winter’s morning.
“Now we have over 60 members, the majority are women, and five of the members from the original Couch to 5k course have gone on to run half-marathons and marathons which is amazing, and I’m slowly getting more and more women at the club thinking of doing their first triathlon. Two have already competed in GO TRI, including a Tri Dog event, with a couple more doing duathlons in March and several members have also signed-up for their first ‘proper’ triathlon in Leeds later this year.”
Throughout the club there are many stories of how the club has encouraged and helped members achieve their swim, bike, run goals, whether that is across just one or all three sports. Helen Shelswell is one of the club’s committee members who first started at the club to complete the Couch to 5k programme and has already since gone on to run a marathon.
“Steeple Chasers has had a hugely positive impact on me, physically and emotionally,” Shelswell reflected. “After about 15 years of not running I decided to give Couch to 5K another go, even if I could slowly jog a park run.
“Thanks to the encouragement of club members and excellent coaching from Victoria, I did manage to run a 5k, but felt so encouraged and empowered I went on to progress to a full marathon the following year. I’d never dreamt of that, and it would not have been possible without the club.
“On an emotional level, the club was a life saver for me during lockdown. We kept up regular socially distanced running events, and online chats, quizzes, well-being workshops, yoga events, marathon training plan sessions and even online cookery cook-along demos.”
It was this continued activity and togetherness that saw Club Chair Victoria Bovill-Lamb receive a special thank you from The One Show in November 2020 when presenter Alex Jones joined the club’s weekly online strength and conditioning session, along with video messages from Alistair Brownlee, Chrissie Wellington and Jessica Ennis-Hill.
It’s the support from the club and its members that has seen the Steeple Chasers open up the world of swim, bike, run to members of the community who may not have otherwise considered getting involved.
“I juggle my work at a busy veterinary clinic where animals don't work to schedules, and being a full-time carer for my mum and always being on-call which can be stressful,” club member Shirley Swanson said. “The club and its activities give me some me-time, helps release those endorphins and helps to keep me grounded if not sane.
“Through the club I have now achieved a personal high when not only did I complete my first sprint triathlon in 2021, but I have now run the furthest distance in my life having completed the Cambridge Half Marathon. I would never have entered a triathlon or considered entering a half marathon without the Steeple Chasers.”
Although the majority of the club’s members are women, they are also starting to get husbands and partners involved too with the enjoyment of swim, bike, run continuing to expand throughout the community.
Club member Lorraine Perricone said: “I think being part of the Steeple Chasers, an all-women’s club with a sprinkling of HABs, a play on WAGs, strengthens and empowers women to feel comfortable and enables achievement and us to support and inspire each other with our successes.”
“Being involved in the club has given me the drive to keep exercising knowing I’m surrounded by a group of likeminded, supportive women who encourage me to keep going,” Emma Brown commented. “The best thing is the fun and camaraderie between all the members. It makes me want to run, something I never thought would happen.”
Laura Sims, who is part of the club’s committee, added: “Because of the club, I have been able to progress from being a novice runner to completing three half marathons, a sportive and a GO TRI duathlon. I have grown in confidence and ability and have booked for my first sprint triathlon this summer. My fitness, health, stamina and general wellness is so much better as a result and what's more, I have had a lot of fun along the way with a super, friendly bunch of women.”
Throughout January this year, the club embarked on a virtual club challenge to swim, bike and run the equivalent of the 3,500-mile distance between their village base in Cambridgeshire to New York.
Not only did they pass the distance they set out to achieve by nearly 2,000 miles, their total distance of 5,350 miles saw the club come close to reaching Los Angeles on the west coast of the USA.
The virtual challenge was one of a number of activities the Steeple Morden-based club organised over the winter months including community activator runs, a Couch to 5k course, Sunday morning brick sessions and a focus on adding the swim element of triathlon to the club’s training programme.
“We are a running and cycling club and it’s my aspiration to get us into a triathlon club and the biggest challenge has been getting our members into the open water,” Bovill-Lamb added. “Last year I got an open water swimming coach to host beginner sessions in a local lake. I honestly thought I would get two at most, 24 turned up.
“From there, I have got a little offshoot of the club and it’s for women who want to do triathlon for the first time, so we’ve been working on adding a swim side to the club. There is someone in the village who has their own indoor pool, and he kindly lets us have it free for two hours a week so, although there’s no coaching, it’s just a friendly, group of friends getting together, doing drills between us, which is great.”