Where are they now? Catch up with founding group, MadRunners!

Mad Runners Group Leaders

It has been an incredible seven years since RunTogether first started in 2016! Since then, we have grown a fantastic community of runners, walkers, and a network of dedicated, welcoming groups for all abilities throughout England.

We are going back to the start and have caught up with one of the very first RunTogether groups to join the movement, MadRunners. Although already a group before joining RunTogether, MadRunners has since gone from strength to strength, now even offering running fitness sessions for children aged 6+.

Let’s hear more about founders Mark and Debbie’s journey with RunTogether.

Debbie and Mark of MadRunners

The beginning of MadRunners

Although RunTogether started in 2016, MadRunners founder Mark had laid some fantastic foundations for his group, first qualifying as a Run Leader in 2012.

“I wanted to get into coaching and did a bit of volunteering. When the Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification started in 2012, I booked on. I completed the course and then left thinking, what is next? I started up MadRunners in 2012 with only 6 runners people running at St Helen’s Stadium. The group originally started to improve the fitness of the stadium staff and it then started to get bigger and bigger.

“Our journey with RunTogether fell into place. We received an email from England Athletics as we knew the programme manager locally and he came along to one of our sessions to see what we were about. We then got asked to try the RunTogether platform and website to see how this would work for runners and groups. We have been with RunTogether ever since!”

Keeping the ethos of RunTogether

RunTogether is fantastic as it welcomes runners from all abilities to come together, socialise and get active in their local areas – something which MadRunners are huge advocates for.

“We want everyone to be able to run,” explained Mark’s wife and fellow coach Debbie. “Even if we need to adapt the whole session. We have several leaders at the club now, but we don’t split the group up by times. You may have a faster runner with a slower runner, but we do that on purpose as they can both learn from each other. We want everyone to feel like they belong and really can run together.”

“Whether our members want to run fast or steady, and complete marathons or 1 mile, we love helping people to achieve things they never thought were possible.”

“Some people in the group are unable to run at all, or for very short periods,” explained Mark. “They still want to get fit and be around the other runners in the group, so we adjust the sessions and they can focus more on strength when running becomes a challenge. They are still part of the club and we all socialise together.”


Taking the next steps

With 11 years since the very first session, Mark and Debbie have learned so much along the way and are just getting started with what they want to achieve. Throughout the lockdown, the pair had some time to think and plan the direction of the group, deciding to now offer an optional affiliation to all runners.

“Six years ago at the start of RunTogether, we would never have thought about affiliation,” explained Mark. “We thought at first that affiliation came with a stigma that runners need to be of a certain level, but that isn’t true. We have both affiliation and RunTogether offerings alongside each other. Going into our second year of affiliation, we’ve learned it is not something to be scared of. We have people affiliated at the group who you wouldn’t traditionally expect. They are RunTogether runners, who happen to be affiliated so they can receive the benefits alongside what they can get from RunTogether.”

Supporting the local community with their expertise

After establishing themselves so successfully in the St Helen’s area, Mark and Debbie have been contacted by local establishments to share their expertise and help to set up running groups.

“Liverpool City Council got in touch with us as they wanted to set up a running group for Merseyside Police but wasn’t too sure where to start. This was in 2018 and the group is still running today. The police officers realised that some of the staff were struggling with their fitness levels to reach their physical tests and so the running group was set up, exploring the waterfront and Albert Dock. There are two leaders who manage this group and we have since taken a step back. We received a nice letter from the Police thanking us expressing what a difference it made to their staff members, which is great!”

MadRunners at a track session

Inspiring the next generation

As well as starting their journey as an England Athletics affiliated club, MadRunners are also making huge strides in inspiring and engaging the next generation of runners in their local area. Due to health and safety and the nature of running on paths and roads, RunTogether can only support runners from aged 12+. To combat this, Debbie and Mark have both undertaken a multi-skills fitness qualification to support children from aged 6+.

It doesn’t stop there! Noticing that there were teenagers interested in running coming along to the fitness sessions, they wanted to ensure that this age group was well represented amongst the leadership team and felt supported to keep them engaged and prevent a drop off.

“We are trying to get the next generation to love running and we have got to know the families of some of our adult RunTogether members. It is great to have the children inspired by the parents and now we can give a session for the children to be involved in.

“It is also important for our teen members that they have someone their own age to train with, look up to and be inspired by. We currently have a mixture of older female and male leaders, so the addition of a younger LiRF will be great for the club.”

Have you been with RunTogether for a number of years and want to share your story? We would love to hear it! You can get in touch with us via email on: hello@englandathletics.org

Mad Runners Group Leaders blurred out