A history of PECO part 1: The Men’s team

In the run up to the latest edition of PECO I thought I would do a brief history of how the club has been doing in the competition over the years, telling you the story of the highs and lows as we wonder what the class of 2021/22 will write into the next chapter of the club’s history books.

Our story starts in the 2009/10 season.  I don’t know if this is when PECO began or just when PECO started leaving the results up on the website but in either case our story will begin here.  Both PECO and Hyde Park Harriers evolve over the course of the next 11 seasons and I’ll be telling you the story of this evolution on the way.

As the 2009/10 season begins, the Men’s PECO teams are split into 2 divisions and you’ll be amazed to discover that there is no Hyde Park Harriers in either division.  However, there happens to be another club that runs in red with an offset white stripe by the name of Virgin Active Road Runners and this is the team we’ll be following.  Virgin Active are in the First (lower) division which comprises 11 teams and has 8 counters to score the points.  The campaign begins well with two 3rd place finishes before Virgin Active up their game with two 2nd places before rounding off the season with a win!  A fantastic start to our story see’s Virgin Active sadly miss out on the title but secure promotion to the Premier division with second place overall.  That season only 13 men actually took part for the club (completing 1 or more races) with our highest overall individual finishing in 7th place!

After the 2009/10 campaign Virgin Active Road Runners formed a chrysalis and what emerged from that chrysalis for the 2010/11 season was the beautiful butterfly that was Hyde Park Harriers.  So new name but same old kit…. You would have thought they would have gone for something different like a central strip or something 😉. Anyway, this brand new running club started its life in the Premier division which is comprised of 7 teams.  Sadly, the campaign would not start well for the newly formed Hyde Park Harriers as they finished 6th in round 1 before an improvement to 4th in round 2 followed by 3 consecutive last place finishes, which saw Hyde Park Harriers finish bottom of the league and relegated back to the First division.  On the upside turnout was massively up, going from 13 the season before to 19 in 2010/11 (always easier to see massive improvements in turnout when you start with small numbers).  Our top placed individual runner this year finished 18th overall.

So back in the First division for the 2011/12 season, the First division now comprises 9 teams instead of 11.  After last season’s relegation, Hyde Park Harriers were quick to make amends with 2 consecutive second places followed by not 1, not 2, but 3 back to back wins to secure not only promotion but also the First division title!  Great job lads!  Another big improvement on turnout this year going from 19 to 28 men having run at least one race.  This year’s highest overall finisher ranked 12th overall.

2012/13 would answer the question of whether Hyde Park Harriers would stay up or just become a bit of a yo-yo club.  This season saw the Premier division expanded to 9 teams but PECO kept the format of 8 counters for both divisions.   The campaign began with a lower-mid table 6th place in round 1 followed by a bottom of the table 9th place in round 2 and 7th in round 3.  This was all starting to look a bit familiar…. A team too good for the First division but not good enough for the Premier division, the makings of a yo-yo club were forming.  Hyde Park Harriers needed to not only get good results, but get big results and pronto.  Given the form the team was in it was both a massive shock and an epic achievement to win a round of the competition in round 4.  To win a round in the Premier division is such a difficult thing to do in PECO, this is demonstrated by the fact that this was the first of only 2 wins in the history of PECO for Hyde Park Harriers, good job guys!  Round 5 saw the club finish in 4th to produce a solid exactly mid table 5th place finish overall.  The participation again makes a big leap from 28 to 37 and the highest placed Harrier was 4th overall, a finish that would not be bettered until the 2020/21 season.

After a solid mid table finish in the 2012/13 season you’d think the club would be looking to push up the rankings a little, sadly this was not to be.  The campaign started with 2 back to back 7th places, followed by an improved 5th place but relegation was beckoning.  7th again in round 4 saw the Hyde Park Harrier men in real trouble before a 4th place finish saw the club finish 6th overall for the season and avoiding relegation.  Amazingly enough this season saw exactly the same number of Hyde Park Harrier men participating as last season (37), with the highest Harrier ranked 8th.

