Category Archives: Club History

The history of Arena 80 Athletics Club

Arena Club History – Part 5 – And so 36 years on, here we are.

  • Arena Club History Part 5

And so 36 years on, here we are.…

In October 1999 Bill retired from running and his coaching (and secretarial) duties due to injury and so again Arena was looking for a new coach/chairman. As it happened there was a new kid on the block who had been with Arena for a short while who seemed to be able to run a little and to hold a conversation with the other members of the club. It was at this point that the, then, club secretary said to a young Bob Page that he should put himself forward as he could be quite good. Bob Page had no idea about coaching or how to run a running club. Well I think it’s fair to say that it was a pretty good decision by the secretary and also for Bob to accept the challenge. Bob has nurtured the club over many years and the knowledge that he holds is truly second to none. When not coaching or being chairman Bob can very often be found at a race somewhere adjudicating as well as updating his own website;

In 2016 John Mason stepped down as President of the club and there was really only one choice for this role, Chris Naylor. Chris has given so much of her time to the club over many years and been a fine ambassador for the club, especially the women’s side. Her commitment to running has been exemplary and has been an inspiration to many in the past as well as the present.

The club has been very fortunate over the years to have had so many good coaches, chairmen and presidents to help keep the spirit of Arena alive and kicking.

It’s now 2017 and Arena 80 is as strong now as it’s ever been. With Bob Page as our coach and chairman and Chris Naylor as our Club President, Arena 80 find themselves in a very good place right now.

The club has grown immensely over the last few years as the running scene has become more popular. We are now at a stage where we have a waiting list to join our club. More and more people are hearing about the friendly club that is Arena 80, from our members, which has helped to shape the club to what it is today.

Arena stands out in its own right as being a very friendly and sociable club. It still maintains a solid core of good athletes in both the men’s and women’s sections and we have good strength within both of our teams. Indeed, only last year (2016) the Arena men won the 100 mile relay, and the women took the trophy this year (2017) for the first time in 10 years. Arena also took the team title for the Sussex Grand Prix races last year and after two races this year hold 1st place again. Arena has great strength in depth when it comes to races and it’s this which is setting us apart from many of the other clubs now.

We would like to say a big thank you to all of our past and current members, athletes, coaches, committee members, treasurers, secretaries and presidents that have helped to put us where we are today. Thank you also to all of our current committee members that give up so much of their time and effort to make Arena the well oiled club that it is and for their tireless work in making this such an incredible club to be a part of. I’m sure Arena will now build on their successes and continue to go from strength to strength over the coming years. The club started out with 12 Members, we now have over 200 members.

The club is steeped in history and has had so much success over many years. It is a club with a great tradition and we should all feel a sense of pride whenever we put on our blue vest for Arena. If you ask any member what the best thing about the club is then invariably it always comes back to ‘the people’ at the club. We have had and have so many characters that walk through our doors and each one of them adds something to our club. It’s a love for running that has bought us together and this is where good friendships are made.

It seems only fitting to end this history of the club special where it all began. Ron Grover started this club with a passion and a desire to be successful. He had a vision not just to create a club but create a great club, a club where like minded people would come together with a common goal, to bond, to socialise, to meet others that would go on to become friends, to pursue excellence, to strive to become better, to be determined, to never give up but most of all to be the best that you can. I can safely say that he succeeded and created a great club. His dream and his spirit still lives on within Arena 80 and long may it continue. I’m sure he would be very proud to see where his club is now, so here’s to Arena 2080.

The club motto still holds true after all these years and epitomises what the club stands for:

Be respectful, be supportive, be the best you can.

And so 36 years on, here we are……

Did you know Arena had/have members that have represented Great Britain/England in various races: Caroline Wood; Caroline Hoyte; Jenny Hughes; Chris Naylor; Juliette Roberts; Dave Robinson; Katherine O’Hara; Tracey Owen;  Jackie Richardson; Sue Bushby; Joe Ashley.

Did you know that Arena has had several internationals running for the club over the years, albeit briefly, with the likes of John Schaab from Australia, Jan Swenson and Eva Isaacs both from Sweden.

Did you know John Schaab holds the Arena men’s club record for the half marathon with a time of 1.09.24 set back in 1989.

Did you know Jan Swenson (a university student back then) holds the Arena men’s club record for the marathon with a time of 2.17.17 set back in 1989. He also won the Beachy Head Marathon back in 1993 in a time of 2.51 which is still, to this day, the 4th fastest time ever for this course.

If you know where Eva Isaacs, John Schaab or Jan Swenson are then please do get in contact with us as we would love to hear their stories and to find out where they are now.

