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What do Manchester, running, sustainability and carrot seeds have in common?
In conjunction with our partners, Adidas Manchester Marathon 2023 and Manchester Half Marathon, we interviewed the founder of Nantwich Triathlon Club, Paul McIntyre. The club was formed in 2020 and since then, they have incorporated sustainability into their operations, as well as into each of their members’ lives. Some of their members participated in 2022’s Manchester Marathon, and we caught up with Paul to talk about all things Manchester, running, sustainability and carrot seeds…
8 minutes to read
Can you tell us more about the triathlon club you are part of?
We are a small but potent club based in Nantwich, Cheshire. We started during lockdown in September 2020 and by 2021 we had articulated our holistic strategy into a plan so that more people can engage and take a part in making the club the success that it soon became.
Alongside the obvious focus of being a sports club, we also have a long term plan to change the wider world, starting with the immediate world around us.
We’re fully on-board with sustainability but insist on keeping it practical and linked to wellbeing and pleasure because that is where lots of global attempts have gone wrong before and why it is even harder to get people to engage with it without economic pressure.
Why do you love Manchester?
Manchester is a wonderful city for its progressive nature and this continues to develop as the years pass. I’ve taken part in four Manchester Marathons so far and the atmosphere improves every time I take part. On marathon day you’re in an environment where the whole city wants participants to do their best and that is such a positive environment to be in.
If you were Mayor of Manchester for one year, what change would you make to make it a more sustainable and cleaner city than it already is?
I would work to add urban mobility to the school curriculum and perhaps twin the city with a Dutch counterpart so that the city is a catalyst for change. This could then be disseminated across the entire UK.
How does training for the Manchester Marathon fit in with or impact your triathlon training?
With Triathlon you tend to obtain a good level of general fitness anyway so some of us simply turn up and run to enjoy the experience, whilst others like to put in extra sessions and chase a time or PB. Finishing a marathon is great for athlete confidence and self-belief and puts you in a great position for subsequent triathlons such as Ironman which is 140.6 miles.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Because the world needs to change but in a way which is practical for people. When people make the small changes at home then these are more sustainable to live with compared to some of the big blanket campaigns of the past. So we focus on the small but possible and this works because it is progressive and habit-forming. As a club we have also created an official post of Sustainability Lead because I think sports clubs need to collaborate with their surrounding communities as well as they can rather than simply turn up and train. Our Sustainability Lead is Trev White and will be at Manchester Marathon in 2023 for his first one!
Can you tell us more about your sustainability efforts?
As mentioned above, we have a sustainability and wellbeing focus, so we are approaching things on a themed month-by-month basis. Here’s what we’ve done so far in 2022:
January – Habits
We took inspiration from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits and encouraged people to make slight changes to their lives for the better. It didn’t matter what changes but the focus was to encourage people to get into a “change” mindset or see others benefiting from the compounded benefits.
February – Heart Health
In the UK, February is heart health month with lots of free collateral from the British Heart Foundation so we went with that. We encouraged people to learn First Aid and CPR. After that, we know that people often achieve some fitness in January so diet felt like the next good thing to look at. Although these don’t fit with the traditional description of the term “sustainability, these are foundations to sustainable changes in life. They’re all possible and simple so become powerful in a short period of time – which keeps people motivated rather than losing interest.
March – Trees
In the UK spring comes and so does (slightly!) better weather. Daffodils come out to signal this and signs of life start coming back to other plants too. So we focused on trees. In the UK there are Wildlife Trusts all over and our local one is Cheshire Wildlife Trust. They were advertising for help to plant trees and hedgerows in our town that month so we reached out to them. I agreed we’d get them a group of people and so one morning a group of us planted 2,000 trees over 800 metres at the park we often train in. We have around 50 paid up club members and then a Facebook Group of approximately 250. By advertising in our Facebook Group, we inspired one member, who happened to be a scout leader, to get more than 10 members of her scout group to join in. It got people who interact with our club, but who do not necessarily play sports, to become involved. This included our photographer, who is an injured runner, our treasurer and many young people. Even the MP turned up for his five minutes of fame!
April – Marathon Month!
On St Patrick’s Day (17th March) 2022, a Facebook post about Manchester Marathon’s partnership with Ailuna inspired Samantha, one of our club members to do her first ever Marathon with only 2 weeks’ notice! She’s only been running for two years and has lost just over 6 stone in the process – an amazing by-product of being part of our brilliant club. So April’s topic was “pure” sustainability and getting behind Ailuna.
