Port Talbot Harriers in the only running club serving Port Talbot and the Afan Valley. The area is highly industrialised and recently hit the international headlines over the potential closure of the town’s Tata steel plant. The heart of the town, the plant provides employment for the majority of families and, until the crisis is resolved, there is a cloud of foreboding hanging over the area. The town is still said to be the most polluted place in Wales and the most polluted in the United Kingdom outside London. Fortunately, air quality in the Port Talbot area has started to improve in recent years.
The area is in the 10% most socially deprived areas in Wales (Welsh Index of Social Deprivation 2014) and many of its population have significant health issues. Mortality rates among men in Port Talbot are the sixth highest in 348 council areas in England and Wales.
A spokeswoman for ABMU Health Board, which covers Port Talbot, said: “The main causes of premature death are cardio vascular disease, cancers and respiratory disease. These illnesses are experienced more commonly in deprived communities and are, in part, due to risk factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise."
As a running club, we have risen to the challenge of confronting these statistics. We believe members of our local community can change to a healthier lifestyle if they are given the motivation, encouragement and facilities they deserve. Our actions over the last two years demonstrate this to be true. From a small running club of 45 runners we decided to respond to the desire in our local community to get fitter. We identified members who were willing to undertake training and they all gained Welsh Athletics coaching qualifications. Successive, free to join ‘beginner’ courses over the last two years have subsequently seen our club grow to over 250 members and become one of the biggest in Wales. We cater for all runners by offering six ability groups (including absolute beginners) during every session. We decided the financial means of a person should not restrict them from participation and, to this day, anybody can join any of our running sessions with paying a penny. For those wishing and able to pay we only ask £10 per year.
Unfortunately, all that hard work and commitment is at risk. The small portakabin we rent has no facilities, is crumbling around our ears and, partly due to local vermin, is about to be demolished. We desperately need to replace it with something that is inexpensive but with basic facilities such as toilets. We are not looking for extravagance, just two converted shipping containers with basic facilities to enable runners to shelter from the worst of the Welsh winter weather.
We need your help. Enough simple £10 contributions would help us to realise our dream. As a reward, we wish to display the name of all our donors on the inside of the new facility. For years to come, your name or that of your children or grandchildren will bear witness to the generosity of the people of Port Talbot and beyond. The donation may be in memory of a loved one or from somebody who has moved away or has an association with the area and would like to play a small part in helping our community.
There is the familiar saying that “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”; we believe our actions have demonstrated our commitment to our community and we are hoping a wider community will rise to the challenge and help us establish a base that will enable us to support both current and future generations for many years to come.