Deborah Grace puts on her trainers and heads outdoors to make the most of the longer days and warmer weather.
Along with lighter nights and birdsong, one sure sign of early summer is having to dodge a sea of lycra, determinedly pounding (or plodding) the pavements in training for the next Big Race!
Running is fast becoming the nation’s most popular form of exercise, with a reported two million runners in the UK. It’s cheap, accessible (all you need are shorts, T shirt and trainers) and a great stress-buster. According to recent studies, regular exercise can extend your life expectancy by just over five years!
“Running has great benefits for your physical and mental health, but it’s also about people having a sense of wellbeing; of being happy and feeling that they’re part of a group,” says Sue Brookes, a qualified Leader in Running Fitness (UK Athletics) and a volunteer with the Manchester-based, mental health charity, Moodswings.
“What’s happening now is that we’re seeing a much more diverse range of people out running – different ages, shapes and sizes. You can take the kids, the dog and you’ll see people pushing buggies. It’s wonderful that so many more of us are now using our parks and green spaces.”
Bored with the gym and looking for a new challenge, I took up running 10 years ago. My first official race was the 2008 Santa Dash (5k), in my home town, Liverpool. Somewhere along Dale Street, I discarded the scratchy beard and super-sized Santa suit, but I’ll never forget the rush of euphoria as I crossed my first finish line.
Since then, I’ve participated in countless races, from Saturday morning park runs (short and brutal) to the Great Manchester Run, which last year attracted more than 30,000 participants. I’m currently signed up to the monthly 10k RunThrough series at Tatton Park, an idyllic spot, although February’s sleet proved a bit of a challenge! I could tell you that running gets easier the longer you carry on, but that’s not my experience. Some days it feels great to be out of doors; on others the effort of simply putting one foot in front of the other is sheer, psychological torture.
With this in mind, I recently joined a local, women’s running group, which has definitely improved my running and brought additional, unexpected benefits. Through my fun-loving, new, running buddies, I’ve also joined a community choir, a film club, a women’s theatre group – and I’ve just been invited to a 50th birthday bash! So, apart from everything else, running has definitely enhanced my social life and introduced me to some fantastic new friends.
Adds Sue Brookes: “Running is a great leveller. When you’re out there with other people and everyone is chatting and unwinding, you all have a common purpose and you quickly make friends. In the groups I lead we run on a circular route, so that no one ever feels left behind. No matter how fast or slow you are, as a group we’re always together.”