History of Watford Joggers
The jogging boom hit the UK in the early seventies following several years of mass hysteria in the United States. Jim Fixx and others wrote best selling books listing the lasting virtues of putting one foot in front of another - it was a sport for all ages and groups formed encompassing a complete age spectrum. The whole family could join in and the only gear needed was a pair of trainers, shorts and a t-shirt (at least during the summer months).
Here in the UK, jogging became the 'in' word and groups of like-minded people began to form clubs. In Watford, Jack Harris of the Harriers tried to form a jogging section but after several months of press advertising and patiently waiting for the masses to appear he gave up the struggle. The only person to join Jack was a guy from Hemel Hempstead - Derek Greggains, who later became a Watford Jogger. Following the failure of the Harriers to excite the populous of Watford to jog, I received a call from Alan Flint and with his wife Pat, Audrey and I joined them for dinner at the Belair Restaurant in Northwood where the idea of Watford Joggers was conceived.
The inaugural jog took place from the Gade Avenue car park in Cassiobury Park, on a Sunday in November 1976. I race walked and Alan jogged with a group of about 20 who managed to reach the hill leading up the park past the paddling pool.
At that stage I recall they walked to the top of the hill and jogged to the tea pavilion before crossing the park and gently jogging back to the car park - Watford Joggers came alive that November day.
In those early days the club's base was the Gade Avenue car park where we met at 11am on Sundays and during that first winter it was the only meeting. The following spring we introduced the Wednesday evening runs which again commenced at the Gade Avenue car park.
There soon followed two significant changes in the newly found Joggers' routine. Firstly, it was decided that we should meet on a Sunday at 9:30 am rather than 11 o'clock which would leave the rest of the day clear and the other very positive move was that on Wednesday evening we would share facilities at the Sun Sports which Watford Harriers were already using. This arrangement continued until Watford Harriers in their wisdom decided to move to the Rolls Royce Sports Club in Leavesden.
Watford Joggers remained at the Sun for many years, until 2012 when they moved to West Herts Sports Club in Park Avenue, Watford.
Despite our membership being only between 40 and 50, Watford Joggers became a force to be reckoned with in races or fun runs against the Country's Jogging Clubs.
We were runners up for several years in the Sunday Times Hyde Park fun runs whilst on more than one occasion we lifted the Burnham Joggers Relay Trophy.
The launch of the "London Marathon" in 1981 was the next major landmark and in that first run we had one competitor, David Thawlis. More significantly in that first "London" Watford Joggers manned the 24-mile feeding station to care for the welfare of what we thought was a massive field of 8000 runners. How different to the year 2000 when over 32,000 finished the London Marathon, and Watford Joggers have now made that 100 metre stretch on the Embankment near Temple Station their own for seven hours once a year. The first marathons were organised by Chris Brasher and John Disley - both Olympic medallists. I have known John for many years and in setting up and maintaining the drinks station an excellent working relationship existed. When we first took on the task of "Station 24" standpipes provided the water which was then handed to the runners in paper cups. We also were provided with tins of isotonic drinks in powder form which had to be mixed in large bins and then dispensed into paper cups which the second half of the station gave out.
Watford Joggers during their existence, have remained an all ability club and in addition to our strong jogging/running sections also have a band of regular walkers and race walkers.
May it long continue!
Written by Harvey Jaquest, former Chairman and Founder Member