Running Groups In Worcestershire

Ernie Heaton (in rear) with Redditch running buddiesFocus On Reddi Runners / Fartlek Flyers

Two groups in Redditch are part of a local running revolution that’s providing opportunities for people to get fit and stay active...

Ernie Heaton has seen the benefits that running can produce.  At 37 his weight had ballooned to 19 stone and his level of fitness dropped to an all-time low.  Gradually the ex-soldier from Redditch eased himself back to a healthier lifestyle via running - initially walk-jogging then building stamina and managing longer more sustained running.  As he logged the miles, the pounds disappeared to bring him back to a trim 13 stone.

Then a couple of years later Ernie discovered parkrun and was soon a regular at the Arrow Valley event.  Shortly after he joined with a small group of parkrunners, who were looking to improve their 5k times, for a ‘quality’ midweek session that included hill work, tempo runs and fartleks.  The sessions gave the group its name - Fartlek Flyers.

Another parkrun chum, run director Hayley Gwilliam was impressed by Ernie’s input to Fartlek Flyers and suggested he do RunEngland’s Leadership in Running Fitness course with a view to working on one of Redditch Council’s Couch to 5K programmes.  Ernie was quick to agree and, suitably qualified, turned up on the first morning of the nine week programme.

Ernie and Hayley hoped the first 2014 post-festive period programme would be busy but neither were prepared for the 133 running hopefuls who assembled at Arrow Valley Park.  Needs must, and the pair with a handful of volunteers led their new recruits through their first steps.  It was now that Ernie’s own personal experience was invaluable as he coaxed the group from the easy walk-jog sessions to more sustained periods of running.

Two months later dozens of Couch to 5K graduates reported how nine weeks of steady progress, lots of sweat and a few tears had transformed their lives and given them greater energy and confidence.  They said it was great fun too and many wanted to keep going.

Fartlek Flyers’ Tuesday sessions were a possibility but Ernie felt that an intermediate option was needed.  He told  “We decided that a Monday night group that would cater for runners who had reached the 5k threshold was the way to go, and so Reddi Runners was born."

“We took some of the principles from the Flyers - feature sessions that involved more than just a steady run - but applied them sensibly.  It’s early days but they are a great bunch and getting a buzz from their further improvements.  Some have stepped-up to the Flyers for more full-on sessions so there’s a genuine pathway from Couch to 5K to training for 10ks and, in some cases, further.”

Ernie cited the example of 20-something Julie Swain who had started at Couch to 5K and just kept moving up the grades - 10k, a couple of half marathons this year and ambitions to go further.  But Ernie emphasised that there was as much satisfaction in the Couch to 5K graduate who completed the programme and continued as a parkrun regular enjoying a weekly exercise fix and the social side of the Saturday run.

The Redditch ‘running experiment’ is already proving a big success with initial ‘seed’ funding creating the momentum for an expanding beginners programme, a growing number of leaders, more local running groups and overall a culture of exercise and activity that is spreading across the town.


Running Groups In Worcestershire

If you run or are a part of a running group in Worcestershire and would like us to feature your group here, then please get in touch with us!


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