In it for the long run — what winning a Pride of Aberdeen award means
When the Fit Like Joggers began, few surely could have imagined how it would grow. The group’s story has been inspirational, and it’s only the start.
The starting line
I was not always a running leader.
In fact, I was not always a runner.
I only started running at the age of 35, having watched my brother shed around eight stone in six months purely through running.
Next thing I knew, we were both signed up for a marathon.
And that was just the beginning of the story.
Going the distance
It developed in 2013, when having joined the Ledingham Chalmers’ team for the 45-mile Wolftrek walk the previous five years, I decided I was going to try and run some of the distance.
Finishing third gave me the incentive to investigate the world of ultra–marathons — any run longer than the traditional 26-mile marathon.
I have since completed more than 28 ultras, and a fistful of marathons in locations from London to Loch Ness.
Although I get a lot of enjoyment from long (and sometimes, very long...) days out on the trails, what I love most is seeing other people pursue their own goals and reach their own achievements.
Couch to 5k
It was with this in mind that in 2016 I set up a new running group based around the NHS’ couch to 5k programme with the idea being to get complete non-runners following a gentle programme that eventually built up to running just over three miles.
The group was named the Fit Like Joggers — a nod to its north east roots, and to not taking itself too seriously.
The first group met three times a week, through the darkest of the winter months, before reaching the end of the nine-week programme.
While the original intake kept running regularly, we began a new group.
Again, by the time this second group had finished the couch to 5k schedule, numbers continued to swell, and a few other runners started joining us regularly.
The start of 2017 saw the group grow again, and for the fourth programme in August, 65 newcomers turned up.
Now, marshalling that number of people round the pavements is no easy feat, but we did have a great group of helpers to lend a hand, mainly drawn from previous couch to 5k groups.
Rewarding award nomination
It has been an inspiring and rewarding experience watching people do something they never thought they could manage, and it has given me the confidence to believe that absolutely anyone can do it, with the right support.
On the back of this work, and unbeknown to me, I was nominated for the sporting achievement category of the Pride of Aberdeen awards, and was shortlisted.
To think of all the incredible sporting achievements that had come out of Aberdeen this year, such as Rob Sinclair’s record breaking runs on the West Highland Way, or Zoey Clark’s World Championship silver medal, I was absolutely flabbergasted.
It was to be decided by public vote, and many in the Fit Like Joggers did an amazing job of promoting the links to the voting page, and encouraging others to support me.
They really couldn’t have done any more, which is possibly why they were all far more confident than I was when we arrived at the awards dinner earlier this month.
The dinner itself was an incredible gala, with the Secret Opera Singers, Ellon Pipe Band, East 17, Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy. With all the entertainment, it was close to midnight by the time they were ready to announce the winners.
I was overawed to hear I had won, and can guarantee there were great celebrations at the table, which went on into the early hours.
Since the event, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what it means to have won.
Although it’s a personal recognition for the work I have done leading the Fit Like Joggers, it wouldn’t have happened without them.
I get an enormous amount of joy and satisfaction from seeing them develop and grow in terms of their ability, but also in terms of their confidence, and overall health.
Running is the most natural of all sports.
But when you run with a group, it’s more than just running: it’s conversation. It’s friendship. It’s community.
And that community is so significant in people’s lives.
Importantly too, the links between good physical health and good mental health are clearly visible.
It’s no surprise then to hear how scottishathletics has formed a partnership with SAMH — the Scottish Association for Mental Health. For example, in April this year, the organisations announced they’d work together to develop the jogscotland programme for the future.
And of course, the community that running creates extends beyond a cold 45-minute dash round the streets of Aberdeen: people become Facebook friends, Twitter followers, business contacts, and beyond.
When people run together, they have nothing to hide from each other.
In the business world, trust is the most important quality to try to establish. Isn’t that what clients look for?
In the running community, that trust is already there.
The Fit Like Joggers meet four times a week, starting from the Hammerton Store —
7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays6am on Wednesdays and Fridays
We’d love to see you there.