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Ilkley Harriers have several initiatives to help new runners

Harriers beginners group, pre lock down

Ilkley Harriers are looking at ways they can help the many new runners seen since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown - and those who are interested in the club's annual 0-5km programme.

While all of the Harriers' club sessions were immediately suspended before the lockdown started - and a whole range of races have since been cancelled - there has been an unexpected silver lining to the cloud.

Solo running - or with members of the same household - was permitted as a form of exercise in the initial seven-week spell, with the government highlighting both the physical and mental health benefits.

That was in stark contrast to all team sports and lots of other recreational activities and it's led to a surge of new social-distancing runners.

Club Chairman Steve Coy explained: "Whilst we have all missed the opportunity to run with fellow Harriers, we do appreciate how lucky we have been to be able to keep running - responsibly in line with government guidance - over the last couple of months.

"And for those who are missing their usual sports, we hope they are discovering just how enjoyable running is - and the many rewards it brings."

Each year the Harriers run a popular 0-5km programme, with all proceeds going to local charities, in previous years Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue. 

It's helped many take up running and complete a non-stop 5km at the end of the six weeks.

And this summer, they will be doing it 'virtually', allowing participants to progress in their own time while always adhering to the latest government advice.

Club Secretary Hilda Coulsey said: "We'd like to reach out to anyone in the community who has been thinking of taking up running. Now is the perfect opportunity, with many people having more time on their hands. You don't need special kit or equipment - just a pair of training shoes and a positive attitude - and you can do it all from your doorstep.

"Nearly everyone can run and we've all been beginners at some point. You'll be amazed at the benefits it can bring if you stick at it and we want to help as much as we possibly can within the current guidelines."

The club has set up a resource on This provides the weekly 0-5k programme. Also it showcases a range of safe and quiet local routes, ideal for those looking to step up to around the 10km mark or seeking some ideas for different routes to maintain fitness or to progress. 

"It's important to find a happy balance," added Coy. "Both with respect to the current situation, while also maintaining a healthy immune system. It's all about keeping it fun and enjoyable, whatever level you are at.

"And we very much hope that when we are able to restart our club sessions, we can welcome many of these new runners to the club.

"We pride ourselves on being a social community, offering a range of different sessions to help runners maintain fitness or progress, whatever standard they are, or indeed whatever sport they enjoy."

Like all sports, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the running calendar.

Many Harriers had been training for months for high-profile marathons in April such as London, Paris and Manchester, which were all cancelled.

And key local events - including fundraising ones the club organise such as the Ilkley Trail Race on May 25th - won't be taking place this year either. The same goes for the Ilkley Half Marathon, the first running of which in 2019 was such a success as it raised over £35,000 for local causes.

But while there won't be races or training sessions in the near future, the club's members have been staying in touch via social media and other platforms. 

There have been several initiatives, including a fun solo 5km challenge each week, circuit classes for runners via Zoom, turbo bike sessions, substitute track workouts and regular newsletters explaining the latest guidelines, all designed to keep morale high and training ticking over.

If you'd like more details on any of the above or have any questions, please email Hilda Coulsey at


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