Leeds Girls Can Couch to 5k a hit in Kirkstall!

Kirsty Midgley

For those yet to come across the brilliant Leeds Girls Can  campaign; part of the national This Girl Can campaign developed by Sport England together with a range of partners to encourage women to take part in sport.


It [This Girl Can] is  a celebration of women who are doing their thing and don’t care how they look or how red their face gets when playing sport.


No amount of planning could have prepared us for the overwhelming response to our first LGC Couch to 5k session at Kirkstall Abbey on the 20th of April. 116 enthusiastic, motivated ladies turned up to week one day one and we’ve consistently maintained 70 plus ladies per session since then.


Run leaders Natasha Hamlet and Leanne Lane lead the Thursday night session and I (Kirsty) lead the Tuesday night session along with a handful of Run Leeds run leaders from around the city.


Originally, we were worried that, while we were offering two led sessions per week, one session would need to be run over the weekend in their own time. We were unsure if they would stick to this, thus putting the programme in jeopardy, our fears however were unfounded as the ladies arrange meet ups on Saturday and Sundays in various parks through the closed Facebook group.


I began my own running journey with the Couch to 5k programme and I really wanted to help other ladies fall in love with running. I’ve gained so much confidence and benefits from running, I hope I can pass on just a fraction of this to each one of the ladies.


One of the biggest learning curves for me so far has been to watch each person and ensure we are giving them enough to encouragement and indeed enough of a challenge to keep them motivated and coming back, week on week. For the faster ladies who sprint their runs we’ve brought in a pacemaker to teach them to pace their runs and control their breathing. For the slower ladies, we’ve started a buddy system to keep them motivated on their run. 


By far the best part of running the group is the feedback from the ladies – their daily posts in the Facebook group and seeing them struggle on day one of the run to comfortably running day three of the same run is inspiring!



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