Each year Alton Lions, together with Alton Runners, organise the Alton 10, a ten-mile road race in May and, at the start of the cross-country season in October the Downland Challenge 10k & 5k races. Runners pay a fee to enter the races and after expenses have been deducted the surplus is donated to Alton Lions to support local charities and needs. Alton Lions provide the race administration, course supervisors and marshals for each race.
Alton Runners was formed in 1981 and first competed in the Sunday Times National Fun Run in that year with a team of six competitors. This team came 1,342nd out of 1,350 teams, beating such keen competition as the Worcester College for the Blind C & D teams, the Frog Lovers Appreciation Society Harriers and the Islington Gay Runners. In 1982 four teams were entered and the ‘A’ team came 74th. The best performance was in 1984 when Alton Runners came 14th – and being featured in ‘Running Magazine’ with a three page spread of colour photos entitled ‘An everyday story of country folk!’
Alton Runners began to enter teams for local events such as the Frensham Ponds Fun Run and the Hogs Back Road Race. Running and jogging with Alton Runners is not just about winning, as countless members of the club have run in events and races just for the fun and enjoyment of it or have benefitted from the camaraderie of running and training together. Friendships are made running on roads or countryside or at the Club’s social events and it hoped that the club has risen, by a fraction the level of physical fitness of the citizens of Alton.
Alton Runners aim to foster both road and cross country running across the superb local countryside. Training sessions are held on Sunday mornings and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Some of the members compete in road races (being members of the Hampshire Road Race League) and cross-country races (also members of the Hampshire Cross Country League and the Today’s Runner Cross Country League). However, many of the members do not compete but enjoy running for fitness and pleasure. Alton Runners are affiliated to UKA, England Athletics and Hampshire AA.
The Alton 10
The Alton 10 was born in a snowstorm on 1st April 1984 and was the brainchild of Reg Marsh, a local celebrity and TV actor, who planned it to raise money for the Home Farm Trust.
About 500 entered the first year and since then it has become one of the annual venues for the Hampshire Road Race League and hosts the County 10 mile Championships every third year. The race which, held each year on the first or second Sunday in May, is now co-organised with Alton Lions.
The Downland Challenge
This event which, has been staged annually for over 20 years, is now the Alton Downland Challenge and Lesser Challenge (10k and 5k trail races). It is run on the first or second Sunday in October and starts and finishes in Anstey Park.
The 10k cross-country race is combined with a 5k route for younger members and local schools usually help promote this event in order to encourage youngsters to keep fit. There is a cup for the school with the most successful entry.
The 10k race starts at 10:30am and the 5K starts 10 minutes later at 10:40am. The 5k course follows the 10k course for part of the way.
Minimum age for the 10k race is 15 years and the minimum age for the 5k race is 10 years.
There are many prizes and all finishers receive a medal.