National Award winners Fen Edge Runners continue to encourage people to take up running


In 2015, Run Leaders Tom Johnston and Luke Renouf won Run England Leaders of the Year in our National Volunteer Awards. 

The Fen Edge Runners were presented with their award at our Hall of Fame evening in front of athletics greats past and present, and other winners of our national volunteer awards.  We take a look to see where they are a year on.

We visited one of the Fen Edge Runners' running groups recently and spoke with a number of the participants.  The group welcome everyone; beginners and advanced runners, pushchairs, dogs and children.  This week they met at Over Village Green in Cambridgeshire and undertook an hour of speed-endurance sessions.

Luke Renouf was leading the group that evening, beginning with being in charge of the whistle for Tabata sprint intervals.  He explained that since the end of last year, they’ve done 3 more beginners' groups in 3 local villages.  One was timed 9 weeks before the Cambridge Race for Life - so for that one they mainly got women who were complete beginners up to 5k in time for them to do the Race for Life. 

"Most of this group is our general running group – people who run for a bit of fun and fitness all the up to people who regularly do 5k and 10ks.  A number of these people here today did the Great North Run recently and we’ve got the Great East in a few weeks and a couple who have put in for the ballot for the London Marathon.  So it’s from nothing up to whatever you want to do really."

Les Rouse started as a beginner with the group 5 years ago and has now been one of those London Marathon runners!  He deceided to start running for health reasons. 

"Five years ago, I was quite stressed from work and I needed to change my lifestyle, so I joined Clare’s beginners’ group and give it a go – at this point I couldn’t even run up the road.  I progressed from there to 5k and then to 10k, then did a half marathon and then I actually did the London marathon in 2013 in memory of my father-in-law.  To be honest, my health has changed completely; I’m a really fit guy now and I don’t stress so much by coming out here in the evenings and at the weekends."

Tom Johnston was joint winner with Luke last year.  He explains how he started.

My wife decided we would join the running club – I went with her but I collapsed after about 100m – it was terrible.  Every time I could get an excuse to go swimming with my son instead of running.  But there was a group almost every evening and I got back running, even when my wife dropped out.  Before I knew it I was running 3 times a week plus the social run on Sundays." 

Tom achieved his LiRF (Leadership in Running Fitness qualification) 3 years ago, adding to Leaders Luke and Les, with Clare Strongman a CiRF (Coach in RUnning Fitness) and managing all the groups – she currently coordinates 27 groups which cover a number of the local villages in South Cambridgeshire and includes 8 week “pop up” groups.  Tom explains, “For example, I’ll do the Over village group and Les knows the area better in Cottenham – so we do all of them if we need to but local knowledge is important.”

A number of the club members have done a Guide Running Course, and some went on the Movement Skills course last weekend. 

Les commented, “I was given the chance to become a Run Leader and I thought that was a good way of giving back something that was given to me.  I find that helping others is very rewarding – it’s lovely to be able to encourage other people so that’s why I done that.  Recently we did the training for Guide Running, and again, that’s something I’d really like to get in to because it’s helping others, and it makes you feel worth something.  So I’m ready for someone to need a Guide runner!”

The group continued their training with movement skills and strength work, including squats and multiplanar lunges with short sprints between.

Other members of the group present ‘blame’ others for getting them hooked.  But it’s the friendliness of the group and its members that makes them stay.

Tom Adams has been running for 3 years now.  He got started in the 0 to 5k beginners’ group.  "I actually did that twice as I had the summer off to work and then came back into it.  My mum is part of the club and so I joined and the club really help me as well.  I’ve got really involved.  I did eight 10ks last year."  Mum Jan chipped in “He’s done really really well, I’m very proud of him."

Helen Swain took a break from the 4 x 400m laps, increasing pace each time to chat to us about how she got started.  "I saw a poster for beginners’ running so me and a girl friend went to the first session after a little bit of running on our own.  We turned up at the college and there were lots of pro runners; hi vis, head torches, all the kit and we were there in baggy jumpers and not appropriate running wear.  They said they were training for a half marathon which freaked us out."

Run Leader Clare took them on a little jog.  "It was the furthest me and my friend had run for a long time and it was great.  I’ve now been coming for the last 3 years and I really love it.  I am trying to work towards a 5k – I think I can do one but it would be a bit slow.  I plod at the back - I call it lolloping.  Coming to the group has really given me a sense of personal achievement and pushing myself a bit harder each week.  Not being embarrassed being at the back because they’re a nice group and they always come and find me and wait until someone says, OK Yep Helen’s here."  This is also evident in the exercises carried out during this training session - ‘Meet and retreat’ pairs slower runners with faster ones so that everyone is fully involved.

We also spoke to Sheila Cayton who started in a beginners’ group in April on the advice of her friend Wendy Johnson.  She didn’t expect to be able to do a 5k but always wanted to run and would be pleased to get a 3k.  "I can’t walk long distances as I have dodgy feet, but before I got to the end of the 9 weeks, I went out on a Sunday Social and there were no other beginners on it.  But I got to 3k and then Wendy said what do you want to do? And I said (between heavy breathing), Oh go on then, might as well."  Sheila recently went to Canada to see her daughter.  "She drove me to her work and I ran home, but I got lost and had to keep asking directions!  But it was great to run on the beach!"

Clare summed up the ethos of the club, "Fen Edge Runners are a great club, all ages and all sizes, and very much mixed ability and accessible – most importantly, we’re a friendly group that don’t take ourselves too seriously!  It’s important to us that we keep this social, friendly side, and don’t become all about times and distances (although we love a good PB too!).  I’ve been told by race organisers that we’re the “noisiest running club in the UK”, and they may well be right! "

The club are always looking for something new to offer people and so this term they have announced a “reset” programme aimed at people that have lapsed from running and want to get back into it.  This has proved to be popular, and they hope to covert these lapsed runners into fully fledged club members soon.

Fen Edge Runners is a success story in the area for what is a small core club compared with many others – but the Fen Edge runners continue to encourage people to start running or return to the sport.


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