I would like to thank the following people for their help with getting the stories and the background to the club history: Chris & Mike Naylor, Roger Ockenden, Peter Fair, Bob Page. Without their input this would not have been possible.

Please note that the club’s history has been taken from various sources and is correct to the best of my knowledge. If you feel that something is incorrect then please contact Arena 80 via the contact email address so that it may be amended.

A date for the diary’s: Saturday 21st October Arena 80 will be hosting it’s inaugural awards night to celebrate the successes of Arena 80 for this year. The details of this top event will be sent out a little nearer the time but for now add this date in. Spaces will be limited and will be given out on a first come first served basis.

Such a fine club with so much history. Thank you to all our members, past and present, for being a part of our club’s history and future and for making this such a wonderful club to be with. Together we are Arena 80 , together we are The Areneez.

Arena Club History – Part 4 – It’s ladies day.

Arena Club History Part 4

It’s ladies day

As the club grew it soon became apparent that Arena 80 had an extremely strong ladies team which is something that seems to have stuck with Arena for some 36 years.

Back in the day very few clubs had a ladies team, although there was some very good individual talent out there, so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for women from other clubs travelling long distances to run under the Arena umbrella. In fact the stats showed back then that only 8% of women were runners compared to the 48% that now run.

Our Arena ladies team back in the 80’s ran all over the country, as well as touring internationally, representing England in a road race team 15k international in Italy. The women representing England were Chris Naylor, Tracey Owen, Caroline Hoyte, Jackie Richardson and Sue Bushby. Now the saying goes “what goes on tour, stays on tour”… cough cough … so here goes then. The girls were a very tight-knit group who got on extremely well with each other and were very much about enjoying themselves. The night before the 15k race, at dinner, they made sure they got stuck in to the food and the drink that was on offer, whereas the likes of the Portuguese team took it so very seriously and were picking at lettuce leaves and water.

Now the story that surfaced is that the girls got a certain young lady by the name of Caroline Herbert er shall we say ‘quite merry’. With the help of a mobile phone that Chris Naylor had with her (now remember this is the 80’s when phones were built like bricks and the phone bill would have been like a mortgage) they got Caroline to ring up a young man that she was quite sweet on who went by the name of one Mr Kurt Hoyte. Yes the Kurt Hoyte of one of the best independent running shops in Sussex going by the name of the Run Shop in Blatchington Road, Hove (admin says: a blatant plug but such great service and shoes). Well the rest is history as they say and after many happy and competitive running years together, Caroline and Kurt Hoyte have now got two great kids who are also shaping up to be decent runners themselves. Such a fantastic camaraderie the ladies team had.

As for the race itself in Italy, well I’m told it was by all accounts one of the most boring 10ks they had ever raced in. It was up and down a narrow high street which was 800m long so great for spectators but boring as hell for the athletes. I’m still waiting to find out the result of the race to see where Arena came.

One lady’s name that has come up time and time again whilst doing this research is Ragnvi Robson. She is by all accounts one of those people without whom the club would have been very different and nowhere near as successful as it was. She competed for many years and was a mother hen for young girls like Caroline when she joined. She kept the women’s 100 mile relay team together, navigated and drove. She also got Chris Naylor and many of the other girls involved in Cross Country and would still be with A80 now if she hadn’t moved to France! Ragnvi we salute you and on behalf of all of us here at Arena 80, we would like to say a huge ‘Merci’.

A few other ladies names from the past that have come up during my history search that have also helped to put the Arena ladies on the map are Jane Gardiner, Eva Isaccs, Dianne Hepplewhite, Lynn Williams, Julie Briggs, Vicki Clark, Fiona Clarke, Leslie Barratt, Chris Naylor, Tracey Owen and Shirley Cullen, who was a constant running partner of Carol Wilson (Ron Grover’s partner), Camilla Williams and Ziggie Harris. Ladies please take a bow.

Did you know that Arena 80 are the biggest supporters of our local parkruns, more than any other running club.
To date: Number of parkrunners / Number of runs – (figures correct as of 23.07.2017)
Arena – 543 / 13438
B&H – 510 / 10140
Phoenix – 513 / 6516

Did you know that Chris Naylor is still ranked 3rd in the country in the O50’s category for her marathon time and only 91 seconds from first place. #inspirational

2:54:21      Anne Roden (ENG)               9.10.46 36 – Boston, USA    17 Apr 2000
2:54:55      Eleanor Robinson (ENG)     20.11.47 26 – London          18 Apr 1999
2:55:54      Christine Naylor (ENG)    22.10.54  50 – London         17 Apr 2005
2:58:04      Dawn Gibbs (ENG)               9.03.56  61 – London            23 Apr 2006
3:00:22      Sally Musson (ENG)             23.03.52  68 – London          18 Apr 2004

Look what we found in the vaults. A rare newspaper article about the Italian race by the girls and an article about the then Carline Herbert (now Hoyte).


