Exercise was always a big part of family life and as a child I was encouraged to try different sports and outdoor activities. Many a weekend and evening was spent at the local track or cross country event and although it didn't occur to me at the time, there was never a shortage of coaches, helpers and volunteers to run things smoothly and ensure everyone who wanted to could take part.
I have always loved running and it wasn't until starting a family of my own that I truly began to value the simplicity of sticking on some trainers and running out the front door wherever I am in the world. It could be for 15 minutes or three hours - childcare depending of course!
"When juggling work, children, household chores and other responsibilities, busy mums often put their own physical fitness and wellbeing on the back burner."
I have always found time to sneak out for a run, and it crossed my mind that, with a bit of encouragement, other busy people who don't normally find the time to get active could probably find the time too.
I responded to an advert from Active Cheshire↑ and attended a LiRF (Leadership in Running Fitness) course in exchange for providing 10 free beginner's running sessions. I began chatting to mums on the playground and people in the park or out jogging to find out what kind of exercise they enjoy and why they don't join a running club.
The overwhelming response was, "I would love to run but there's no way I can do it," and, "running clubs are too intimidating and for people run who marathons and half marathons".
Buddy running with Paul (who is visually impaired)
The LiRF course was great and gave me the confidence to go away and plan fun and interesting sessions suitable for a mixture of running abilities. Seventy-six free running sessions later I regularly get at least 10 ladies (and the occasional man!) turning up for training at 9.30 on Monday mornings. Forty-seven different people aged 26-65 have attended the sessions and 36 of them were complete beginners when they started.
Most of the runners have had a go at the local parkrun↑; some have tried 10k and further, and about 12 have joined Helsby Running Club as a result of the confidence they gained from Monday mornings and my implementation of a beginner's group at the weekly club run.
Progressing through the ranks
It was brilliant to see the improvement the runners made and the confidence they gained. They make me feel very proud to have helped them get started.
My next hurdle was to help progress the runners who wanted to push themselves to compete in the local road race league or move up to a half marathon.
This was my motivation to improve my coaching knowledge and skills further and, with the help of Active Cheshire, I enrolled on the CiRF course. The course has been a fantastic experience.
I have gained a huge amount of knowledge on lots of aspects of coaching including "how to" and "what to" as well as energy systems, nutrition and technical running skills. I now feel much more confident to incorporate the fundamentals of running into training schedules to ensure the athletes have the best grounding in strength and conditioning to prepare them to run farther and faster.
I have learnt the importance of training different energy systems to improve running performance and I am seeing the athletes reap the benefits of this with many 5k and 10k personal bests and some great performances in the local road race league.
I look forward to Monday mornings and love the chats, laughs and work ethic of my group. There's nothing more rewarding than the results that prove that hard work really does pay off! I have made some great friends and feel that my life has been enriched by giving beginners the confidence to run and helping to foster an inclusive atmosphere at my running club.
I hope I am going some way to giving something back to the sport that I love in thanks to all those volunteers that have given up their time to allow me and countless others to enjoy sport at any level.
If you want to help out at your local running club or event visit joininuk.org/run-it