‘Jogging changed my life’

Out for a jog in the High Peak Photo: Meg Hodson Photography

Out for a jog in the High Peak Photo: Meg Hodson Photography - Credit: Archant

Two women from south and north of the county talk about their decision to join Jog Derbyshire

Caroline Rusga and Gaynor Bickley compete in their first triathlon

Caroline Rusga and Gaynor Bickley compete in their first triathlon - Credit: Archant

‘It is definitely life-changing. My lifestyle was very sedentary before. I didn’t get out much – I felt unhealthy and lethargic all the time. But now I’ve got a love of life. I’m a totally different person.’

Gaynor Bickley from Chaddesden near Derby has lost five stones since she started jogging two years ago. Dawn Cundy who lives in Chinley in the High Peak has lost two stones in the past six months. Both are busy Mums in their forties. Their secret? Not slimming pills, surgery or crash diets. It is jogging.

For Dawn, the moment she knew she had to act is crystal clear in her memory, ‘We went to a theme park with the children and I got on one of the rides and I had to get off because they couldn’t fasten me in. The children were crying and I was upset.’

‘It had got to the point where I didn’t want to go swimming, because I didn’t want people to see me in a swimsuit. I thought, this is affecting my children now. We have a family history of problems with high blood pressure and back ache and I didn’t want to be like that.’

Gaynor runs 10k at Donington Race track with Caroline Clough Taylor

Gaynor runs 10k at Donington Race track with Caroline Clough Taylor - Credit: Archant

For Gaynor, it was a more gradual process. ‘For years and years I was going to the gym on and off, pounding away at the weights and yoga exercise classes – then getting fed up and not going for ages.’

Admitting you need to make a change is one thing. Overcoming your fear is an even bigger challenge. Dawn says: ‘At first I was very scared. I didn’t want to join a club because I was worried everyone would be thin and able to run. So I started off on my own, going down the trail, where I hoped nobody would see me.’

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Everyone needs a helping hand. It wasn’t until Gaynor signed up with a personal trainer who took her for a session outside the gym that the long-term desire to change clicked into place. ‘Something about being outside turned a switch and I just wanted more.’

For Dawn, the key was finding the support of her local jogging group. ‘I heard about Liz Stillo, the Jog Derbyshire leader, and how nice she was. She’d got some beginners and I thought, “You know what, I’ll do it! It doesn’t matter that I look fat.” And I just did it! And they’ve been really nice to me!’

Gaynor Bickley Jog Oakwood Photo: Roland Harrison/ XCite Images

Gaynor Bickley Jog Oakwood Photo: Roland Harrison/ XCite Images - Credit: Archant

‘I thought everyone was going to go off at a fast pace and I’d be stuck at the back, not knowing where I was going. But Liz always stays with the one going the slowest. I haven’t been going to it as long as everyone else, but she goes at your pace, talks to you and encourages you.’

Jog Derbyshire was set up by Derbyshire Sport with funding from the Big Lottery Fund, Sport England and Derbyshire County Council. Over the past five years the project has helped over 4,000 people to become more active. It now has a network of around 80 groups all over the county with qualified leaders who guide beginners and returning runners through specially designed, gentle walking and running programmes.

In fact, so many people get the running bug that Jog Derbyshire also now organises monthly, family-friendly trail runs with the National Trust at the Longshaw Estate in the Peak District and at Kedleston Hall near Derby, as well as the annual Erewash 5k run each May with Erewash Borough Council.

Project Manager Cathy Rooney says there are three key elements to their success – being local, making it sociable and keeping it affordable. ‘You don’t have to sign up to an expensive membership scheme. You only need a pair of trainers. You don’t need to drive for miles and miles. And most importantly, it’s a great way to meet new people and make friends.’

Out for a jog in the High Peak Photo: Meg Hodson Photography

Out for a jog in the High Peak Photo: Meg Hodson Photography - Credit: Archant

Dawn agrees, ‘It’s a social thing as well as a physical workout.’ Gaynor adds, ‘I was a member of a gym for 18 months and hardly anybody spoke to me but running is just so friendly. You’ll go out and a runner you’ve never seen before will pass you and nod and say hello.’

Encouraged by her own success, Gaynor wanted to give others the confidence to take up jogging. This summer, she and her friend Caroline Rusga, trained as leaders and set up their own Jog Derbyshire beginners’ group, Jog Oakwood. She echoes Dawn’s point about the importance of reassuring people that they won’t be too slow and hold everyone up.

‘Nobody gets left behind! We always have someone at the very back with the last person. The faster ones can go ahead but they always loop back and meet up with the rest of the group.’

‘We use the run/walk method – jogging for one minute, walking for one minute. It’s fantastic – people come along who think they can’t run and they do. I’ve not had anybody who can’t do that. If you can walk for three miles, we can get you to a point of running for three miles.’

Jog Derbyshire Oakwood Group

Jog Derbyshire Oakwood Group - Credit: Archant

What’s incredible is how quickly both women have made progress. Dawn took part in the Longshaw Estate trail run in June, taking just over an hour to complete the 5k course. She’s since cut that to 41 minutes and is now running up to 20 miles a week as well as going to the gym.

Gaynor has gone from walk-jogging a Race For Life 5k run in 2012 to finishing two Great North Run half marathons. ‘The first time I walked half of it. The last one I ran 100 per cent.’ She now has a place in the London Marathon for the National Deaf Children Society. ‘It’s so scary but I’m going to do it, we’ve already raised almost £1,600 towards our charity so I can’t let them down. I’ve got to it!’

It’s clear from talking to Gaynor and Dawn that jogging has had a profound impact on their lives that goes way beyond weight loss. Gaynor says, ‘I’m a totally different person. I have more confidence in my work life; it’s made me a better, healthier person and completely changed me. Even my social life is built around running now.’

Dawn has seen a change in her family’s attitudes to activity and has become a role model inspiring her own children – aged 7, 9 and 11. ‘On a Saturday and Sunday, I’ll take the children out and we’ll go on a run or they go on their bikes and I run. I’ve bought them all little high-vis jackets, so they’re very excited about it.’

But perhaps most importantly, she’s developed an inner confidence. ‘When I started I was scared to run by the roadside, because I thought, “What if someone beeps at me, jeers at me or shouts?” Now I just think to myself, “I’m not bothered! You might be sitting in your car and you can’t run, whereas at least I’m out doing something.”’