It was with a heavy heart today that I tendered my resignation as chair of my running club. This is a club I have put my heart and soul into over the past 7 years to nurture it from an idea, into the established club it is today. I have lived and breathed it every day. Indeed, it has also been the cause of anguish and heartache as a stake was driven through its very heart – and by proxy, mine – but it survived. We survived, and we’ve come out stronger. It lives on, because its members believe in it. I’m proud of what we have achieved over the years, but it’s time to move on. My life is taking me elsewhere, to new adventures and I am excited for what they may bring.
So what has my experience of starting a running club taught me? I’ve learned that when people come together voluntarily for a common good, amazing things happen. Lifelong friendships are made. Sometimes love even blossoms. Through trial and error I have learned important things about race management, people and communication skills, public relations, conflict management, accounts, fundraising, and of course coaching skills. I’ve realised that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and that trying to make everybody happy is a recipe for disaster. Most importantly I’ve learned that just because you created something, it doesn’t make it yours. Such projects are too big for one individual, and it has taken me a long time to move on from wearing every committee hat, to trust others with the fragile entity I had nurtured protectively for so long and step back. Mostly volunteers have good intentions, but sometimes these can get confused and intertwined with their own needs and that is usually where conflict arises. Recognising and managing that is the most important part of keeping a club alive as happy members are what keeps a club living and breathing.
I would like to think I have contributed to a legacy of hope and friendship and an ideology that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Our club was conceived amidst four friends, to help people get out and get active and make friends. This notion floated out softly on the breath of easy conversation during a country walk one summer evening, like a dandelion seed exploring new horizons, flying and somersaulting in the breeze, and it could have easily drifted away on that same puff of air, and disappeared forever. However, this particular seed was planted and once its roots grew into the ground, it continued to spread its seed as it was reborn time and again, each time, its direction shifting. Because that is the tricky thing about a club; however hard you try to control its direction, it will evolve to become what it needs to be. The seed originally grew as a social running club, completely free and with no ties, like that dandelion seed. Sometimes the seed falls to the ground and hibernates for a while; there was a short time in the early days when the club simply stopped functioning because such intense commitment can prove burdensome and some people cannot give their all so they walk away. But water the seed, and something magical happens. Roots grow, affiliation happens, but fees and costs and committees and bureaucracy come with that. It takes a lot of effort to nurture a young plant. You have to stop the slugs from eating it. You have to protect it from the extremes of weather. As that plant grows however, it becomes stronger, less dependent, easier to look after, and eventually releases new seeds that plant themselves elsewhere and new ideas develop: track meets, cross country teams, social groups, races, events. Inevitably this constant change can be unsettling to some, but once you accept that change is the nature of the plant, indeed of life itself, you learn to embrace it. Seven years on, the club is an established entity that now has deep roots in the ground. For that I am proud.
I walk away with a heavy heart at leaving an old friend, but my head held high because I know it’s time for me to move on. The club has a strong future, being lead by people who care about it. It may change direction in the future, as those winds of change lift it, but I wish it all the best.
As for me, I already have many seeds planted elsewhere, so I’m off to water the ground to see what I can grow in pastures new.