There has been an athletics club associated with the University of Manchester since 1865 when Manchester competed in an annual athletics competition with Leeds and Liverpool Universities. These events formed the template for the Christie Cup which any sporting student at any of these universities now knows as an annual grudge match battled out over many sports every March.
These days, UMACCC maintains a strong presence on the university sport scene. The team travels around the country throughout the academic year, competing at BUCS events and other university hosted races. The UMACCC-organised Manchester Relays kicks off the season in October and marks the beginning of the club calendar.
UMACCC has travelled a long way since the early days of the Christie Cup. A Hare and Hounds club was formed in 1871 and continued until the Athletic Club was formed in 1920. This team counted Cross Country as an integral part of its activities, though in 1924, the Cross Country club gained separate status. The Women formed their own team in 1925, but joined with the men in 1981 when women were first admitted into the Athletic Union at Manchester.
The club prospered through the wars and on into the 1960’s the club was regularly featured in the local and national press. The first moment of glory came from Cyril Holmes who made the 1936 Berlin Olympic team. Further success for Cyril followed at World Student Games the following year where he won the sprint double and the British Empire Games.
Numerous members of the club have since gone onto great things in and around the field of athletics including Ron Hill, Zara Hyde-Peters, Ron Unsworth and Dr Patrick Milroy (agony aunt at Runner’s World). Of these, the most recent is Dave Norman, the winner of Greater Manchester Marathon in 2012 and 2013 (2:24:46 and 2:20:19 respectively) and GB marathon and mountain-running athlete.
A recent statistic generated by past members of the club show that the club has produced as many international athletes as it is old; that is at least 82 internationals. This includes sprinters, distance runners, fell runners, triathletes, biathletes and orienteers.
Past members have traditionally been a strong social section of the club, supporting the club through hard times and providing insights into club traditions. The past members are known as the Alehouse Academicals in recognition of the club’s early years using a local Alehouse as a training base. Alehouse forms the basis of the very strong social side of the club. Orange was founded as the official team colour by Bruce Green in 1976 when the team went to the Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running and orange was the only colour T-shirt that Bruce could find in sufficient quantities to clothe the whole team. These days, the annual trip to the Isle of Man is an important part of the club calendar and once a year the residents of the Island see rather a lot of orange people enjoying themselves with “beer and running in balance”.
The club suffered from the loss of training grounds and facilities through the 90’s. The continued survival of the club can be attributed to the dedication of the athletes, and the support of past-members. Together, they have worked to ensure that the club has adapted and developed. In the past couple of years alone, training ties with local teams have been fostered, and the club has developed a website and warm-up kit. This has helped to ensure that attendance has multiplied.
Following the merger of the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST in 2004, the decision was taken to re-combine the Athletics and Cross-Country clubs. This return to the club’s roots will encourage participation throughout the year and will encourage the cross-country hard-core members to compete on the track, and possibly even try a field event or two.
Most recently, 2015 saw the return of Christie Cup championship title to the University of Manchester with the cross country club gaining maximum points! The Christie Cup is held every year between sports teams at the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool.