Olympian Katie Snowden praised Wandsworth Council’s formal approval of plans to replace the running surface at the Tooting Bec Athletics Track, which was announced on Monday evening.
Snowden, a middle-distance runner who competed for Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is a member of the Herne Hill Harriers, the 140-year-old athletic club which has called the track home for over 85 years.
The Council Executive gave the green light to an investment scheme totalling £527,000 which will return the track to competition standard.
This comes after the track lost its competition license following a failed inspection by Labosport in February 2020.
The Herne Hill Harriers, including their Patron, Olympian Jade Jones, have led the campaign for council funding alongside MP for Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan.
Snowden said: “I am really relieved the council have made this decision. I’ve used Tooting Bec for many years for my training, and I wouldn’t have got to where I am now without it.
Without the track, we wouldn’t have a club anymore – or at least, it would be a very different one.”
Snowden has been a member of the Herne Hill Harriers since the age of 12, and based in Balham, she lives within a mile of the track to this day.
“There aren’t many options to train nearby, so knowing that we’ll be able to keep using the track is fantastic, and it will be so beneficial for my performance.”
In failing the Labosport inspection, it was advised that whilst athletes could continue to train on the neglected surface, if not compete, they should only do so wearing trainers, not running spikes, due to the track losing its bounce.
Glen Keegan, President of the Herne Hill Harriers, said: “For sprinters, training in spikes is particularly important, and for middle-distance athletes too.
“If you’re timing your efforts, and you’re running in normal trainers, it’s not going to show you exactly where you are, and if you’re ready for competition.”
Keegan, like Snowden, is delighted by confirmation of the council’s investment, and hopeful that work should be completed on the track by Summer 2022.
Keegan added: “I think the investment reflects very well on the council, as after resurfacing, we’ll be able to have higher profile competitions at the track.
“The decisions is a win-win for everybody.”
The track is not only an important launchpad for grassroots athletics training in South London, but a community hub, with ten schools regularly using the track, and a further 42 schools using the track for sports days.
Almost half of the members of the Herne Hill Harriers are juniors, and in the summer and Easter holidays, the club hosts introductory days at Tooting Bec Athletics Track.
Regenerative work on the track should only further inspire young athletes to take up athletics, Snowden believes.
She said: “Particularly with COVID, and the importance of keeping healthy both physically and mentally, it’s vital that we keep funding facilities like Tooting.
“I think it’s really important to ensure young athletes keep coming through the club, and that they have access to safe local facilities.
“I first discovered my enjoyment and passion for running when I joined the Herne Hill Harriers, and I’ve made many lifelong friends through the club.”
Keegan agreed that funding sports projects within communities pays long-term dividends.
“For both mental health and wellbeing: if youngsters are getting into sport, it means they’re not getting into trouble elsewhere.” Keegan added.
“I think for every pound the council invests, they probably reap another couple of pounds in the benefit from it.”
Photo credit: Herne Hill Harriers