Dedicated teachers, staff and parents of a city school will sacrifice their holidays and run 171 miles to raise funds for a running track.
The 10-strong group from Westpark Primary School will embark on a gruelling 30-hour run through south England during the September school break.
They will be bidding to raise £6,000 to fund a running track on the school’s grounds so the kids at the school’s athletics club do not have to cross busy roads for their training.
Teacher Nigel O’Neill, who also runs the thriving club, insists the track is vital for Westpark Primary and the Northfield community where it is based.
A JustGiving page has been set up by the group, which will run from Maidstone to Dover to Brighton.
Mr O’Neill said: “We have the costing for the track, which is around £13,000.
“That may not seem like a lot of money but if you don’t have it then it may as well be £1 million. We are at around the £7,000 stage, with £6,000 to go, so we decided to start a JustGiving page.
“We are looking for the final push to get over the line.
“A gang of teachers, staff and friends of Westpark have decided to do our bit for the cause by running 171 miles continuously on our school September holidays.
“There are 10 of us, ranging from absolute beginners who have not run in their lives to club runners like myself.
“We will take three stages each and will all have to run around 17 miles on average.
“It is over all types of terrain, no matter what weather and will also go over the mountains.
“It will be beautiful but it will be tough. There will be 10 legs and we have two vans, with five per van.
“The fittest runners are taking on the longer legs but even with the shortest, the least they’ll do is 15 miles.
“If you haven’t run before, 15 miles is a long distance. It is absolute dedication from them. We will start at maybe nine o’clock in the morning and run all through the night into the next day. It will take us around 28 to 30 hours.
“It is for a great cause.”
The Westpark Primary School Athletics Club began in March 2017 and has been a great success.
Meeting after school on Mondays and Wednesdays, there can be as many as 50 to 60 children participating in the running sessions..
Not only does it promote health and fitness with pupils, Mr O’Neill is convinced the club has emerging talent which, if given proper facilities, could develop to the level of representing their country.
However, the children have to walk from the school grounds and cross busy roads in order to run at Sheddocksley pitches.
Mr O’Neill said: “We always have 30 children no matter what the weather is and during the warm weather we are up to 50 or 60.
“However, crossing busy roads to get from Westpark school to Sheddocksley is not ideal.
“Sheddocksley also has potholes. The children have a fantastic attitude to their running but that can only last for so long.
“Running at Sheddocksley is weather dependent. Once we are there, if it is cold and wet we have no option but to stay there for the hour.
“We can’t just walk away.
“If we had the track on the premises at the school then we could get in out of the conditions.
“For the social side of it, there is only so much the kids can take from running.
“However, I can see it not being the club it is now in a couple of years because of the conditions the kids are training in. Not because of the interest, that will always be there.
“If we had a running track then 60 kids would be there every week.
“We also have some fantastic runners in the school. I see one or two kids that I have no doubt could go on to represent their country and the UK if they had the right conditions.
“Some of them, the really dedicated ones who have a few pounds to spare, can go across the city to train at Aberdeen Sports Village with Aberdeen Athletics or Metro on a proper running surface. But where we are, not all the kids have that.
“And getting a bus across the city and back is a lot of dedication and cost from parents when money is tight.
“Having the track would help those kids who don’t have and gives them the same opportunity.”
Westpark AC had a number of children participate in the recent 1.5km event at the Run Balmoral festival.
Parents, teachers, staff and children also ran in events on the Saturday, having organised a bus to travel to Balmoral for the day.
“There is also the social side of it and a running track would be so important for the community,” explained Mr 0’Neill.
“Since we started we have noticed the amount of parents coming along.
“When I first set up the club the goal was that it would be a community initiative. Now we are seeing that.
“If we had a track I would imagine there would be a lot more parents involved, as it is an enclosed, safe area and somewhere they can take their kids and jog.”
Westpark were honoured with the Primary School of the Year award at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards in 2017.
“Winning the Aberdeen’s Sports award was fantastic and we want to build on that,” said Mr O’Neill.
“I see a real possibility for Westpark to be known around the city, not just in Northfield, as the sports school.
“The kids love it, I love it, and the parents are brilliant and very supportive.
“Everything is in place except the facilities. If we had the facilities the sky’s the limit.”
To donate towards funding a running track for Westpark Primary school go to www.justgiving. com/crowdfunding/westparkrunningtrack