In June 2016 Gail Craig - an employee at County Hall in Durham - took advantage of the Workplace Challenge programme and set up a beginners' running group programme through support from England Athletics, County Durham Sport and Durham County Council.
As part of the programme, Gail completed her Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification and began a Workplace Couch to 5k (C25k) group from County Hall to get her colleagues running. Gail was supported by Kate Macpherson who works for County Durham Sport and mentors new run leaders as they begin their Couch to 5k groups. Kate also is one of the main leaders at RunTogether Durham Mums on the Run, and leaders from this group help to support the RunTogether County Hall Durham Runners.
Six months on and Gail is now running County Halls third Couch to 5k group, with a fantastic 26 people having completed the programme and another 20 people in the third running group which began last month. Kate has continued to support Gail as she set up the second and third groups, leading sessions when needed and providing ongoing advice.
Gail has also recently identified another new Run Leader to help her with the groups and with the support from Phil Lightburn from Durham County Council, has secured funding to put this volunteer through her run leader qualification, and expand the capacity for the County Hall groups; the funding for the new leader allowed Gail to boost the maximum running group participant numbers from 16 to 20.
To give the groups motivation and a goal, they aim to graduate from the Couch to 5k programme by running an event together. The first Couch to 5k group graduation was the Durham Race for Life 5km route. Following the event, Gail received some wonderful feedback from those involved; one of the group commented:
"I really enjoy running, I never saw myself as a runner and it is one of the best things I have ever done."
"Thank you so much for the encouragement and support you have given me which allowed me to complete the Race for Life yesterday. I never thought I would ever be able to run, let alone do a 5k race! We had a brilliant day, I love running now, thanks to you!".
The second Couch to 5k group graduation event was the Chester-le-Street Parkrun.
"It was fantastic - most of the girls came and what a performance! Everyone did great and they were buzzing afterwards! One lady said that it was one of the most successful things she had every done. She was looking into joining the Chester-le-Street running group after she left DCC employment. She was determined to keep going though, so I really hope she has."
Another runner said: “Thanks to Gail, Phil and the team, I have done four parkruns so far at the Riverside. The parkrun people are so friendly and cheer me on whilst I am bringing up the rear guard but I will get faster."
Of the 26 who completed the course, all are still running following their ‘graduation’ from the programme. The graduate runners are all continuing to run at different levels; some are joining the new groups and helping the new runners through the course, others are running 2.5 - 3 miles together on Tuesdays and running regular parkruns, as well as taking the next step - entering various 10km events this year.
County Durham Sport are offering workplaces in County Durham the chance to set up a free Workplace running group. The 10 week programme includes continued mentoring and LIRF training for a member of the running group. If you work in County Durham and are interested in this opportunity please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more