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Unsung Hero: Elliot Prince, Cheltenham Harriers

All Areas > Sport > Athletics

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 22nd December 2017, 09:00, Tags: Unsung Hero

Elliot Prince Elliot Prince

Elliot Prince runs for fun, he absolutely loves it.

But in a sport that can be quite individual, he is very much a team player.

The 32-year-old runs for Cheltenham Harriers, coaches youngsters and also puts in a lot of hours on the admin side, making sure that events run by the club go smoothly.

Prince is a teacher at Upton St Leonards Primary School and is committed to ensuring that the pupils in his charge are given as much chance to sample the delights of as many sports as possible, including football, swimming and tag rugby.

It was while Prince was at primary school over 20 years ago now – he was at Holy Apostles in Cheltenham – that he first learned about the joys of running.

“I used to play football and do running,” he recalled. “Not that I was very good at football although I got in the school teams. I was quite versatile and played right-back or right-wing.”

His willingness to run obviously helped his cause, but it wasn’t until he went to Pittville School that he started to take his running more seriously.

“Andy Beadle, who is now chairman of Cheltenham Harriers, was a teacher at Pittville and he encouraged me,” said Prince. “He was also a national age group swimmer so was pretty good at sport.

“He was a coach at Cheltenham Harriers at the time and he put a few of us forward for the first year district cross-country trials.”

So how did the trials go?

“I was awful,” chuckled Prince, who was 11 at the time. “I think I finished 70th something. But the thing is I kept on entering the trials each year and I got better and better. This is what I tell my pupils today, don’t be put off if things don’t work out at the start.”

And Prince’s hard work certainly paid off.

“In my final year at Bournside Sixth Form – Year 13 – I won the district trials,” he said. “It was fantastic. It was over about 5K and they were held at St Edward’s Prep School.”

It was a just reward for Prince who had joined the Harriers at the age of “11 or 12” and had started training properly at 14.

It was Beadle who suggested to the young Prince that the Harriers would be good for him, and he was certainly right.

“They signposted me into running,” he said. “Initially it was on the track over 800 and 1,500 metres, then it was 3K and then it was cross-country over 5K or 6K.”

So, what does he prefer?

“Cross-country is my favourite,” he said. “That’s what I’m best at and I enjoy the league cross-country, running as part of a team.”

But while cross-country is his favourite, he’s pretty happy to take part in any running event.

“I’ll run anything up to a marathon,” he said. “I ran the London Marathon when I was 24 and completed in two hours, 43 minutes. I think I can go faster than that, although I have done it a few times since and just been behind that time.”

He’s won plenty of events locally as well, and at his peak reckons he was winning four or five races a year.

“I do the Cotswold Way Relay and we usually win the team prize,” he said.

“The Harriers are a great club to be part of. We’ve got about 500 members and there are some very good athletes.

“We’re really lucky because we’ve got good coaches. We’ve got a very good men’s endurance team and I think we do punch above our weight.”

And Prince is doing his bit to make sure that the next generation of athletes at the club are as good as the current crop.

“I started the New Stars for nine to 12-year-olds in 2004,” he said. “Youngsters used to join the Harriers at the ages of 10 or 11 but this gets them started just that bit earlier.

“They do everything – running, throwing, jumping.

“The first night 10 kids turned up, now we have 180 youngsters spread over three nights and there’s a waiting list of 100!”

As you’d expect, Prince is pretty hands-on with all things New Stars, but he still finds time to help the club in many other ways.

“I do the registration and take the money on training nights before going for a run myself,” he chuckled. “I team manage a lot of the youngsters and I’m also a volunteer coordinator – that can be a bit of challenge at times!”

He performs many other roles as well in support of the club he loves, doing the admin as well as on occasion being the man on tannoy at track and field meetings.

But typically of someone who is clearly an unsung hero, he is keen to stress the roles that others play at the club.

“Carloyn Franks is our president and she’s the club’s driving force,” said Prince. “We try to get things right and do things in the correct way. For the size of our club we do very well.”

They do indeed and that in part is down to the likes of Elliot Prince, of course.

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