With an incredible spike in membership numbers over the past few months I thought I'd write a little bit about where we started and where we were just a few months ago and some of the reasons why I think there's been such an increase.
I won't go through the whole story as there's another blog post here that goes through how the club started in more detail. After setting up the club in August 2012 we officially signed up for affiliation to Welsh Athletics in January 2013 with 20 members initially signing up. Of those 20 there are 8 of us that have remained members ever since - me, Kelly, Aled, John, Helen G, Helen D, Matthew, Anthony W. In June 2013 another 7 members were signed up although the only one of those that remains is Nick. Two more signed up late in the year meaning we eventually got to 29 members by the end of the first year.
2014 - the first six months
Its hard to believe now but just a year ago with affiliation due in April for the uptake was worryingly low. For various reasons (new jobs, family commitments, injuries) quiet a lot of the original members didn't renew their membership and at the end of April 2014 we had just 22 members with Dai C and Dai K becoming the only new members. The Couch to 5K sessions I was involved in helped make a difference and in June 2014, seven of those who attended the sessions joined the club. Around this time, Richard LJ, Lorna, Fiona and Kevin R also became members amongst others brining our total up to a record 34.
2014 - the second six months
A huge recruitment drive commenced and we targeted friends made through parkrun who were unaffiliated and signed up Heather and Richard Garratt and Chris Pratt amongst others. A couple more Couch to 5K attendees officially joined, plus Liz Davis who had just found out she'd got into the London Marathon. Rhys, Maria, Jackie and Ceri followed along with Frances and Gareth Samuel. This took our membership over the 50 mark by the end of 2014.
2015 so far
Again, it's inevitable that on renewal, a few will choose not to for various reasons so in terms of returning members we had 38 with another regular parkrunner Chris Roberts being one of the first new members. Couch to 5K had provided a few members in 2014 but with an influx of members from outside the valley, it was decided to look at setting up a new beginners / improvers club on Pandy Park. The new club coaches were to take it on with help from several other members and Zero to Hero club was created. Within weeks, we had several new members, most of which now attend both Zero to Hero and club sessions. More followed plus a couple more regular parkrunners and by the start of May we were up to a record 60 members. Other new members included Helen LJ, Alicia Thomas and Ann Davies. Then just in the past week or so, Dai Power, Melanie Thomas, Gail Pritchard, Fiona Drysdale, Neil Jones, Neil Harris, Dave Evans, Christie Coleman, Katie Wood and Amanda Pallister have all officially signed up. As at 24/05/2015, we have 72 members!
April 2013: 20
Dec 2013: 29
April 2014: 22
Dec 2014: 52
April 2015: 38 (returning members)
May 2015: 72
The formula to success
There a number of reasons for the massive increase but I think the main ones in no particular order are...
1. Being an all-inclusive club - having something for everyone whether your starting out running for 30 seconds or are an ultra runner doing 30 miles.
2. Social media - I've joined a lot of other running clubs facebook groups but I don't think any come close to Cwm Ogwr for information, tips, stats and mostly just friendly banter.
3. Parkrun - I think most people we asked were thrilled to be asked to become a member of an affiliated running club even if they couldn't necessarily make training sessions. Members chat before the start, warm up together, often run or pace each other, and unless someone has to rush off for other commitments, the vast majority stay at the finish line to cheer the rest of the runners in. A post run coffee has also become part of the parkrun morning for many of us as well. Our parkrun stats (number of runners / number of runs) are now not far off the biggest clubs in the area.
4. Zero to Hero - we've probably had close to 20 members through this. Kevin and Dai K with help from several other members have created a friendly, encouraging group that accepts all abilities with fantastic results for the attendees (and our membership).
5. The coaches - the club paid for Kevin, Dai K, Kelly and Aled to go on Welsh Athletics coaching courses and our sessions have improved substantially compared to just a few months ago. It shows in the results of our members as well as huge increases in attendance at training where we're regularly having record numbers turning up.
6. Word of Mouth / friends of members - by creating such a friendly, encouraging atmosphere, Cwm Ogwr has gone from a small new club in the shadow of some of our more established local clubs to one that stands alongside them. We have had several members join through the recommendations of others and are regularly complimented by other parkrunners and club runners on creating such a great club. We have numerous members who live nearer other local clubs but have chosen to join us.
The club's 5 miler last weekend has only helped enhance our reputation with glowing reviews by other club runners and a number of new members as a result. It's a really exciting time to be part of the club and I'm honoured to be the chairman. A massive thanks to every member, the committee and especially Kelly Owen who's idea it was to create the club has done a huge amount since day one.