South Leeds Girls On The Run

Dani Penney

Dear Diary,


5:30pm on the 29th of February 2016, I sat waiting anxiously at the launch of my new beginner run group ‘Leeds Girls Can Run’. I arranged a few registration forms on a table in the Phoenix Bar of the John Charles Centre for Sport. I was anticipating a good turnout – six/seven women maybe… Little did I know what I had just let myself in for!


5:45pm my first lady arrives with a nervous look on her face as if it was her first day of school. I sighed with relief and quickly shot up to introduce myself. We sat and exchanged pleasantries then I explained a little about the session to come. The next few women came in dribs and drabs. Each one of them showing a different emotion: happy, worried, nervous; apprehensive, excited, nauseous. Each one of which I had felt whirling in my stomach throughout the day.


It got to 6pm. There were around seven women sat filling in their forms and asking questions whilst meeting their fellow runners for the first time. Holly, from the South Leeds Sisters, bounced her way into the centre of the room eager to get the warm up on its way. It was at this point I took a deep breath in and laid on a confident face. I was feeling good and ready to go.


The most extraordinary thing happened over the next five minutes. Amongst all the tricep dips, high knees, stretches and squats, another nine pairs of eager eyed women entered the room – panic!


We set off on our first journey, colouring the streets with our High Vis jackets. Half the group chose to walk whilst the others braved a jog. We made regular stops along our route, adding in breathing techniques and other required skills. I could feel the atmosphere begin to relax as the ladies realised it wasn’t quite as scary as they thought. Determination was on every face. It had only been an hour yet confidence elevated as almost every woman had taken the plunge to run.


Turning the corner of Dewsbury Road to head back towards the John Charles Centre, I could feel eyes narrowing at me. The dreaded hill was waiting for us! Just when I thought I had the women onside, I went and threw this bombshell at them on their very first session. I thought I’d blown it. I encouraged the group all the way back, factoring in regular breaks, but the smiles had rapidly turned upside down.


Finally! We had reached the top. The proudness beamed from every inch of my body as the ladies panted whilst high fiving each other. We returned to the centre to stretch off and re hydrate – we had done it!


The following week approached fast. I was nervous to see who would return. My Leeds Girls Can Facebook page had gone crazy with posts of positive feedback but the whirling feeling in my stomach came to revisit. By 6pm I’d gained another seven women on top of the sixteen members from the first session. I led a different route to the previous week and watched women who had tried running for the first time, only once before, improve their stamina and focus. I couldn’t shift the amazing adrenaline rush from seeing so many women do something for themselves and really enjoy it!


The third week came around even faster, would we gain any more members this week? YES! Another four women, making our total a whopping twenty seven participants in just three weeks! The women were beaming with excitement, however I soon managed to swap the feeling of joy to exhaustion throughout the next 3.4 miles!


We have now decided to enter “colour me rad”, as a Leeds Girls Can Run team. It has amazed me that so many women with so little confidence in running, are now setting goals to complete a 5k run in just a few months’ time. It just goes to show…women really are incredible!   



Join the South Leeds Girls Can Run group here:


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