A80 women – the italian job:
Left to right – Chris Naylor, Tracey Owen, Caroline Herbert (now Hoyte), Jackie Richardson, Sue Bushby. There was a reason that they called them shorts!

Arena Club History – Part 3 – From a past members point of view.

Arena Club History Part 3

From a past members point of view

Here is a letter and some photos received very recently from a founder member of A80 which gives a very interesting insight into the clubs history in the early years.

Arena 80 started training on Mondays at Withdean in 1981 and my sister and I (Marie and Louise Dudley-Ward) were involved right from the start.  I had just done a bit of jogging and was keen to improve, and my sister was interested in joining for the social side as well as doing a bit of running.  The two of us were on the committee and were joint social secretary for a few years, organising many social events for the club in the hall at Withdean and elsewhere for Christmas dinners etc. (Sadly I recently dumped a whole file full of minutes of meetings which I thought were totally obsolete now).  We were gradually joined by others who had already been running for a while and they encouraged us novices to start entering local races to have a target to aim for.  As a result, I ran my first London Marathon in 1983 and attach a few photos:  one of the Arena 80 London Marathon runners and another two showing us queueing outside Brighton sorting office all night in order to post our entries. (SEE BELOW).

I went on to run two more London’s, countless other marathons, half marathons and 10K’s culminating in running the Southdown’s 80 miler in 1987, which I ran together with Camilla Williams and we finished as joint 3rd lady in a time of 18 hrs.  I also represented the club with three other girls (Camilla Williams, Ragnvi Robson and Linda?) in the Stockholm Marathon, three of us having Swedish connections, and was good friends with Eva Isaacs who we were all very proud to have as a member of Arena 80. 

After quite a long break to bring up a family I am now back into running again and belong to Chichester Runners AC.  They have various training groups and I am happily settled into the Cake Runners.  I regularly run the Chichester Parkrun with a PB this year of 28 mins at the age of 60! 

Enough blowing my own trumpet.  I am still in touch with Carol Wilson (Ron Grover’s partner), Camilla Williams, Siggie Harris and Jane & Bill Mulholland who live round the corner from me, and have many very fond memories of my years with Arena 80. It’s a shame my name doesn’t appear in the membership book – I can’t imagine why, but I did stop running with the club in the early 90’s. I still occasionally bump into Roger Ockenden at local runs. 

It’s great to make contact and I wish the club continued success.

Kind regards

Louise Flude (nee Dudley-Ward)

Did you know that Eva Isaacs (a Swedish international runner) still holds the women’s club record for the marathon with a time of 2.42.23 set back in 1986 which to this day is still ranked as the 17th fastest female time in Sweden’s national records. She also holds 3rd spot in the women’s club records for the half marathon with a time of 1.18.34.


Admin says: Back in the early days of entering the London Marathon, there was no luxury of registering online. You would need to queue out all night to make sure you got your ballot paper in. Such dedication especially as it would have been cold leading up to the marathon.

Arena club history – Part 2 – The golden years and changes.

Arena Club History – Part 2

The golden years and changes

During the mid-80’s Arena had an incredible spell as a running club. For a couple of years Arena was invincible. During those two years Arena won virtually every trophy there was going including the Sussex Grand Prix for two years in a row. Trophies were won by all the senior men, the men’s vet team, the senior women and the women’s vet team. It was a golden era for the club.

In December 1997 Ron Grover relinquished his role as secretary and chairman of the club however he was unanimously voted to stay on and become the club’s President due to his years of dedication that he had given to the club.

The club was now looking for a new leader to help push Arena 80 forwards. This came in the form of Bill Mulholland, who was a very good Arena athlete at the time. Bill stepped in to take over the coaching, secretary and chairman role and he completely revolutionised the Monday night training sessions as it needed a boost and refreshing. It was fresh and exciting and had the members engaged in their training once again which gave the club a new lease of life. Bill was a definite breath of fresh air to the club and was exactly what the club was looking for at the time.

It should not be underestimated what Bill did for the club during his few years of coaching and holding chairmanship. Arena was up and running and heading in the right direction once more.

Bill Mullholland was himself a very good road runner with a 2:41 marathon to his name when he was in his 40’s and, to this day, he still holds 4th place in the Arena men’s half marathon club records with his time of 1.15.00 set at Barns Green way back in 1986.

