Learning to run…it’s just a case of stepping outside, right?

Dalia Hawley

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, I am in East End Park with Run Leeds and two people who look like they are on the verge of hating me and/or passing out, are reaching the finishing point of their run. I clap and cheer for them, at one point I grab the hand of R and pull her through as I know she can do it even though her body and her head are probably screaming at her to stop. They finish, I stop the clock and we all lie on the grass and recover. That day my run group did their first 1.5km without any stops, this is from two people who hadn’t previously ran or jogged before the group was set up.


The challenge was set by me, a run leader, who only started running last year and never ever imagined in a million years that I would go on to run 10k’s, half marathons, 16milers and impending future marathon and ultra distances, let alone be asked to be a run leader!  I feel honoured and blessed with this opportunity, I want to give something back to the running community that supported me, and continues to support me on my run journey.


I share my stories a lot of with R and J, the tantrums I’ve had along the canal on a run when I’ve been fed up, and the time I threatened to take my shoes off and throw them in the canal! Heaving and crawling my way up a hill, being the one that used to almost always be at the back but also the positives, the events I thought I would never be able to do and then went on and conquered. The buzz, the endorphins, the high, the feeling you have just achieved something that you never ever ever imagined you would do, reaching the summit of a hill to be greeted by incredible views and a sense of total peace, running back down the hill like a kid doing helicopter arms!


It’s so important to me that they see that I started exactly where they are today, I had the same fears, the same anxiety, the same pain in my legs, the same mid run growl and huff when I realised I wasn’t quite at the end just yet! In fact I still have those moments! I tell them that we are all in it together, we run together and we support each other.


Starting the group came with its challenges, we are operating in an area where there are high levels of deprivation and considerable health issues, we have support from a local surgery but when I have discussed the idea of a walk to jog to run group with various people, there seems to be an element of fear of the unknown – the barriers are raised. There are currently only two in the group who I had worked with in my job role as a health trainer and although they were both very nervous, they still turned up. In addition, they are so passionate about it that I know they will champion us and I hope we can target more people this way.


Flyers have been created and these have been distributed across the surgery, local community and activity groups as well as a space on the Run Leeds and Leeds Lets Get Active website.  Stepping forward, I’m keen to get R and J to a parkrun where we can advertise the group to other fellow runners, perhaps some who are new themselves and want a friendly local group they can join.


It’s important to me that anyone who feels that they would be out of their depth in a ‘run group’ can speak to R and J, hear their stories and realise that they also have the potential. However, this could present a challenge if a person was to now attend who didn’t have any running or jogging experience, I feel that I could let R and J loop the park together and I would spend time with the new person playing some fitness games and doing some fast walking around the park.


The biggest achievement for me is seeing how far my two runners, yes, they are now considered runners, have come from the first day we all met. One is even talking about a future half marathon! We wore our waterproofs, ran around the park, splashed in some puddles and ran through piles of leaves like kids.  Most people would not have stepped outdoors in this sort of weather, but there they both were, that was the moment I knew I had a good team.


There are challenges, which goes without saying, but every time I see R and J get that little bit further and become more confident in their journey, it makes it all worthwhile!


If you are a runner, why not train as a run leader? We all started in exactly the same place as R and J, lets support people who look at running, think about doing it but feel scared or anxious, lets share our stories and our struggles with them so they know we are all equal.



Inspire, encourage and support others to become a run leader


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