THEY took the Covid-19 lockdown in their stride and didn't let a worldwide pandemic halt their momentum. 

Now, athletes in Clackmannanshire are making up for lost time as they get back up to speed following a return to training. 

Central Athletics Club youngsters were given the greenlight to take their first steps on the Lornshill Academy track earlier this month after half a year of adapting to life in the 'new normal'. 

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For the club, who were restricted to under 18s only until Monday, a number of changes had to be made to meet guidance agreed by athletics chiefs, but, they all agree it has been worth the effort to see the kids doing what they love at the heart of Alloa. 

"It is not normal because of the guidance we are following and the measures we have put in place," Steve Ingram, Central's club development officer, told Advertiser Sport. 

"We have a booking system so we are aware of who is coming to training. Kids can't just turn up ad hoc now. 

"We need to have a register when they get there and we need to comply with Test and Protect, knowing who is at training at all times.

"We then have to follow the guidance of Scottish Athletics in terms of one coach to every ten kids. They can train in zones within the track and the field. 

"They have to stay within these zones. They don't have to social distance within the zones but must when they leave them.

"It's all working and we are getting there, although the sooner we get back to some sort of normality the better. 

"I was a bit concerned the longer it [lockdown] went on kids between 12 and 18 might not necessarily come back, but we have been having some very good turnouts.

"My fears have been allayed and the kids are coming back, which is good news. It's now about getting them fit again for when competitions return." 

Central AC, who, as well as their Alloa group, have welcomed youngsters back in Stirling, didn't let lockdown stop them in their tracks. 

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Central AC's youngsters train at Alloa's Lornshill Academy Central AC's youngsters train at Alloa's Lornshill Academy

When competition was halted, zoom calls quickly replaced face-to-face meetings and online challenges, arranged by Scottish Athletics, gave members a chance to keep on their toes. 

"Active Schools in Clackmannanshire have been brilliant and were very active with us, putting various activities on their Twitter and YouTube for people to follow," Ingram continued. "It's all been about trying to stay active as best we can and keeping one another informed. It's essential. 

"We wanted to as best we could continue committee meetings and stuff like Zoom has been a wonderful tool. 

"A lot of clubs in Clackmannanshire met over Zoom to share ideas and that was really good. It's always been about communicating and helping each other.

"I'm fairly old now, I'm 62, but the whole thing [lockdown] has been a bit of a reset button for everyone to appreciate what they have. 

"It's brought communities and a lot of people closer together. Maybe apart from the people who have been having unorganised raves; although I may have been one of them in my youth!" 

As well as reinforcing community bonds, the reset has given Central AC a chance to reassess some of its practices, which Ingram believes will have long term benefits.

"It's made us look at general things that we know about but maybe gloss over," he said.

"Risk assessment was one of those and we have been looking at our coaches and how they might be qualified with the likes of first aid. 

"It's also given clubs a chance to look at policies and procedures and the wellbeing safeguards and processes. 

"Scottish Athletics again have been very good with that."

Central, who have had to take the difficult decision of cancelling a number of their biggest events, including the Stirling 10K, have also launched a casual running club. 

It's hoped it will offer people in Forth Valley who picked up the sport during a lockdown a chance to continue their momentum.

Ingram said: "We have now started a recreation running group on Wednesday night and it's very much geared up for people who have started running. 

"If they want to, they can then join the club. But, we don't put an emphasis on that group as it's just for fun. 

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Central's impressive alumni list includes Andy Butchart Central's impressive alumni list includes Andy Butchart

"I can see that growing over the coming weeks once word of mouth gets around.
"That's based in Stirling and specifically not in Clacks as we don't want to compete with Wee County Harriers and want to work with them."

Greg Welsh, community sport hub/club development officer, worked closely with Central and Wee County Harriers ahead of their return. 

He said: “Central Athletics and Wee County Harriers have been fantastically proactive during the difficult lockdown period. 

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"Both clubs have been in regular contact with Sport Development and have actively engaged their membership throughout with challenges, competitions and social zoom sessions.

"I am glad to see both clubs continuing to support Sport Development. 

"It has been great to see that clubs have returned to regular, safe and structured coaching sessions at Lornshill Academy with both clubs noticing increased attendances at their junior club sessions.”