As Hyde Park Harriers entered the 2014/15 season, they were looking like a solid mid table team…… Although they did like to start the season flirting with relegation.  The Premier league this season was reduced to 7 teams to make a 3rd division (Men’s second division) as more teams joined the PECO league.  Although they retained the same format of 8 counters across all 3 divisions.  Seemingly the 2014/15 season stuck to what has become the usual Hyde Park Harriers playbook (up to this point) of flirting with relegation from the off as the club started the campaign with a 6th placed finish (out of 7 teams remember).  However, the boys wouldn’t be flirting with relegation for long as the rest of the season was a stellar campaign!  Barring that one PECO win the previous season, Hyde Park Harriers had never finished above 4th in a round at this point in time.  Round 2 saw the club finish an amazing 2nd, followed by a 4th, and another 2nd place finish before finishing the final round in 3rd place.  The flirting with relegation seemed over (for now) as the club finished on the podium with a 3rd place overall.  This would be the joint highest finish in the club’s history.  Once again, an increase in participation from 37 to 43 men and our highest individual ranked in 8th place.

After the amazing podium from the class of 2014/15 could the club repeat the feat in the 2015/16 season?  Well early results in 2015/16 would suggest so, as the club started with a 5th place, a 4th and then a 3rd (definitely not flirting with relegation this year).  Sadly, the run wouldn’t continue into round 4 as the club slumped to 6th place but an impressive 2nd place in the final round lifted the club into 4th spot overall.  A very respectable finish.  No massive increases in participation this year, adding just 2 more to last year’s 43 to make 45 Hyde Park Harrier men.  Our top Harrier was ranked in 16th place this season.

The 2016/17 season saw myself debut for the PECO team, would I be a lucky charm? The extra bit of class to help the team win?  Errrrr nope!  Round’s 1 and 2 finished with 6th and 7th place finishes respectively which meant this would be a season of attempting to avoid relegation.   Fortunately enough, with the club having dug itself a massive hole, the troops rallied and pulled out back to back 2nd place finishes in rounds 3 and 4 before rounding off the campaign with a 4th place finish in round 5.  The club avoided relegation by finishing 5th overall.  For the second season in a row, we had 45 men complete at least one race.  In this blog I am purposely focusing on the efforts of the Hyde Park Harriers Men’s team rather than individuals and their achievements (even though there are plenty worthy of note) but this one does deserve a mention.  Our highest placed Hyde Park Harrier was Alec Francis who ranked 6th.  Due to his performances, he was selected for the PECO relay team to face off against the West Yorkshire league team (or is it West Yorkshire Winter league?…. I can’t remember which).  As far as I am aware no one from Hyde Park Harriers has ever represented the PECO relay team up to this point (please correct me if I am wrong) so it’s a real achievement.

The 2017/18 season started promisingly with the club finishing 3rd place in round 1.  This form would be consistent across the campaign as the club finished 5th and 4th in rounds 2 and 3 respectively before back to back 3rd places in rounds 4 and 5 secured a 4th place overall for Hyde Park harriers.  It’s great to see such consistency in the club now after journeying from a yo-yo club, to a club just trying to survive in the Premier league, to a team consistently mid to upper table.  This year saw 49 men participate and our highest ranked athlete came in at 11th place.  After the success of Alec Francis being part of the PECO relay team the previous year, this time we had 2 Harriers on the team in the form of Gus Milne and Tom Thomas….. although as far as I understand that was more to do with the stars of Wharfdale turning down the opportunity to represent the PECO team to instead concentrate on an important club race on the same day.  But still a massive achievement for the individuals and for the club….. maybe scheduling more Wharfdale races when the PECO relays are going on would help us get more Harriers in the PECO relay team going forward 😉.

