Respected club member, Denise Waugh, writes this special article to celebrate International Women’s Day
Calling all women out there! How many of you have wanted to experience the benefits of running but have been put off by the common (but misconceived) barriers to participation in this sport? If this is you, then it is time for a rethink. You do not have to be superfit, athletic, fast and sporty to begin to enjoy the benefits of this activity. You do not have to be competitive and enter races (although you can if you want to). You do not have to run alone, during dark evenings, worrying about personal safety. You do not have to venture into a male-dominated environment focused upon competition, speed and sporting prowess. Instead, you can join a friendly and supportive running club which caters equally, for both men and women, and which provides for a full spectrum of running abilities – from complete beginners through to club runners who represent their country in international races.
Do such running clubs really exist? Yes, they certainly do, and I can verify that through personal experience.
Two years ago, I nervously attended my first session at a running club. Like some of you, I was worried as, strereotypically, I had associated running clubs with fast, competitive men and fit, athletic women. Surely a runner, like myself, who was recovering from injury and who had never been very fast to start with, would not be welcome at a running club session? Deciding to give it a go anyway, I could not have been more wrong in my pre-judgement of a running club. Tyne Bridge Harriers, as a small, newly formed club, had a welcoming and inclusive approach to running – they were not just looking for elite runners – and it was this ethos that encouraged me to attend a few more sessions and then to join. Since then, I have never looked back. I have improved as a runner, through excellent support and coaching, whilst also experiencing the social benefits of belonging to a running club. In addition, with the support of both the Club and the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, I have achieved a Leader in Running Fitness award and a Coach in Running Fitness qualification. I am also Women’s Captain and I have used this role, alongside my coaching qualifications, to encourage more women to join Tyne Bridge Harriers and to experience the benefits of running. From an initial membership of only 3 women, there are now 111 female members who make up 44 percent of the total membership of Tyne Bridge Harriers. Some of these women choose to race competitively; some run for fun; some come along to club sessions to socialise and run with other people; some run to improve their general health and fitness levels. Regardless of their reasons for running, they are all supported by the Club and have been given opportunities to experience running in different settings (ranging from club sessions to club races; track and field events to cross country; road races to trail running; relays to fell races; charity events to marathons and half marathons) and many women have undertaken Leader in Running Fitness qualifications (courtesy of the Tony Blair Sports Foundation) to further support the work of Tyne Bridge Harriers.
With 5 different ability groups, leaving from Byker Pool on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, at 6.30 pm, there is a running group to suit everyone. In addition, our free running sessions, solely for beginners, on Wednesday evenings at 6.30 pm, provide a perfect opportunity for you to come along and enjoy running.
Further details can be found on the Tyne Bridge Harriers’ Website or by contacting the Tony Blair Sports Foundation.