In June 1982 Robin Walker, from Melton Rugby Club, wrote to the Melton Times inviting runners to attend a meeting to form a local running club. Walker, Jim Bishop and John Brutnell were members of Wreake Runners and were keen to set up in Melton.
The inaugural meeting was held on 1st July and 21 athletes turned up in support. Walker secured a base at the Saxby Road All England Ground, then the home of Melton Rugby Club, and the club was to move a further three times to Melton Town FC, Egerton Park Cricket Club and finally to the community centre at the Upper School, prior to the rugby club moving there as well.
Robin became the first chairman, with Jim as secretary and Peter Young as treasurer. An application made to Leicestershire AA was greeted with enthusiasm thanks to the county’s strong links with the formerly successful Holwell club.
Things moved rapidly and within weeks runners of all abilities were joining, notably Ron Grove ( see below for a synopsis of Ron’s running pedigree ) who, in his international years, had been a member of Leicester Corinthians. Mick and Derek Stevens and Danny Keightley were early members, while Mick Adams was a founder member with Nigel Brown, whose brother Nick is still running.
Established runners such as Andy Hart, Dave Henson, Paul Gilbert and Rob Rollins joined from other clubs and teams and individuals were soon successfully competing at a top level in every road race within a 50 mile radius.
The first Bellshire Half Marathon was run in October 1983 starting from the Corn Exchange (Bell Centre) and finishing in the cattle market car park. The inaugural race attracted 2,320 runners for the half-marathon and nearly 1,200 for the three mile fun run – over 3,500 in total.
The Bellshire (later the Stilton) ran successfully for seven years and only when the popularity of competing races reduced entries to below 1,200 and the added difficulties of obtaining a race permit to cater for large numbers did the club decide to drop the event from the race calendar.
Originally the winter and summer road running leagues were separate and Stilton Striders made a tremendous impact on the Winter League, winning the championships in 1984, 1985 and 1986, while the ladies won the league in 1985, with the late Jane Bishop, Julie Bass and Julie Blythe competing at the highest levels. It is worth looking at the club records (http://www.stiltonstriders.co.uk/race-records) section of the Striders’ website to see how many of the club records have stood the test of time. It’s a credit to these runners in the early days who did not benefit from today’s technological equipment and nutrition advice. More recent successful runners (to name a few and not necessarily limited to) include Nicola Clay, Debbie Shaw, Natalie Fryer (Teece), Chris Southam, Christian Davidson and Darren Glover.
Juniors have long been a part of the club but in the early days were barely catered for. However, when Di Underwood became chairman one of her priorities was to address the problems of recruiting, coaching and retaining youngsters.
Di took the youngsters on board, attending coaching courses, both practical and technical, and she and Richard Cox have been – and still are – responsible for the outstanding success the younger section has achieved for the club.
The years have seen a lot of changes but the enthusiastic committee at Stilton Striders are determined the club will continue to prosper in all areas going forward, with an ethos of equality and inclusiveness for all running abilities.
Ron Grove The club have had many great athletes who have been proud to wear our club vest and have put in some remarkable performances. Unfortunately we have lost some of these greats over the years. One of our greatest runners was the late Ron Grove: Below is a tribute to his running achievements.
Ron was a fairly late starter to the sport at the age of 17, but he quickly made up for his lost years eventually representing team GB in the marathon at several races in Europe and was even a world record holder for five years.
It all began when Ron, his twin Peter and a group of friends went on a camping holiday to Llandudno and played a variety of sports – football, golf, swimming and roller-skating to name but a few. One of the friends on the trip said that an athletic club, Melton Mowbray Amateur Boxing and Athletic Club (pre-Stilton Striders) was starting in Melton and recommended Ron and Pete to go along, which they did. The main coach was called Bill Goddard, a former Midlands champion at both the mile and the 880 yards (half mile). Ron said that “… he was really our mainstay and he guided us with our training and we were soon competing in races.”
Ron lived in Nottinghamshire at the time and he was soon winning several races, including the county cross-country races. “We trained every Tuesday evening and it was great,” added Ron. “We had a successful club and Bill used to support us with our cross-country running, which was the main form of racing in those days.
Ron worked at Petfoods doing shift work and, when he moved from Nottinghamshire to Melton Mowbray, he joined Leicester Coritanians, the main athletics club in Leicestershire which boasted its own stadium and track. More county titles followed, including several senior honours and a lot of North Midlands cross-country race victories. His record of 18 North Midlands League race victories still stands today and is unlikely to ever be broken. His stunning wins led to numerous national call-ups including the World Cross Country Championships in Belgium and France, where two team gold medals were won. “Winning the team gold was obviously nice,” he said. “But personally I didn’t perform in the race up to my potential and it would have been nice to have been one of the front runners.” His best time in a marathon was an incredible 2 hours and 17 minutes, which he set in Belgium when the legendary Australian Derek Clayton broke the world record, and he made the shortlist for the Great Britain team for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, but was narrowly pipped to a place and wasn’t selected. “I’m glad I didn’t go in the end,” he said. “The high altitude over there wouldn’t have done me any good and I knew that the Kenyans and the Ethiopians would sweep the board, which they did.”
Ron may have missed out on the Olympics, but he made his way into the record books that year when he finished second to Ron Hill at Saffron Lane in Leicester in the world record attempt for the longest distance ran in an hour, a staggering 12 miles and 1,084 yards. He ran this race between night shifts working at Petfoods. “Without a doubt breaking the world record has to have been my main achievement in the sport, even though I only finished second.”
Ron also won a five-mile race in Peterborough in an incredible time of 23 minutes and 12 seconds that year. His record of 28:59 also still stands today as the Leicestershire and Rutland AA’s track championship time for 10,000m.
It had not always been a brilliant career for Ron and he has suffered his fair share of injuries, the worst of which saw him out of action for almost two years with a knee ligament injury.
From the Coritanians, Ron then became one of the first members of the Stilton Striders back in 1982, and for many years was the club’s captain, winning age category races right up to his retirement from running. At the height of his career Ron used to run around 80 miles each week and he still managed to run around 40 before he stopped racing. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to,” he said. “I didn’t like going backwards as I got older and going further down the field, but I just had to accept it because it happens to all veteran runners.” He added: “You cannot describe to somebody what it feels like to be super-fast at running. Your feet don’t touch the ground and it is something that you have to experience to know what it actually feels like to run effortlessly.”
In 2005 Ron was presented with a special award from Melton Borough Council in recognition for his outstanding running achievements. I ( Chris Genes) was fortunate to run with (behind) Ron and one of my favourite recollections of Ron was that each year he told his wife Judy not to buy a turkey for Christmas as he was running in the Turkey Trot and would win one there as age category winner – which he regularly did.
RIP Ron Grove