FOUNDED in 2008 by a group of friends sitting round a table, Slinn Allstars running club is now the biggest of its kind in Wiltshire and recently won the England Athletics Regional Award for the South West region, writes LAURA LAMBERT.

Through hard work over the last five years, the club now has 260 members and has succeeded in its mission to provide an unintimidating environment in which locals can join together in running.

Club chairman Mike Wakefield told the Advertiser how the award was welcome recognition for the efforts put in by everyone in the club.

“None of us are professional runners, we are just normal people who run,” he said.

“Seventy-five per cent of our members are ladies which is great because there are a lot of ladies out there who want to run but may think running is a blokey thing, and we seem to have got around that.

“We just want people to come and run with us, it’s a friendship thing more than anything.

“It’s a format that seems to have worked.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the award, as many people have put a lot of hard work into the club and we received it for our efforts encouraging people to run.”

In an aim to be as inclusive as possible, Slinn Allstars has very few restrictions, except that members must be over 18 and be able to run for 30 minutes continuously.

For beginners who are keen to get involved, however, there is a special 10-week course provided twice a year, with the hope that those who take part in the course will progress enough to become members.

Members of the club are invited to attend organised sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, in addition to any events they wish to enter, and are easily identifiable in their red kit.

They typically depart from St John’s on Tuesday evenings and Broome Manor Golf Club on Thursday evenings, with Sunday runs beginning at different points around Swindon.

Wakefield explained how there is no pressure from the club to attend sessions or enter events, but that there is always a good group of runners at a session.

“Members can either come here and just do recreational running, or they can have a go at the many events organised locally and further afield,” he said.

“We have 25 people doing the London Marathon next year, which means we have one of the biggest representations for a regional running club.

“There is a 5km Park Run every Saturday morning in Lydiard Park which our members enjoy doing, and 70 of them recently did the 10k race at Longleat.

“It’s all just a bit of fun, there’s no pressure at all.

“We aren’t going out to win these events, the main thing is to get people having a go. We don’t run particularly fast, our runners just go at a pace they are comfortable at.

“At our training sessions, we all start and finish at the same place and have a cup of tea together at the end.

“We have members from 18 up to 77 all running together, it’s wonderful.”

A club trip is organised every year, and this year members travelled to the Edinburgh Marathons Festival.

Currently, 40 members have signed up for the upcoming trip to Madrid in 2014, where they will have the choice between taking part in a 10km, half-marathon or a full marathon.

Friendship and making running fun really does sum up what Slinn Allstars is all about.

Their achievement in encouraging so many locals to get fit is commendable, and it seems right that they have been recognised by the highest echelons of the sport for the work that they are doing.