SEVENTY SEVEN PEOPLE celebrated the New Year with a series of runs in-and-around Hedon on Monday as the local Fitmums and Friends group launched its running programme for 2015. Thirty three of these were new and would-be members who joined in taking part in their first social run with the group.
The climate wasn’t particularly nice on Monday evening; it was dark and not warm as runners made their way to the Haven Arms marquee to meet up, but the enthusiastic welcome from the Fitmums volunteers compensated for any trepidation that people might have been feeling about the upcoming runs. A welcome talk gave useful advice to ‘newbies’ about social group running and reflective arm/leg bands and high visibility tops were handed out to those who hadn’t thought about running in the dark.
With nearly 80 people splitting up into groups to warm-up and run either a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or a 6 mile run, it dawned on me that what was taking place wasn’t so much a sporting leisure activity, but a social running phenomenon!
Amongst those welcoming volunteers leading the six runs were over a dozen trained people, including run leaders from Hull: Lynne Whitehurst, who had first signed-up in order to be able to run just a mile confidently but is now booked in to run her first marathon (26 miles!), Mark Moverley now an enthusiast but who had originally been reluctant to join and was encouraged by his two daughters, and local Hedon leaders Elli Davis and Paul and Julie Fenton.
One of the leaders in particular was absolutely delighted with the large turnout at the Haven Arms marquee. The elated founder of the Hedon Fitmums group, Julie Fenton, said “77 runners – and 33 new people! It was a blooming, fantastic night!” The sociable, not-for-private-profit running club in Hedon was set up only five months ago when Julie, a local mother, got inspired by her experience of Fitmums in Hull.
“I got involved with Fitmums after having my son nearly two years ago,” said Julie. “I had put on a few pounds and was really unfit and I didn’t like how it made me feel. I’d joined gyms before, but like most people I had all good intentions for the first couple of weeks and then didn’t go for the next 11 months. I wanted to do something where I could get help and support to keep me going.
“I have run in the past and done the Jane Tomlinson 10k and the Race for Life but I must admit, I get very easily bored running on my own. I came across the Fitmums website and thought it looked like a fantastic idea. I went along for a run at the East Hull group and I was hooked!”
Fitmums originally started in Cottingham in 2009 when Sam Barlow met up with a few other mums to go for a run but it has now grown into a substantial organisation. There are now five Fitmums & Friends Clubs; in addition to Cottingham, East Hull and the Hedon group, there are clubs in Beverley and a small club in Oxford. There are over 350 members of Fitmums who include men and women of all ages and abilities. Sam Barlow has been recognised with awards recognising her achievement in creating and building the Fitmums social running network.
Julie said: “I rang Sam Barlow and told her I wanted to open a club in Hedon to serve people in the Holderness area, and the rest is history! At our first session at the beginning of August 2014, forty five people turned up to run. Since then the club has gone from strength to strength and we have seen a whole range of people come through the doors – from people who have never run a mile in their life, to people who are training to run the Hull Marathon.
“It’s a really friendly and supportive environment regardless of your ability and because all of the money goes back into developing the clubs and providing post natal depression support, its running for a good cause too.
“All of the run leaders are people who volunteer their time, and the same applies to me – I receive no money from the club whatsoever, and just do it because it keeps me fit and I get such a buzz from helping and supporting others. I see people come into the club who can’t run to the end of their drive never mind run a mile, and then we spend the time supporting them through their fitness journey and later watch them fly round a 2-mile circuit with a smile on their face talking about their next mileage goal. It’s awesome!
“Fitmums is unique as the club caters for people of all abilities. We use a system called ‘shepherding’ which means that regardless of how fast you run or what your ability is, the group sets off as a group and comes back as a group.
“We have six different runs each night ranging from one to six miles and each mileage group is led by a qualified run leader who supports, motivates and encourages every member in their group as they go through the run. We have 36 different run routes at Hedon and also a set for the winter and the summer, so there’s plenty to go at!”
A night at Hedon Fitmums starts with a welcome talk from Julie who makes any special announcements; news, such as upcoming races, hints and tips for the run. She will commend those who have done particularly well the week before or achieved a target. A group warm-up takes place before heading out on the runs.
When each mileage group returns to base the run leader takes them through a cool down and checks everyone is ok and offers any extra support where necessary, before everyone heads home.
Membership for Fitmums is £35 for the year – which “is only 67p a week” says Julie’s husband Paul Fenton who helps manage the club with Julie. “New runners are welcome to try up to three free sessions before deciding whether Fitmums and Friends is the right club for them and members can attend any Fitmums session across East Yorkshire.”
The Hedon Fitmums and Friends club programme takes place every Monday at 7pm in the Marquee at the Haven Arms on Havenside, Hedon and new runners are invited to come from 6:45pm.
You can also find Hedon Fitmums and Friends on Facebook to get feedback on each of the runs and sessions.