Mick Ballard: Winner of Charnwood Borough Council’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sport and Physical Activity Award 2016’. Congratulations Mick! There was stiff competition amongst the last three in this category; a guy who’d set up a Loughborough College-based Sport Apprenticeship programme and a woman who champions healthy-living from the workplace but Mick Ballard of Barrow Runners won it!
To find out how this had been achieved I spoke to Mick recently and learnt a lot about his contribution to sports in the village over the last forty years.
The first question was the most obvious, ‘When did you start running?’ Mick said he can remember coming in second in the cross-country at school when he was about 13 but for many years football was his first love and he supported the game by being Chairman of Barrow Juniors. During this time he organised trips to other famous football clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal and brought in professional coaches to teach at the soccer schools he organised in the village. It was only when he was about 35 that he became one of the founder members of Barrow Runners together with Dave Rose, Roger Latham and Jo Chappell. Mick has been Chairman of the club for over 25 years now and today is affectionately known as ‘the father of the club’. However, his first role was as Club Secretary and it was he who had the task of affiliating the club to what was then called The Midland Counties Athletics Association.
The club started with a bang because as soon as it was set up it had over 50 members. For many residents, Barrow Runners stay below the radar, unless they themselves are runners, but on December 26th they become wonderfully visible as they charge off in the craziest of fancy dress costumes for the Barrow Boxing Day Handicap - a 6 mile run – and the only organised run on Boxing Day in Leicestershire.
Mick is proud of having been one of the original organisers and of having taken part in it, in one role or another, every Boxing Day for the last thirty five years. His commitment to Barrow Runners has certainly been exceptional and this is why he was not only nominated by other Barrow Runners for the Borough Council’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award ‘ but won it.
The club is thriving. There are now 181 members as runners all over the county can look up races on their webpage and come from far and wide. Mick is still running although he had stroke in March 2016 whilst racing in the 10k in Desford. There have been ups and downs since, but he’s back running now, and not just jogging along but racing as well. He says it hasn’t stopped his enthusiasm for the sport which, until then, had kept him fit and well. Doctors told him his speedy recovery was because he was so fit when the stroke happened.
Finally, I asked Mick what had been the running highlight of his life. He said he’d run the London Marathon five times and always dreamed of doing it under three hours. In 1990 he did it in a time of 2 hours 50. Naturally, he was in Barrow Runners colours.
Yet again - well done Mick!