Six years on runners take another stride forward

Something very special started six years ago when a small group of runners decided to set up a ‘parkrun’ in Beeston.
Having passed the 300 mark at the beginning of March, Cross Flatts parkrun is celebrating its sixth birthday on Saturday (30 March 2019). Fancy dress is encouraged and inevitably there will be cake and chocolate at the finish.

Organising a free, weekly 5k walk, jog or run event attracting well over 100 people is an achievement in itself. But organisers pushed forward to form the South Leeds Lakers social running club; started a Sunday morning junior parkrun and now starting Lakers’ Junior section.

South Leeds Lakers is now affiliated to England Athletics and has over 70 affiliated athletes and regularly attracts 90+ runners to Beeston Co-op on a Tuesday evening at 7pm for free organised runs.

We spoke to Chairman Martin Lee about the challenge of organising a Junior Section for 8-14 year olds.

Why did South Leeds Lakers decide to form a Junior Section?

“We have seen the impact that running, particularly running within a club environment has on people in our local area. Not just the physical benefits of improved health and fitness, but improvements in mental health and self-esteem. Our members often tell us what a positive impact running with us has had, and is some cases life changing.

“We wanted to extend this positive impact to the young people in our area too, help them get active and achieve their goals in a supporting and friendly environment.”

Has this come from the inexorable rise of junior parkrun at Cross Flatts?

“The junior parkrun has proved very popular with young people in our area, and has taken off very well. We would like to add to this by providing more opportunity to participate, and get involved with other people their age. Who knows there may be a chance to improve on your parkrun PB (personal best), or through the Lakers juniors be able to take part in a Parkrun for the first time.”

Have you found a safe environment for the club to take place?

“Yes, we are very lucky to have secured the outside playing fields at the rear of Cockburn School, which provides a totally enclosed area with lots of room to work in. It also provides great access to the trails in Middleton woods.
There is also plenty of parking for parents who may have to travel. The school have been very supportive by sharing their school facilities with us, and a space which is perfect especially with the summer months approaching.”

How have you gone about training Run Leaders to look after the kids?

“We were lucky to secure funding from England Athletics, which has enabled five of our current club run leaders to take a course in leading athletics. Two have since gone on to the next level and taken the ‘Assistant coaching course’, and are now on a pathway to become full coaches in the near future.”

“In addition to this, all our leaders are fully DBS checked and three are first aid qualified. We appreciate when working with young people, safeguarding, along with health and safety are our top priorites. We have worked hard to put policies and processes in place to ensure this is organised, enjoyable, fun, and a safe environment.”

Will it just be learning to run?

“The focus will be running, we are a running club after all. However, during this development age of 8-14 years, it is recommended that children should ideally be engaged in multi sports and across as many event groups as possible. Therefore, there will be running, jumping and throwing activities involved.”

How can the parents help out?

“We are requesting that at least one adult accompanies each child, and it would be lovely to see parents actively take part. We have seen this before at our adult club sessions where parents who have turned up with their children have joined in our Couch to 5k programme, and despite never running before have successfully completed 5k. We are a family club and would like to see this continue with our juniors.”

It sounds great! How do I go about getting my kids involved?

“It is important to note that the Lakers are an inclusive club and we want to welcome all young people, whether you have run before or not. The sessions are free and we would encourage anyone who wants to give athletics and running a go, to sign up.”

The sessions start on Thursday 18 April, and then every Thursday between 6-7pm at Cockburn School, Gypsy Lane, Beeston, Leeds LS11 5TT. If you are interested then you can sign up at: