South West Road Runners Club History

The story of the foundation of the club by Patrick Carroll, Chairman from 1990 - 1995 and 2001 - 2003

Chris Brasher, the 3000 metres steeplechase gold medal winner at the 1956 Olympics, was in New York at the time of the 1978 Marathon. Impressed he returned the following year to run the 1979 Marathon.  Chris was convinced London needed a marathon and set about organising one. The first was held on 29th March 1981, around 20,000 applied, 7,747 entries taken and 6,255 finished .The first London was so popular over 90,000 applied in 1982 and 18,500 entries were accepted, 15116 finished. The road running boom had arrived.

Existing Athletic clubs found it difficult to handle the growth of road running and few sports shops catered for road runners, the internet was many years away. One shop, the Runners Edge, situated in the Exeter, was managed by Colin Price an experienced distance runner. Colin was used to running marathons with only twenty entrants, around country lanes with cattle and sheep as spectators.

Soon the Runners Edge attracted custom from all over the South West. Colin was often asked about training and received requests to join him on his training runs. Colin agreed to arrange a training run after collecting a dozen names who were interested. On a Wednesday evening in May 1984 (exact date unknown) the group, all vets, met in the car park near the Royal Oak Inn, in Okehampton Street for a run along the canal path. Things moved very fast from there.

Within weeks the growing group decided to form a club. The group came from all over the South West so SWRR was the obvious name to choose. A fun run was organised for 4th July which attracted 130 entries and potential members. A group meeting was held on 18th July, at the Cowick Barton, and others quickly followed. A small provisional committee was formed with Colin Price as Chairman. Membership was agreed at £1.50.and yellow was the chosen colour for vests with black shorts.  Terry Doble (membership no. 1) designed the SWRR motif. Affiliation to Devon County AAA was successfully applied for.

Another fun run took place on 15thAugust attracting 250 and more membership applications. The first social, a disco buffet was held on 28th September. Affiliation to the National AAA and WAAA followed and premises at the back of the Whipton Inn rented by early October. The first newsletter appeared on 1st October. Within six months of the first training run, SWRR were established.

In December the first Christmas Fun Run was organised, followed by a similar event in Exmouth in early 1985 and an Easter Bunny Fun Run a few weeks later.  

The first AGM was on 3rd July 1985 at the Whipton Inn. Membership now stood at 174. A new committee was formed and a constitution formally adopted. Adult membership was fixed at £3.

The Club were approached by Devon Fuels who wished to sponsor a road race and fun run. This challenge was accepted and a ten mile road race and five mile fun run organised for 27th October 1985.The first, SWRR official AAA event. It started outside the old Exminster Hospital entrance and finished at Devon Fuels behind the petrol station on the A379.  The main event attracted 300 entries and SWRR were asked and agreed to repeat the event in 1986 and 1987.

In December 1985 the Christmas Fun Run moved to the Great Hall at Exeter University, its base until 1992. It was a three mile City centre course with a maximum of three laps. 500 took part the first year and numbers peaked at over 1200 in 1987. Terry Doble used his influence to involve his employers Devon Air, the local commercial radio station. Sponsorship for the Devon Air charities was actively sought, resulting in many £000s being raised.

The Easter Bunny Fun Run continued until 1989. From 1987 headquarters were at the Plaza Pool now the Riverside. Another three mile course, which started across the Exe Bridges and returned along Alphington Road, which attracted 750 entries annually.

In December 1985 SWRR moved to the Clifton Hill’s cinder track which was and had been the Exeter Harriers headquarters for many years. The track often got very dusty in summer and clogged on running shoes after heavy rain in the winter. The move gave access to changing rooms and showers but these were outside and freezing in the winter with hot water often failing.

A major event happened on 1st January 1986, I joined SWRR!!!.., my only club. I moved to Exeter in September 1985 having started running at the age of 43 after that year’s London Marathon. Many club males were vets in those days, reflected in SWRR Male teams.

After sixteen months at Clifton Hill we obtained permission from the City Council to lay a pathway and a concrete base to erect a large shed which became affectionately known as the “Club Hut”, our own headquarters. The shed was supplied by Dave Pengelly who in 1988 became the first SWRR qualified coach and he was soon followed by several others.  The first Cub Championships were introduced in 1989.

The Exmouth Carnival Committee asked SWRR in 1985 to organise a half marathon as well as a fun run. They agreed and the first Exmouth Half Marathon was held on 20th July 1986. In 1986 where the Exmouth marinas and luxury apartments are now found, was a working port and shanty town. The main sponsors were The Exmouth Dock Company who donated the propeller trophy now presented as the club person of the year award. This event although a success suffered with traffic problems and after three years was dropped but the fun run along the Esplanade continued for several years.

In 1993 the Sunday Trading Act to permit Sunday opening was looming. This would end Sunday City Fun Run courses so we moved the Christmas Fun Run to Exeter Quay with a one 5k lap. There was a course around the Quay and Marsh Barton used as the Exsports 10k until 1988. We decided to pinch the course and add this to the fun run in 1994. This was the birth of the Last Chance, now the First Chance 10k. The course has undergone changes but has grown into the popular event it is today. The fun run has long gone.

In addition to those already mentioned other SWRR events dating back to the early days included The Bradnitch Guildhall Chase and Fun Run, Pengelly Sheds Six Hill Series, a Summer Six Series in various forms.

The Woodbury Wobbler 1991 to 2001 An eight mile off road event including loads of mud taking in most of the assault course on Woodbury Common.  I still well remember Mark Waddicor in a wetsuit marshalling at Peter’s Pool.

The Luppitt Lollop 1993 to 2001 started as a nine mile muddy off road event, ended up as a fourteen miler.  Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes supported this event whenever he was not climbing Mount Everest or walking to the South Pole. Like the Woodbury Wobbler this event was lost to the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic.

SWRR have always been known for a very full and active social side which still continues. For several years a Christmas “do” usually with a fancy dress theme was arranged.  We even had a summer ball in August 1993 when the ladies wore their posh frocks and the men dinner suits and bow ties.

From the early days there were hash and off road runs. These included Tony Gales Solstice Dartmoor runs. We had Jim’s Bumpy Bike Rides, Tracey’s Paddles, Julies Moorland Meander and others including a half day Equine Outing on Dartmoor in May 1992. Most of us had never been on a horse before and I am sure Dave Pressley set me up with the fattest mare in the stable to go with my short legs. Will I ever forget Magpie? We all survived.

For the tenth anniversary Tony Gale suggested a Two Moors Way relay. This involved approx. 105 miles across Dartmoor and Exmoor with over 97% off road.  Jenny and I took up the challenge. It took a year to organise and took place on 12th June 1994. Malcolm Salter and I set off from Lynmouth at 4.00am.to cover the first ten miles and the relay continued throughout the day. Everyone turned up and were at their change stations in good time. No one got lost or injured. Around 6.45pm, most of those who had taken part, went up onto the Moor to join the last two runners into Ivybridge.  The relay took 15 hours, 51minutes, 55seconds including time for photographs. We believe no group had done this relay before or since.

From the very early days SWRR travelled to races out of the area and this continues with the Welsh Castles. A small group took part in the 1985 Guernsey Hash Half Marathon. On their recommendation in 1986, 22 of us travelled out by air on Friday 13th June.  A weekend stay was needed, as on Saturday we were invited to the States of Guernsey official early evening  Vin D@Honneur. After enjoying the States hospitality we went on to a Dip and Dine Pasta Party.

The Half Marathon started at 9.00am on Sunday morning around a very flat course. The afternoon was spent enjoying a few pints at the prize giving at the Guernsey Rugby Club. If you were still standing, there was an evening barbeque to attend. Still not finished, on Monday evening over 200 took part in a hash run followed by 300 attending the most X rated evening imaginable produced by the Hash Club. We repeated this trip in 1987 and a smaller group went over in 1988.

A half dozen of us went to Benidorm in November 1986 for the Full and Half marathons.  A nice attractive flat course and ideal weather wise.  A few more made the trip, in 1987 and over two dozen in 1988.  

A popular race was the Bath Half Marathon and a coach was booked. One year we were all on the coach in good time except for one couple. No mobile phones in those days to make contact so we sat waiting. They turned up 25 minutes late looking very cross and remained silent all morning. On the outskirts of Bath we hit a traffic jam and panic, the start time was close. Only one thing for it, pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles watched as a three dozen or so adults stood up, abandoning modesty and throwing their clothes off, changed into running gear. The warm up was a dash to the start line which we just made in time.

Other out of the area events included, Race the Train, Race the Horse, The Great North Run, The Mersey Marathon and The Tough Guy Eight.

In 1986 we first heard of plans for a new Arena here at Exhibition Fields which was then the Devon County Show Ground. We started serious meetings with Exeter Council Leisure Committee, as did Exeter Harriers, in 1989. Autumn 1990 saw things start to move. The Leisure Committee fully expected us to join Exeter Harriers. Exeter Harriers did as well and pressed for this to happen. We did manage however to get first option on Wednesday evenings. It was clear Clifton Hill was to close immediately the Arena opened.

Late 1991 a serious decision loomed. Membership numbers were falling and the cost of hiring the Arena was three times that for Clifton Hill. Did we simply disband, did we find a new headquarters, or join Exeter Harriers (vehemently opposed 100%), or take up the option to sign up for Wednesday evenings. This we decided to do, after a straw pole showed almost 100% support.

On 24th May 1992 the Arena was opened by Tessa Sanderson the Gold Medal Javelin winner at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. After the move our membership did start to grow and although Exeter Harriers continued to press us to join them for several years, we resisted.

I think we made the right decision all those years ago to remain independent and move to the Arena. I trust you agree.

I will finish by borrowing a quote from a member who long ago returned to his native Australia. SWRR members socialise well and encourage fun and friendship. They applaud participation as well as performance. I still like that.

Patrick Carroll, 5th February 2019

Club Officers 1984 - present

Year Chairman Vice Chairman Treasurer Secretary Membership Secretary
1984 – 1985 Colin Price Non Appointed Janet Caine John Alexander Covered by Secretary
1985 - 1986 Bill Wright Terry Doble Louise Bryant Glenda Southcott Covered by Secretary
1986 – 1987 Bill Wright Dave Pressley Gerald Cleaver Glenda Southcott Covered by Secretary
1987 – 1988 Chas Chalmers Patrick Carroll Gerald Cleaver Dave Pressley Glenda Southcott
1988 – 1989 Chas Chalmers Patrick Carroll Rob Pemberton Debra Pressley Glenda Southcott
1989 – 1990 Chas Chalmers Patrick Carroll Rob Pemberton Debra Pressley Glenda Southcott
1990 – 1991 Patrick Carroll Dave Brown Graham Parker John Winter Glenda Southcott
1991 – 1992 Patrick Carroll Dave Brown Graham Parker John Winter Glenda Southcott
1992 - 1993 Patrick Carroll Dave Brown Graham Parker John Winter Glenda Southcott
1993 - 1994 Patrick Carroll Dave Brown Andy Couper John Winter Glenda Southcott
1994 - 1995 Patrick Carroll Marilyn Spurr Caroline Armstrong John Winter Glenda Southcott
1995 – 1996 John Middleton Dave Brown Caroline Armstrong John Winter Glenda Southcott
1996 - 1997 John Middleton Dave Brown Caroline Armstrong Patrick Carroll Glenda Southcott
1997 – 1988 John Middleton John Winter Caroline Armstrong Patrick Carroll Tina Moxey
1998 – 1999 John Winter Non Appointed Caroline Armstrong John Middleton Carol Gooch
1999 – 2000 John  Winter Non appointed Caroline Armstrong John Middleton Carol Gooch
2000 – 2001 John Winter Non Appointed Ken Anckorn John Middleton Carol Gooch
2001 – 2002 Patrick Carroll John Winter Ken Anckorn John Middleton Carol Gooch
2002 – 2003 Patrick Carroll John Winter Ken Anckorn Pam Gurney Carol Gooch
2003 – 2004 Dave Pressley Non Appointed Ken Anckorn/Tim Woodcock Pam Gurney Carol Gooch
2004 – 2005 Dave Pressley Non Appointed Tim Woodcock Pauline Warner Pam Gurney
2005 – 2006 Dave Pressley Non Appointed Tim Woodcock Pauline Warner Pete Williams
2006 – 2007 Dave Pressley Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Pauline Warner Phil Saywood
2007 – 2008 Dave Pressley Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Pauline Warner Phil Saywood
2008 – 2009 Tony Gale Non Appointed Pete  Williams Emma Hitchens Phil Saywood
2009 - 2010 Tony Gale Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Graham Reynolds Patrick Carroll
2010 – 2011 Tony Gale Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Graham Reynolds Patrick Carroll
2011 – 2012 Tony Gale Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Patrick Carroll Dave Moulder
2012 – 2013 Dave Pressley Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Patrick Carroll Dave Moulder
2013 - 2014 Dave Pressley Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Patrick Carroll Dave Moulder
2014 - 2015 Richard Everson Ingrid Quick Pete Williams Patrick Carroll Jon Wilkinson
2015 - 2016 Richard Everson Tony Gale Pete Williams Dave Moulder Pauline Warner
2016 - 2017 Paul Barter Tony Gale Lawrence Atherton Jim Durston Pauline Warner
2017 - 2018 Paul Barter Tony Gale Lawrence Atherton Jim Durston Pauline Warner
2018 - 2019 Paul Barter Tony Gale Lawrence Atherton Jim Durston Mark Tait
2019 - 2020 Tim Vialls Tony Gale Lawrence Atherton Jim Durston Mark Tait