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Road Hammers proving together is better

Halifax club expands to include new development group

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
Jan. 17, 2017

HALIFAX – #Bettertogether.
For runner Erin Poirier, it’s a message that accompanies many of her social media posts, but for her club, the Halifax Road Hammers, it’s more than a hashtag. It’s part of their recipe of success that coach Lee McCarron hopes to build on in 2017.
The club had a remarkable year in 2016 with a slew of strong performances, but McCarron is expanding its focus this year to include a development group for new and improving runners.
“One of my goals it to grow the Halifax Road Hammers to become an all-inclusive group,” he said. “I want to ensure people know they are welcome. Our mission is to help everyone achieve their goals, from beginner to elite, across all road racing distances from the 5K to the marathon.”
The Road Hammers came into official being last summer, growing out of a group of 10 runners that had approached McCarron after the death of their previous coach, Cliff Matthews.
The group quickly grew to its current membership of more than 60, with interest weekly from others looking to join. It reached the point where McCarron left his job as an assistant coach with the Dalhousie University cross-country team to focus more on the Road Hammers.
For McCarron, the most rewarding aspect has been the opportunity to work with such a great group of people.
“The members of the group are amazing role models and leaders within the community,” he said. “The majority have families, work full-time, but their dedication to everything is amazing.”
That dedication appears to be paying off. The Road Hammers tore up the racing scene in the Maritimes and beyond last year, with names like Matthias Mueller, Matthew Ho, Denise Robson, Erin Poirier, and McCarron himself found all over the leaderboards.
The club won the Golden Shoe Award as Club of the Year for 2016 by Canadian Running magazine.
Lee McCarron, coach of the Halifax Road Hammers
“I find he really gets his athletes, and understands that everyone is unique and has slightly different needs,” said Callaghan. “He also emphasizes that the most important aspect of running is to have fun and enjoy it.”
The sisters were among 10 club members who traveled to compete in the California International Marathon last month, with eight of them recording PBs at the event.
Callaghan and Poirier are not the only family combination in the Road Hammers, which also incudes brothers Patrick and Thomas White, mother/daughter Linda and Liz MacDonald and mother/daughter Denise and Ashley Robson.
Meeting so many incredible athletes of all ages and backgrounds has been a bonus for member Michael Bergeron, who said he has improved in all his distances since joining the group in the summer of 2015.
The development group will be great for those runners who might not be performing at the same intensity as the performance group, or may have never been coached before, according to Bergeron.
“Lee brings people together in order for them to push themselves to a new potential, but he also believes in tapering and enjoying simple activities,” he said. “We have post-run get-togethers and have constant conversations with him.”
Perhaps the club’s most recent success came at the hands of Mike Juurlink, who placed first in the Hypothermic Half Marathon held in Halifax on Jan. 15. He credited his club and coach for offering a structured training plan and environment.
“For me, the greatest value comes in having a training group to grind with; teammates that can help you execute those big workouts that would be daunting to tackle solo,” he said.
McCarron expects to have the development group off the ground within the next couple of weeks. All runners are allowed a few weeks’ trial to make sure the club is the right fit for them, before signing up for a program.
For more information, visit the Road Hammers website here .
Almost every runner in the club posted a personal best last year, but the coach insisted that is not the number one goal.
“Creating that culture and environment, where people look forward to practice and show the dedication required to be successful in life, is inspiring,” said McCarron. “I also am very fortunate to be able to continue on Cliff’s legacy that he built within the city.”
He now has time standards put in place to keep practices running efficiently. The performance group meets on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, while the new development group meets on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Online training plans are also offered for those living outside Halifax.
Poirier, who has a busy life with full-time work and children, said her workouts with the Road Hammers are her time to play and do what she loves.
“The play and fun and love for running are increased when you are surrounded by amazing people who are grinding it out with you,” she said. “We run in pace groups and I’ve definitely improved because of my excellent group. We’re never competing with each other in practice but we certainly are pushing each other to get the best out of each other’s efforts.”
Her sister, Kristen Callaghan, said she has also benefited from the group dynamic of the club, saying workouts don’t feel as challenging when you are running with others.
She also pointed to McCarron’s coaching as a huge benefit to the club. A busy medical student, Callaghan said her coach makes sure to emphasize that school comes first, and helps her adjust her training schedule to fit her life.