So for the 2018/19 season PECO would increase the number of counters in the Premier division from 8 to 9 (although it would be 8 for the First and 7 for the Second division respectively).  The class of 2018/19 would much like the class of 2017/18 start the campaign well with a 3rd place finish in round 1.  The campaign would go from strength to strength with another 3rd place in round 2 before finishing off round 3 with a win!  This would only be the second time in Hyde Park Harrier’s history that the club has come away with a win in PECO, matching the achievement of the class of 2012/13.  But would they go on to beat the 5th place finish of the same class?  Or after such a good start to the campaign match or beat the 3rd place achieved by the class of 2014/15?  Well…… let’s have a look.  So, after two 3rd places and a 1stplace, things were looking good for the club and very tight at the top.  Round 4 saw Hyde Park Harriers come in 2nd, followed by 3rd in the final round.  This left Hyde Park Harriers technically 3rd overall, which matches the achievements of the 2014/15 team but this doesn’t tell the whole story.  The club was equal on points with Roundhay Runners in 2nd place, however the club was relegated to 3rd place on countback (for those of you not familiar with countback it’s basically goal difference) and it was by the tiniest of margins, a countback of just 32 points (which in the world of PECO is pretty much nothing, it would be the footballing equivalent of say 2-4 goals difference with another football team on equal points at the end of a football season).  Although technically the equal of the class of 2014/15, the achievement of the class of 2018/19 was much better: a win, better results and joint 2nd only to be relegated to third on the tiniest of countback margins.  The class of 2018/19 achieved the best PECO result of any Hyde Park Harriers side in the history of the club.  As for participation, another record, this time 51 men turned out for the club and out highest ranked Harrier was 10th.  

After the fantastic success of the class of 2018/19, could the class of 2019/20 give us an unforgettable season?  Well, the 2019/20 season was certainly unforgettable but not in a way any of us thought possible.  The season got off to a steady start with two 4th place finishes in rounds 1 and 2.  Round 3 would see the Harriers improve on their solid start with a 3rd place finish.  From here on in, things go a little bit crazy.  So, round 4 was marred by something of a monsoon, the rain was that bad and that torrential that people didn’t show up, people who did show up ran from the start line directly to their cars, the course was shortened and some people even got hypothermia.  I know George Anderson is still scarred by the experience to this day.  In spite of the horrendous conditions Hyde Park Harriers came out with another solid 4th place finish.  Naturally not long after the race the sun came out and it was actually quite a lovely day…… Just to rub it in!  Somewhere between rounds 4 and 5 the plague from China had reached our shores, there was talk of lock downs and an impending apocalypse.  With the mindset that the great apocalypse was impending you’d have think they would have cancelled round 5….. Well, they did, but it wasn’t for this reason.  Roundhay park hosted an Ed Sheeran concert prior to round 5 and Leeds city council cancelled round 5 as ‘the ground had not recovered enough’.  I mean this would seem like perfect cross-country conditions to me but what would I know?  But the decision had been made, round 5 was cancelled and the 2019/20 season was ended after round 4.  This meant the Hyde Park Harriers Men’s team finished the season 4th overall.  Participation was slightly down on the 2018/19 record, admittedly the round 5 cancellation and the horrendous conditions in round 4 most likely contributed to this.  Turnout was reduced from 51 but still a very high 46.  Our highest placed Harrier was ranked 3rd, the highest any of our athletes have ever ranked at the club.

There has been no more PECO fixtures since the West Park monsoon in round 4 of 2019/20.  The 2020/21 season was completely cancelled due to the pandemic.  It’s time to handover the baton to the class of 2021/22 to write the next chapter of the Hyde Park Harriers story.  I hope you have enjoyed reading, there is a table of statistics below and the next edition of this 4-part series will focus on the Hyde Park Harriers Ladies team.  See you all at round 1.

SeasonDivisionHighest round finishOverall finishPromotion/relegationHighest individual HarrierHighest individual RankingNumber of Participants
2009/10First1st2ndPromotedDave Maguire7th13
2010/11Premier4th7thRelegatedTom Williams18th19
2011/12First1st1stPromotedDave Maguire12th28
2012/13Premier1st5thKevin Ogden4th37
2013/14Premier4th6thKevin Ogden8th37
2014/15Premier2nd3rdKevin Ogden8th43
2015/16Premier2nd4thStan Karanasios16th45
2016/17Premier2nd5thAlec Francis6th45
2017/18Premier3rd4thGus Milne11th49
2018/19Premier1st3rdAdam Lomas10th51
2019/20Premier3rd4thBen Douglas3rd46
A great table of fun PECO facts!