The History of the Burnham Joggers and the Staggered Jog
In November 1978, Bob Green, a local GP in Burnham and his wife Sammy decided to start up a jogging club. At the time, jogging was becoming very popular and being a doctor, Bob appreciated the virtues of exercise. He gathered up a number of his patients and persuaded them to join in the running.
The founder members of the club were Bob Green (President), Sammy Green, Hugh Bergstrom (Chairman), Russell Brown (Secretary) and Syd Dixon who was a local fireman. It was agreed that the club would be open to all interested in running and there would be no subscription. The only payment to be made was 10p from every member who turned up to run and that money was for the use of the showers after the run.
Bob obtained permission from the council to use the facilities at Burnham Hall and the club decided that an appropriate name was Burnham Joggers. It rapidly became very popular and meetings were held every Tuesday and Thursday evening. There was also a meeting held on a Sunday morning when groups of runners, all of similar ability, got together and ran various distances.
The club decided that their official colours should be green and gold and arrangements were made to have a number of special tracksuits made in these colours with the name of “Burnham Joggers” printed on the back. Most of the original members purchased a tracksuit and it remains a common sight to this day to see Members in their brightly coloured outfits!
Bob insisted that everyone should start the evening off with a slow warm-up and he introduced a short run which was known as the “Social Mile”. Everyone was expected to run this course and also keep in one group to be run at the speed of the slowest runner. This gave runners the opportunity to get to know each other better and to greet new members to the club.
Once the Social Mile was over and runners returned to Burnham Hall, they then formed into small groups and set off on longer runs.
Since the club was formed, its headquarters have changed several times. After a few years at Burnham Park, the club grew so large that alternative premises had to be found and it moved to Haymill School. Several years later, the council decided to construct a sports area at the Cherry Orchard in Britwell Lane and the club was invited to make their headquarters there. After several years at the Cherry Orchard, new premises were sought and the club moved to Burnham Cricket Club in April 2002. After 15 years at Burnham Cricket Club, a new headquarters was found at Huntswood Golf Club. Unfortunately, after COVID 19 in 2020/2021 Huntswood were no longer able to accommodate us and after meeting at several locations around Burnham in between the various lockdowns, our current home at Burnham Bowls Club was found. We have been made very welcome here and look forward to this being the home of Burnham Joggers for many years to come.
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The Staggered Jog
When the club was first formed, nearly every member was new to running and was keen to increase their running ability. At the time, there was nobody who had had any true running experience and employment of coaches was out of the question.
Thoughts were given as to a method to improve a runner’s performance and Russell Brown came up with an idea that a regular monthly run should be introduced in the club’s programme, which would benefit all runners no matter what standard their running ability had reached. He proposed a race, where members did not race against each other but each runner raced against the clock trying to beat their own best time. The race was to be over a distance of approximately 6¼ miles (10 kilometres) and arrangements were made for it to start and finish at Burnham Football Club.
To calculate an initial handicap, a newcomer to the club was shown the route and asked to run it to the best of his ability. From his/her time to cover the course, a starting time for future runs is calculated. The calculated handicap time is based on everyone reaching the 6-mile mark together, allowing the runners in the last ¼ mile to spread out so that they do not all reach the finishing line together. It was decided that the run would take place on the last Sunday in every month. Based on the runner’s timing, their calculated handicap would be the number of minutes past the base start time, which is currently 10am.
After each run, the handicap of each runner is re-assessed and his/her best time in the past 12 months then counts for future runs.
Over the years, the calculations have changed very little. The original starting point was moved from the football club to Minniecroft Road, opposite the Health Centre. Then when the club moved to the Cricket Club, it was decided that the start should be from here. We now start and finish just behind the cricket ground in Wymers Wood Road.
The first ever Staggered Jog was held on Sunday 28 January 1979, attended by 5 runners (Bob Green, Sammy Green, Hugh Bergstrom, Russell Brown and Mike Morgan). It was run to establish a handicap for future runs. Bob Green completed the course in the quickest time of 39m 00s. The Staggered Jog has now been a regular feature of the Club for over 38 years.
The monthly prize for the Staggered Jog is a set of much prized candlesticks. Over the years many members have asked why candlesticks are presented to the runner who has achieved the best monthly improvement to their time. The reason is that sadly, in 1981, Russell’s first wife died at a relatively young age, leaving him with four daughters to raise on his own, but despite the various difficulties he had to overcome, he did not allow the Staggered Jog to be affected. Russell paid tribute to his late wife by donating the candlesticks to the club in her memory. Engraved on the base of the candlesticks is her name; “Madeleine”. It continues to be a great honour to take the candlesticks home for the month.
Besides the honour of winning the candlesticks each month, the idea of awarding a yearly trophy was introduced. This award is given to the runner who scores the least number of points, with the best 6 runs counting. At each run throughout the year, the winner is awarded 1 point, the second-place runner, 2 points etc.
Russell gave up a Sunday every month to organise the run, turning out sometimes in the worst possible weather without any complaint, for the benefit of all our members to ensure that the Staggered Jog continued without disruption.The club owes Russell a very big “Thank You” for the time and effort he has contributed to help the club to flourish.
In 2015, Russell felt that the time has come for a younger member of the Club to take over the responsibility of organising the event each month and John Monaghan volunteered to arrange the monthly run. Then due to other commitments he handed over the monthly organisation to Nell Neale, who still the run with the same enthusiasm as Russell did.
Rest assured, the Staggered Jog will continue as long as Burnham Joggers exists as a club!
Written by Eric Abbott