A group of leading Inverness coaches are taking positive steps to ensure the Highland capital’s fine tradition for helping athletes reach their maximum potential is maintained.
Charles Bannerman, Charlie Forbes, Ross Cairns and Dianne Chisholm believe urgent action needs to be taken to address what they claim is a lack of suitable access to training facilities for adults and youngsters from age 15 upwards, particularly distance runners.
The coaches acknowledge the situation has been aggravated by restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic, but feel the problems existed long beforehand.
They have set up a new group, Athletics Inverness, to tackle the matter. Within 12 hours of its launch, it had attracted interest from 120 people.
That number has since grown to more than 200.
Bannerman said: “Athletics Inverness is an independent organisation for adult and pre-adult athletes and coaches and a focal point for distance runners interested in competitive racing.
“The group will initially operate online, although further activities will follow once Covid restrictions recede.
“The group’s aims include promoting training and competition for athletes at or approaching senior level, and the exchange of ideas.
“It will act as a focus group and hopes to address a lack of suitable access to training facilities. Athletics Inverness will also provide help and advice for distance runners, including many who have taken up running since the start of the pandemic.
“I’d like to stress that it is not an elite organisation and has been formed to help at all levels.
“Also, it’s not just about endurance running, although there’s a particular vacuum there. The group caters for any branch of athletics.
“We would have preferred to start after Covid was over but this senior end of the sport needs something urgently so we felt we had to do this now.
“The speed people joined up at shows just how badly lacking provision is and we’re overwhelmed at the response.
“Inverness simply doesn’t have adequate arrangements for the kind of people we want to help.”
Although Athletics Inverness has been set up by members of Inverness Harriers, it is independent from the club.
The Harriers, founded in 1947 with just a handful of athletes, has enjoyed a membership level of between 340 and 400 in recent years.
Current Inverness club members include Great Britain internationals Kirsty Law, Mhairi Maclennan and Megan Keith.
Scotland internationals such as Sean Chalmers and Jenny Bannerman have also come through the club ranks, while teenager Lucas Cairns, Scottish under-17 cross-country champion, is another emerging talent.
Charles Bannerman added: “We want to see the club’s history of generating top class athletes continue, but we fear that will be threatened under the current arrangements, so we felt we need to act quickly.”