A couple came up with the idea for running and cycling club Marsden Racers as they enjoyed an afternoon drink while watching the Tour De France in 2014.

Sinead Batterbee, 38, and her husband Ian, 41, had recently moved from Manchester to Marsden and had immersed themselves in village life. 

Sinead, a keen runner, and Ian – a cyclist – set up Marsden Racers to satisfy both their passions.

Sinead said: “We were just enjoying an afternoon out and, as with all crazy ideas, they usually happen when you’ve had a drink. We both enjoy running and cycling and there wasn’t really anything in Marsden to join at the time. 

“So the next day I put a post out on Facebook and, come the evening time, I told Ian we had formed a club. Obviously then it hits you that you need to formally organise things – and we did.” 

Formed in 2014 the club has gone from strength to strength and now has over 230 members.

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The club was officially affiliated to England Athletics in April 7 2020 and British Cycling on April 8 2021. Sinead says this is a huge step forward for the club. 

“It is important for us to be recognised by these big organisations,” said Sinead. “It makes us look and sound more professional. It’s down to everyone’s hard work that we’ve achieved this status. 

“It’s not just down to me and Ian. We have a lot of fabulous volunteers who really make things tick. We also have qualified coaches leading the running and cycling sessions which is great too.” 

The club have recently moved to new facilities based at Marsden Cricket Club.

After what has been a difficult year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Marsden Racers has had to be innovative in lockdown. When exercising was only allowed in twos they created a ‘Pair Up’ initiative which matched people together as a way of enabling them to meet up in accordance with official guidelines and escape the house for a few hours. 

There was also weekly quiz sessions held on Zoom, virtual yoga sessions and a virtual bootcamp. When the third lockdown came the club organised weekly challenges to keep their members motivated and active. 

The challenges were based around planning routes and taking photos of various landmarks, these included: bridges, pubs, sports clubs, churches, schools, postboxes and footpaths. The six-week virtual challenges were enjoyed by all. 

On these initiatives, Sinead said: “We had to keep our members interested and so lots of ideas came forward from our committee members which was great.” 

As the end of lockdown approaches, the club is focused on increasing numbers to spread the message of the benefits of exercising for physical, social and emotional health and well-being. The club are keen to reach out to absolute beginners for both running and cycling in order to give them the confidence to ‘give it a go’. 

Whilst Sinead would like to see the group grow in numbers, she and Ian haven’t got a specific target in mind.

“It’s not about the numbers for us, it’s about people enjoying themselves,” said Sinead. “It’s about people being active and getting some physical exercise which in turn helps their mental health.” 

Marsden Racers

The Racers hold running sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday evenings, road cycling on a Wednesday evening, and mountain biking on Sundays along with a beginners road cycling session. All sessions are led by qualified instructors. Any profit made from membership subscriptions is put back into the club. 

The Racers are keen to be involved in the local community as much as possible. Recently they have helped in the ‘MRUK Big Clean’ where members took part in a litter-pick in and around the village. They have also donated to a food bank, and have organised a ‘MRUK Lockdown Ultra Isolation Relay’ involving 37 members who between them completed 178.6 miles on behalf of the NHS. 

Not stopping there, two of the runners, Sinead and Gavin Pitman ran 30 miles a day for seven consecutive days to raise money for Andy’s Man Club. They raised £6,500 for the cause. Read more here.

Looking ahead, the Racers have started a new walking group and have taken over the reins of the ‘King of the Hill’ from Team OA. This event is open to runners and mountain bikers who have the choice of racing to the top of the Wessenden track as fast as they can or taking things easy and enjoying the views. 

There is a choice of 5K and 10K and all proceeds go back into the club who will use these to help their community. 

On top of this there are plans to hold their very own fell race with the hope of attracting large numbers and raising money for both the club and local charities. Again catering for all abilities as there will be different routes to suit all. 

Finally Sinead would like to see a coming together of all running and cycling clubs in the Huddersfield area. 

She said: “It’d be great to go over to other places and maybe compete and run social events with other clubs. We want to work with them because working together in a time like this can make us all stronger. I’m hopeful we can arrange something with other clubs in the coming months.”