Russell Willox is relishing the prospect of guiding the future development of one of Scotland’s biggest running clubs.
The 43-year-old IT analyst has taken over as chairman of Metro Aberdeen following Tom Brian’s relocation to a new job in Paris.
Willox has been a member of the club since 2016 and joined the committee two years later, initially as assistant secretary, then secretary after long-serving Metro stalwart Jackie Stewart stood down.
With a membership of close to 400 runners, Metro is a major force on the Scottish running scene and Willox is keen to see the club continue to thrive despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
He has already made a significant impact by playing a key role in delivering the club’s Return To Training strategy after taking up the role of Covid co-ordinator.
This has involved ensuring all the relevant scottishathletics and Scottish Government regulations are being followed when making arrangements for club members to train safely in small groups.
He’s also keen not to lose sight of some of the longer-term initiatives which the club is keen to pursue.
Willox said: “There’s a number of big projects which we have been looking at for some time now, including the possibility of putting on an Aberdeen marathon and finding a base from which the club can train.
“These are both achievable and we must keep these on the table and keep investigating the possibilities.
“But they are probably not things which will happen in 2021.
“I believe that over the next three to six months we must focus on things we can actually deliver in that period.
“One area in which I think we can do better is in providing an improved training structure for a lot of our members.
“I’d like to see members split into training groups with a tailored plan based on their ability and targets.
“This would help to improve the way our coaches support our membership and also how we train with and support one another.
“Also, there has been a lot of great work done by our coaches with our junior members in recent years.
“But we need to find a way of increasing our coaching capacity, which currently restricts the number of juniors we can accommodate.”
Willox is also keen to explore some competitive opportunities over the winter as so many races have been cancelled because of the coronavirus situation.
He said: “Scottishathletics is keen to support inter-club competitions within local areas, so we have been looking at the possibility of putting on a cross country meeting, maybe at Balgownie.
“This would be done within the guidelines which allow up to 200 people to be involved.
“It could take the form of a Metro versus Aberdeen AAC match, or could be extended to include other local clubs such as JS Kintore, Newburgh Dunes, Fraserburgh Running Club and Peterhead AC.
“It’s definitely something we are looking into.
“Taking a longer-term view, I’m also keen that our Metro 10k goes ahead in some form next year. Hopefully by the summer the situation will have improved, but if not we’ll work within the guidelines to put the event on.”
Pain behind Russell’s first marathon
The obvious enjoyment Russell Willox undoubtedly gets from running has its roots in an extremely sad family loss.
Six years ago his daughter Sophie passed away suddenly in her sleep, aged five.
Willox took some solace by going out running and was soon covering 5k on a regular daily basis.
Then he decided to do something positive in memory of his little girl and committed to run his first marathon in her honour.
For his marathon debut, at Edinburgh in 2015, his target was to raise £2,000. But he ended up with more than £10,000, helped in large part by a £6,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor.
The funds were split between VSA’s summer playscheme, which his son Milo attended at the time, and the Friends for Life Club, which allows young people with serious learning disabilities to meet friends and enjoy a relaxed environment.
Willox said: “I started running a bit just to get out.
“After about a month of running maybe 5k every day, I decided I’d go for the marathon. I also got involved with Jogscotland Hazlehead, where I became a jog leader.
“Towards the end of 2015, I decided to join Metro and after a couple of years I got myself involved on the committee.
“I quite like the organisational side of it and set about doing things like pulling together lists of the best performances achieved by club members over its 30-year history.
“I also implemented an online membership tool.”
Willox’s skills aren’t confined to the administrative side of the club.
He is very much an active runner and has some specific goals for 2021, particularly in the marathon.
On his marathon debut at Edinburgh five years ago, he clocked 3hr 53min 58secs, but he has improved impressively since then and hopes to continue with that progress.
He said: “I have a place in the London marathon next October. I ran 3:01:32 at Manchester in April 2019, then 3:01:30 at Loch Ness in October 2019, so I am determined to get under three hours.
“But before that I plan to run in the Dee 33-mile race in March.”