In the Autumn of 1988 notices appeared at sports clubs, swimming pools and other public venues around Oxford advertising a meeting to discuss the formation of a new running club called Oxford Road Runners. The meeting was called by Patrick Coulter, who, not content with founding Kidlington Running Club a few years earlier, felt there was a need for another inclusive club in Oxford itself. The meeting took place in Headington at All Saints Church Hall on 28th November 1988 and the large attendance proved that Patrick was right. In a close vote the meeting rejected the proposed name and approved Headington Road Runners. The first club run took place on the following Sunday, meeting at the Northway Community Centre. At a meeting afterwards the club adopted the yellow and blue colours of local football team, Oxford United.
From the start HRR adopted the ethos that running is for everyone, not just the elite. All the club runs had a shepherd whose job was to make sure no-one was left behind and the faster runners looped back to keep the group intact. In May 1989 Headington Road Runners moved their meeting place to OXSRAD, the sports and recreation centre in Marston that caters especially for sports people with a disability. This relationship has lasted more than 30 years and is a major reason for the club’s success.
Although HRR still emphasises the philosophy of running-for-everyone it hasn’t prevented some of its members from succeeding at the highest level.
- Mara Myers who started running for the club when aged only 14 won the South of England and National Cross Country Championships in 1998. Then under her married name, Mara Yamauchi, she won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal at 10,000m in 2006. Moving up to the marathon, in 2008 she won the Osaka Ladies Marathon and came 6th in the Olympic Games marathon. 2009 saw her come second in the London Marathon in a personal best 2:23:12, a tie only bettered by Paula Radcliffe among UK women.
- Jethro Lennox won the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge in 2008 and was Scottish hill running champion in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
"I was a member of Headington Road Runners during the 1980s and 1990s as a teenager. I have many fond and happy memories of training with HRR - intervals along the Marston Ferry Road, long runs along the country lanes near OXSRAD, and hilly runs on beautiful Shotover. Training with HRR was instrumental in me falling in love with running, training consistently so that I could improve at it, and learning the many skills runners need to learn. Eventually, after many years of hard work, I raced in two Olympics and became the UK's second-fastest female marathon runner ever - and it all started at HRR. I am so grateful to HRR for setting me off on this life-long running adventure, and to all the friendly club members who were part of HRR at the time. My sincere thanks go to every one of them. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for helping me to become a runner. I am sure HRR will continue to thrive, and I will always look forward to seeing the famous HRR vest at running events. Go Headington!"
The club has always thrived on team events and has had some notable successes.
- HRR has participated in the Oxfordshire Cross Country League from its earliest days, starting with a 10th place out of 10 teams in season 1989/90. Since then the men’s team has won the league 9 times and the women 8.
- Once established in the Oxfordshire League, HRR joined the more demanding Chiltern League. They were promoted to Division 1 in the 1999/2000 season and the women won the Senior Ladies title in 2010/11
- The club has performed well over the years in the Oxfordshire AA Road Race Grand Prix, particularly the women who have won 15 times in the 18 years of the competition’s history, while the men have won once.
- HRR have taken a team to the Round Norfolk Relay every year since 1995, winning overall in 2007.
- The Ridgeway Relay is another long-distance target for the club, which has seen victory for HRR in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2013 and 2014.
- The Teddy Hall Relays, starting at the famous Iffley Road track in Oxford has seen few wins because the competition includes the best student teams in the country, but in 2002 our best ever women’s team were winners, the mixed team came 2nd and the men’s team came 3rd. In the same year the women took 3rd place in the South of England 4-stage road relays.
The club organises races regularly:
- The Headington 5 based at OXSRAD took place in late summer every year from 1989 to 2004 and from 2013 to present.
- The Headington 10k at Worminghall Airfield filled the intervening years.
- The short-lived Double Whammy consisted of two races over one weekend in 1999.
- The equally short-lived Round Oxfordshire Relay (ROAR) also took place in 1999, with only one team (HRR) but which resulted in a large donation to OXSRAD.
- The club has also regularly contributed courses to the Oxfordshire and Chiltern XC Leagues.