England Athletics’ RunTogether initiative, created to encourage more people to take up running, celebrated its 100,000th member recently - a fantastic number given the programme is just two years old.
The idea was to identify those runners who perhaps understandably felt a little reluctant to go the traditional route of joining an athletics or running club yet still felt they could benefit from everything running as part of a group entails – be that expert advice, motivation and the chance to meet up with like-minded people who are new to running but anxious to benefit from everything it has to offer when it comes to health.
“It’s been amazing,” says Dan Parkinson, one of the team who developed the project. “Our original goal was to try and get 135,000 members by 2021 so we’re well on the way to that.”
Part of the appeal is that it is so accessible and provides everything someone new to running needs. It’s also seen more than 2000 people in the last year train to become group Run Leaders.
“There are a few groups which have grown substantially in a very short period of time,” says Konrad Bem, another key player in the development, “One of them being Ossy Joggers based in Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, who started in 2014 with just two people wanting to run together. As of this year, they have over 100 runners attending on their busiest days with at least 14 qualified run leaders. They have had quite a big impact on the local community and organise really engaging events for their runners and get involved in quite a lot of different activities.”
As you’d expect there are countless tales of amazing achievement, too many to single out says Dan. Cancer survivors, runners battling depression, or weight issues and just about anything you can think of have all benefited from the unarguable benefits of group running.
“A story that inspired me personally came from the RunTogether Run Leader award winner at our National Volunteer Awards and the Hall of Fame in 2017. Dudley who leads the Up The Tempo Running CIC was a non-runner until a car accident which left him with serious head injuries. Running was recommended to him as a form of rehabilitation and he’s now completed several courses to become a running leader, coach and a guide runner, leading a successful group in Norwich”
You can read more about some of the incredible tales here.
Fitness First teamed up with RunTogether at the end of 2017 as the headline partner. Since then more than 20 new RunTogether groups have been established at stores and clubs across the country, with staff trained as run leaders. There’s also plans to set many more in the coming months. Through the partnership, a number of stores have also hosted events with elite athletes and coaches to help inspire local runners, whether they’re searching for the next PB or just starting to run.
Setting up a group has helped Fitness First clubs attract a new audience to the club. Rosie, Run Leader from the RunTogether group at Fitness First Morecambe, commented ‘Our group is made up of a great mix of people at all levels. We run a maximum of 5km, once a week, close to the gym and store, having a lot of fun along the way – the important thing is that the runners are enjoying themselves. It’s been great to follow some of the runners’ journeys to where they are now, reaching their fitness goals and setting new ones whilst in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. A number of the runners recently completed their first 10km race in Morecambe, which is an example of the progress made and their goals being achieved. Some members of the group are now preparing for the next 10km in October.”
So why RunTogether? The answer is simple really: support, running with others creates a sense of belonging. Yes running is individual but very quickly you find yourself encouraging teammates through highs and lows. Running as part of a group equals improvement. Even the best runners have days when they don’t feel up to the task, but by joining a group, knowing there’s someone on hand to run with you makes all the difference. The leader will plot a route for you, set a comfortable pace, and be on hand for any advice you may need. As you can imagine, setting a time and place to meet others makes it twice as easy to leave the house! “If you’ve got a good routine set up, you’ve freed yourself from a lot of small decisions that could slow you down or capture valuable brain-space that you prefer to use for something else,” says Mel Selig, author of ‘Changepower. 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success’. “A good routine can be freeing. No need for constant decision making about what’s coming next or what to do.”
To find running groups in our area, go to Runtogether.co.uk and type in your post code - simple. So what are you waiting for?