It started with a meeting alongside Leeds Girls Can Ambassador’s and Run Leader’s- Natasha Hamlet and Kirsty Midgley. We wanted to discuss setting up a Couch to 5k beginners running group. We were all excited in sharing our passion to help get more women and girls active. After finalising logistics of the programme, we created a Facebook group and began promoting through social media and word of mouth. We received a lot of interest but assumed only a percentage of that would translate into actual ladies turning up. How wrong we were…
On the 21st of April 2017, I turned up ready to lead week 1 session 1, and was absolutely overwhelmed to be greeted by 116 women and girls. It was slightly chaotic to say the least. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have to shout the warm up to that many people, but somehow the other leaders and I got through it successfully. Over the next few weeks the numbers gradually stabilised to around 70 ladies. At the time I just thought we were getting into the swing of things and it kind of became the norm. Reflecting back now, I realise what an incredible achievement that was!
As the weeks continued to go by I were amazed at the level of commitment and determination I saw from the ladies. Although the leaders put on a regular Tuesday and Thursday session, the participants were expected to complete the third session of the week on their own. The Facebook group proved to be such a useful outlet and a place for the ladies to post about their achievements, to seek advice and support each other. Seeing ladies turn up at the sessions, week after week, and complete runs that they never imagined they could was inspiring to us all.
My running journey started back in 2005, following a similar Couch to 5k plan, and I have never looked back. I knew the Couch to 5k programme was a great tool in encouraging people to exercise and achieve their goals, but little did I think I would have a vital part to play in getting so many women active. As the ‘Pregnant Run Leader’, I was happy to lead the warm ups and cool downs. During the sessions you’d usually find me near the back walking, offering encouragement and chatting with the ladies. I thoroughly enjoyed every single session I was a part of, talking to some of the ladies and finding out their reasons for doing it was very inspiring and motivating for me.
So the 9 weeks flew by and the running distance continued to increase. It dawned on me the impact the group was having when Made in Leeds came down to film us, and show off the achievements of the group. At the final session I was able to attend, there were still around 35 ladies participating in 30 minute continuous running. I felt emotional thinking about the journey these women had achieved from struggling to run for a minute to doing it for a full half an hour!
I had an absolute blast with the Leeds Girls Can Couch to 5k ladies at Kirkstall Abbey. I am thankful to all the volunteer Run Leaders and Active Leeds Development Team for allowing me to be a part of such an inspiring and empowering thing. I’ve loved every minute of being part of this group and can truly say that I feel everyone who completed the programme is the epitome of #ThisGirlCan.
Ps. Watch this space for more Leeds Girls Can Couch to 5k programmes! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @LeedGirlsCan to hear about more amazing opportunities you can get involved in.