Running makes you feel better.
That is where this blog started back in November 2016.
My newspaper, only this week, tells me that 40% of middle aged adults take less than 10 minutes brisk walk a month. This is despite the paper published in February 2015 by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges – which examines the evidence and concludes that:
“Regular exercise can prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions – reducing the risk of each by at least 30%. This is better than many drugs.”
I feel fairly passionate about this and increasingly committed to trying to help people get – and keep – moving. But how to do it? When I became a Run England mental health ambassador for Heathfield Road Runners – it was with some woolly notion of sharing this message. The club has been very supportive of the role and many members have talked about their own reasons for running. But to be honest I’ve not done a lot – raised a bit of awareness here and there – and not much more. One of the problems is that I am preaching to the converted – they are a pretty healthy bunch the road runners – and non of them need telling that running is good for them. The worst that can happen (and it does) is that they get injured and can’t run………… Then the trouble starts!
But it’s not easy to join a running club – however friendly! I have run for most of my life – so joining a club should be a breeze – but I remember turning up one freezing Thursday evening in February 2015 – new to Heathfield – new to the club and terrified! “They’ll all know each other”, “they won’t want a new member”, “they’ll all be good runners”, “they’ll all be faster than me” (they were – it was a Thursday night – fast run night!). We set off up a hill (well it is Heathfield) and I thought I might die……….. Everyone was lovely, and friendly (runners are very huggy people), and welcoming – but it took every ounce of grit and determination to ever go back. Of course, I’m glad I did. I have learned to cope with the hills. And found that the Monday group is more my pace. And made good friends – even with some people that I will never keep up with………… But non of this changes the fact that it is not easy to join a running club.
Over the months I have seen people come along to the club – total beginners – and despite our reassurances that we will wait and run with them – many of them don’t stay. And I don’t blame them – I know that feeling that you are holding everyone up and how sapping it is to your confidence and enjoyment – so how do you help people along the way? And that is how the idea for a couch to 5K course was born – a way of helping people get to the point where they could join the club and want to stay! The NHS has put together a pretty foolproof programme that runs over 9 weeks – getting people moving from running for just 60 seconds and walking for 90……………………… up to being able to run for 30 mins and so be fit enough and experienced enough to tackle a 5k run. I am already a UK Athletics run leader – so put the two together and we had all we needed to get going.
But actually starting a c25k group is not that easy either……………… I have turned procrastination into something of an art form so – haunted by questions like “when shall we do it?”, “how do we advertise it?”, “will anyone help?”, “will anyone turn up?”…………… not much happened ……………. again…… And so in the end I just set a date…………………
One Monday night at our usual run in Waldron a couple of new people turned up – who had not really run before. We dragged them round with us but it’s not easy to manage different paces out in the countryside where short cuts are few and far between – so that was it – if we want new people to join we have to put something on that will help. The committee agreed and a couple of the run leaders – Gill and Niki also offered to help – so we set a date and got planning. No time for posters, or contacting GPs or all the other things I was going to do. Just word of mouth and posts on the local Heathfield social media pages. I set up a FaceBook page (thank you Gill and Rosie for suggesting this – I didn’t have a clue!) to gather and communicate with interested people – and people started to join it.
I decided I could offer two groups a week – one in parallel to our usual Monday run and one on a Thursday evening. Gill offered a Wednesday morning group – and Niki welcomed people to her usual speed session on a Wednesday evening – but tailored sessions to suit the newcomers. And many other Road Runners added their support by attending the sessions to help manage the numbers – special thanks to Nicola who turned up to most Monday and Thursday sessions – and also to Vicki, Diane, Sharon and Zoe who came along when they could. Members were welcome to come to one or more session each week – but the expectation was that they stuck to the programme as close as possible which meant running (and walking) for 30-40 minutes three times a week. Altogether 14 people (all women) came along to the sessions. Two have had two drop out – one injured and the other joining a little too late in the process to be able to keep up. But both are keen to come along next time…………………
The other 12 have made it through to the end – 7 of them completed their first 5k run this morning at the Eastbourne Parkrun. The other 5 couldn’t make it today as they had holiday or other commitments – but we will get them through over the next week or two.
I want to find out more about how to keep this all going and make it work for people – so my next step will be to talk to our new runners (many of whom have joined the club) and find out what has worked for them – what we could have done differently and how to continue to support them. But what I have learned about putting together the course so far is as follows:
- Just Do It (now where have I heard that before) – forget all the ifs and buts and maybes – it is really worth it and the NHS programme really works.
- Runners are fantastic people who will always help out and fill in and share their enthusiasm.
- Sometimes runners can be a little too enthusiastic and need reminding that we are following a gentle programme……………………. (mentioning no names!).
- People do get minor injuries and need advice – some of which was beyond me – so it was great to be able to draw on people who knew more – Gill was a great help and especial thanks to Bev for her advice and sports massages along the way.
- In future I would arrange a session on injury prevention and foam rolling as part of the programme.
- The FaceBook page was a great success as members could chat to each other, get support between sessions and arrange to run together.
- Those who joined the programme absolutely made it – their enthusiasm and support for each other was what got them all through.
- It was great to finish with an actual 5k – a Parkrun is ideal and we were lucky enough to turn up to the 300th Eastbourne Parkrun. Thanks to Dave the Run Director for the mention at the start.
- All runners do like a medal…………… Thanks to Niki for arranging those and Gill who remembered to bring them (just………….).
I feel the need for a running track to sign off – so especially for all our new runners………….. Welcome Home – by Radical Face