From Beginner To Run Leader

Ben Fraser

For anyone with a tendency to run in Leeds there is a high chance that you would have heard the word ‘Bramley’ slip out of the pursed lips of a local runner in the past 18 months. Mark Doyle began to join up the dots last year, aptly coining it Bramley’s Running Revival. Since then a junior parkrun has been added to the flourishing list of opportunities to run in the West Leeds district.


Behind this revival is a local running group named the Bramley Breezers, born on Monday 24th August of 2015! The group were created to support the local parkrun, presenting itself as another opportunity to come and run with friends in the week – they’ve even done a parkrun takeover!


I’ve travelled over to the workplace of one of the original 8 Breezers that turned up on the sunny Monday back in August 2015. Claire Higgins is on a whirlwind running journey and I’m catching her on the up. Since she joined (as a beginner) Claire has gone on to become an integral part of the Bramley Breezers, training up as a run leader – one of 7 people delivering bespoke sessions every week.  


After the pleasant formalities I start our conversation by asking ‘why she took on the challenge to become a run leader?’


More to learn about running and the techniques behind it. I had just started running as a beginner and had joined the Breezers due to pressure from an old school friend. The group was growing and I wanted to ensure it would keep going and for that they needed more run leaders. It was the social side that got me hooked!


Claire has continued to evolve her run leading, including managing an ever expanding group of runners, of varied abilities. The Breezers have repeatedly broken the 100 runner attendance mark on a Monday in 2017.


The Run Leader course gave you the basics and I had gained knowledge from running with yourself and Paul before. The hardest bit for me was planning routes and sessions to meet a range of abilities – there are so many hills in Bramley!



It’s all about looking at the groups and who is in them as from week to week you have no idea who is going to turn up.  Once the groups set off, it’s about instilling that need to keep going, giving your runners confidence in their ability which will hopefully motivate them to come back week after week.  Our main ethos is that we go out together and come back together – we never leave anyone behind!


Claire admits it hasn’t been an easy learning experience to manage large groups of runners with varied abilities.


It’s been a struggle because of the ever increasing numbers of runners we are attracting who are all of differing abilities with the 7 leaders – particularly when we’ve had a few leaders off at one time.  We have now brought in regular runners in a supporting capacity to help keep everyone together


They are even finding time to begin to grow the next generation of Breezer run leaders …


We have a young lad who is desperate to become a run leader but he’s unfortunately too young.  I’ve allowed him to help me plan my routes and he’s even introduced it in front of a big crowd – it’s bringing him on too and he is doing a fantastic job!


As the conversation builds momentum I delve into the individual growth and development that is beginning to exude from Claire’s passionate chatter.


I can now stand at the front on a Breezers run night and introduce the session. I can run further than I thought I could…



The pleasure you get from bringing someone else along and watching them progress – people that used to run a little bit and now they’re running 10k. It’s given me a massive confidence boost!


What makes Claire’s story even more special and something she fails to mention at the start of our conversation is her own fallibility when it comes to trying new activities.


I’ve never stuck to anything like I’ve stuck to running with the Bramley Breezers!


I respond – ‘what makes this any different?’


I feel if I don’t turn up one week, I will miss out on time catching up with friends.  It forces me to think, even if I’ve had a bad day, that the social side is why I want to go, even when it’s cold and raining.  If you don’t turn up you’re going to let somebody else down


The penny has dropped… the Breezers are like a ‘family’…


They are all like best friends. I spend more time with the guys running and socialising than I probably do with family.  I know if I had a problem I could go to anyone of them and they’d be there…



The friendly nature overrides the competition and I think this is why people keep coming back


We recall an event related story I’ve heard before when members of the Breezers waited for 30 minutes, caked in mud, in the pouring rain, for a fellow Breezer to cross the finish line. This person was overwhelmed and couldn’t quite understand why they had waited so long when many would have headed for a dry sanctuary.


I round up our conversation by looking towards Claire’s future at the Breezers…


I want to make it the best it can be for me and the group by providing more expertise and knowledge from a coaching course – I’m starting this by completing the GO TRI activator course and hopefully I’ll go on to do a formal coaching qualification



We will keep growing but I want to see the beginners progressing through the different ability groups. I still can’t believe how much it has taken off – there was 8 of us at the beginning!



Run with the Breezers every Monday night:


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