April was a busy month because of the UK weather making outdoor sport more appealing but we did keep pushing and encouraging people to do sustainable things. Some cycled to training venues instead of driving where it was safe to. My builders had left behind a load of wood so I made some planters with it. Others in the club did similar things, such as planting BeeBombs in their gardens, because they had received them at a 10k run instead of a medal.
May – No Mow May
May 20th is World Bee Day and so with PR around No Mow May we would be foolish not to drive it!
We’ve partnered with a local beekeeper and are encouraging members to make bee-bars (drinking stations for bees) and keep on planting things. We’ve also encouraged people to look out for swarms to rehome and also to create bug hotels in their gardens .
June – Go Wild!
And that brings us to this month, June! We have labelled it “Wild June”, to encourage the trend in the favourable weather and take full advantage of the outdoors. This should help us to increase club uptake as well as connect with nature. In the UK, The Wildlife Trusts are running their 30 Days Wild challenge, where you can get a monthly planner with a daily challenge on each day.
Looking ahead – July and beyond
July is the Tour de France month and one big tenet of our club is collaboration with local businesses. They give us discounts and benefits and we give them footfall and advertising. One business we collaborate with is Ginger and Pickles Tearooms. They have 3 stores near us and in July we will be holding a Tour de Ginger and Pickles. It’s free and people can cycle the 50 mile route between their stores. They can use the tearooms as an aid station for free water and bananas. They take a photo at each tearoom as their checkpoint which they post to social media and then get a free cake at the end of the ride instead of a medal. Everyone wins. If you’re interested in taking part, take a look at the route and details on Strava.
This summer and beyond, we are holding a local NotParkrun in a local park so that we can drive the local council to make a perimeter path. This is not only to attract a Parkrun to our town, but also to provide a place where people can learn to ride a bike in a traffic-free environment. The closest Parkrun is over 3 miles away and popular, but people tend to drive there, which is not ideal from a sustainability perspective.
The council built a traffic-free cycle lane which goes from our town all the way to the local Parkrun in a traffic free format so we are encouraging people to use it by operating a bike-bus. It’s something I’ve seen used for school children in Barcelona but could be repurposed for the mass movement of people for up to 5 miles. You can find out more about it here.
We’ll cycle the 3-4 miles to Parkrun, do the Parkrun and then cycle home. So this is a good brick session for a sprint triathlete or a good session for a novice runner or cyclist to gain confidence, have fun and use the car less.
Have you made any changes to your sustainable habits, especially, but not necessarily in relation to your training?
I certainly use plastic much less than I used to and try to buy less of it. A quick way to progress is to look into your own recycling bin because that shows you from your own home what you need to buy less of or look at reducing. It’s also good to ask if there is anything you can use a few times before you throw it away. For example, refilling shampoo or detergent bottles, or looking into whether anything you have could be upcycled rather than recycled.
Can you tell us about any of the work you’ve done using Ailuna as a tool?
When we were at Manchester Marathon, we collected a bundle of Ailuna flyers. This was partly to spread the word around Nantwich about Ailuna, but also because each flyer contained carrot seeds!
After downloading the Ailuna app, a fair few of us have planted our Ailuna seeds and after a few weeks of typical British weather (sunshine and showers) we are starting to see shoots.
We have also started using Ailuna as a guide for some of the sustainable actions we can take as a club and as individuals. We like the fact we can have our own community in the app so we can swap ideas and cheer each other on – just like on race day!
Why did you decide to take on the carrot seed project as a group?
We saw that those behind Ailuna are a good bunch of people who align well to the culture of Manchester as a city and Manchester Marathon. We see that concentrating on sustainability is the direction in which sports clubs like ours need to go. Therefore we decided to join in to support. Once you start one simple sustainable habit it is quite easy to do and it does feel good so I can foresee others enjoying using the Ailuna app too. It’s good to be true and honest and say that I do have some days where my sustainability habits do fail because they become impractical to maintain sometimes but overall they have improved.
What do you like about the Ailuna app?
I like that it is simple and actually practical. In the past many apps and ideas were just forgotten, because they are not practical to maintain. With Ailuna, you can set your own, realistic targets, and the habits are things that normal people can do. It is also good to do as a club or as a family. For us, it means we have talked about our sustainability habits more, which keeps them mindful and encouraging.
To find out more about Nantwich Triathlon Club, take a look at their website. If you’re a team, business or organisation that would like help with engaging and mobilising your team to build sustainable habits, get in touch with the Ailuna team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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