Ron Grover stepped down as President in October 2001 at which point John Mason was unanimously voted in as president. John epitomised everything that the club stood for. If John had been a stick of rock, he would have Arena 80 running all the way through the middle of his body. He gave so much to the club and it was an easy choice to put John in this club role.

The answer to yesterdays photo which was to name the two on the bottom row far left were Graham Shorter and Chris Naylor.

Did you know that Phoenix once had an emergency AGM to consider merging with Arena 80. The move was lost by just one vote! (Admin says: Can you imagine trying to double barrel the name – Arena Phoenix 80, Phoenix 80 Arena, Arenix or Phoarenanix etc etc).

Do you recognise any of these athletes? Arena far left 530 is John Schaab: person to the right of 366  is Peter Fair of Arena 80; at the very back just off centre right is Roger Ockendens head sideways. You gotta love the tashes and shorts back in the 80s #Retro

Arena 80 Club History – Part 1 – In the beginning…

So here it is! After much research and talking to past club members, we have put together the history of the club. There are 5 parts to this so we will put one part up each day for the next 5 days. I hope it gives you a sense of pride in the club, from where we came from to where we are today. We’ll also have a special ‘Get to know…’ over the next 5 says with some of our longer serving Arena members.

Arena Club History – Part 1

In the beginning…

The club was formed by a man named Ron Grover and started in 1981 and not 1980, as seems to be the perception. The club name came from the training sessions that took place at, what was then known as, the Withdean Arena Stadium however the idea of Arena AC was first thought about in 1980 hence the name Arena 80, pure genius.

Ron had a furniture shop in Boundary Road selling much of what he made however he also sold running kit and shoes in the shop under the name of “South Coast Runner”. Ron was a generous man and very often gave away Brooks trainers to Arena 80 members as well as offering them good discounts on running clothes as well. Ron himself was a very good sprinter back in the 1960’s.

To promote the running side of the business, Ron organised a race from his shop in Boundary Road to the Hove Town Hall which was probably his first foray into running races and later on, in his coaching career, he went on to help set up the Sussex Grand Prix races as well as the WSFRL races. Ron was also instrumental in helping to set up the Brighton Half Marathon under the then banner of the Sussex Beacon.

The club came to be as there was no club that catered for the average ‘Joe Jogger’ on the street who wanted to run, as the only other club locally was Brighton & Hove AC. It was Ron’s frustration with B&H, who were very ‘Track and Field’ elitist, and were never interested in ‘Joe Jogger’. Little did they know that Joe Jogger could become a Caroline Hoyte under the banner of Arena and produced nationally impressive times!     

Arena’s first training night consisted of 11 women and it took a while for the numbers to grow as running, back in the day, was not as popular as it is today. Runners back then were classed as either slightly odd or a bit geeky (#washmymouthout). The numbers gradually grew as the ladies boyfriends starting to come along for the training sessions as well.

The training sessions back in the 80’s would have consisted of a couple of loops of the track and then out on the road, up to the Devils Dyke then back around Withdean and back into the stadium. The Wednesday night training sessions would be a 10 mile run from the King Alfred to the Marina and back. The return leg got a bit competitive (sound familiar) and Ron would be standing at the King Alfred with his stop watch. The guys would be completing the 10 miles in 51-52 minutes and instead of feeling elated they felt deflated as Ron would say “that’s not very good boys”, Ron was cruel but fair.

Did you know that in the early days, Arena once had a junior section. This however made a move over to Phoenix which was very successfully integrated. We can still see today that with some fine coaching bringing the junior section on, that this has been hugely successful.

Did you know that once Arena 80 had a race walking team and entered about 12 races a year for the club. Chris Rawlins, Maggies Rawlins and David Funnell all represented Arena 80 for walking.

Did you know that Arena 80 has an ex-international walker at the club. She goes by the name of Julie Drake ( you may have seen her at some races running with her dog on a lead). Julie represented Great Britain at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 and at the European Championships in Split in 1990. She did both of these in the 10km walk. Her time for the 10k in Tokyo was 49.47 (wow faster than many runners) and her time in the Europeans was 49.26. Julie also did the World and European Junior Championships in the 5km walk, and World Indoor Championships in the 3000m walk.

An early photograph taken at Withdean stadium probably around 1996. Top row left to right: Jane Gardner, Peter King, Ziggie Harris, John Mason, Rangvi Robson. Bottom Row left to right: can you name two on the far left? Answers given in tomorrow’s post. Middle Ron Grover, Carol Wilson, Bill Mulholland. This is like a who’s who of Arena 80.

A rare picture found of a younger Julie Drake probably running for Brighton and Hove AC in those days.