Beckie Clarke is on a mission to convince people in Norfolk that they can run.
Beckie from Taverham is behind a new initiative called Run 0 to 30 minutes to encourage people to take up running as a means to leading a healthier and active life.
The 43-year-old is a qualified personal fitness instructor and runs her own business Rebel Fitness.
Working with Active Norfolk’s Fit for Fun programme
But it was when she was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post by Active Norfolk calling for proposals to encourage people to get fitter that Run 0 to 30 minutes was born after she successfully secured funding for her idea for an 8-week programme.
And now each Wednesday morning at 9.30am a group of runners, including Beckie’s mum, meet up at Catton Park for their weekly sessions. Active Norfolk has also agreed to fund a second Run 0 to 30 minutes course due to start in May/June.
Building up to a 30-minute run around Catton Park
Over the course of the 8 week Run 0 to 30 minutes programme, the group gradually builds up to a 30-minute run using a mixture of run/walk training. They are also tasked with ‘homework’ of two running sessions outside of the group, and the aim at the end is to complete a park run together, so they are already getting used to parts of the Catton Park course.
“One of the reasons I set this up was the number of people I came across who said, ‘I can’t run’ and I’d say to them what do you mean? Everyone can run! I’m a great believer in that,” she says.
“I’m looking to build a community and a support network with a social side for people who don’t want to join a club.
“Not everybody wants a PB, it’s the social thing. What’s really nice about the Wednesday morning is that it’s like a social occasion as well as a running group and that’s exactly what I am looking to build. The ladies in that group are really brilliant!”
The group have managed to keep running despite the rain and cold – though the recent heavy snow did put paid to one session.
But she said that she had been impressed by resilience of the ladies taking part.
“If you can run up and down that hill in all weathers then you are a runner! I keep saying to them that you are runners. The fact that you have turned up every week sometimes in in horrendous conditions.”
People taking part have either never run before or are looking to get back into running sometimes after a break of several years.
Why Run 0 to 30 minutes is about encouraging a more active lifestyle
And Beckie was keen to create a running and fitness programme which aimed to build up their confidence over time.
“I thought perhaps we need to try things a different way. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw an advert from Active Norfolk,” she says. “I managed to write a bid proposal which I had never done before. With that I had to come up with a plan, and an exit plan to ensure that the people who came along are able to continue their running journey.
“One of the objectives of the Run 0 to 30 minutes course was also to encourage a more active lifestyle and with that reduce the bill on the NHS.
Taking out the distance
“My starting point for Run 0 to 30 minutes was to take out the distance because for many people it seems too far whereas 30 minutes may seem more achievable,” she says.
“If we can make it more achievable to start with, you are halfway there. From there I have got a Facebook group which everyone is in. That’s part of the support network and the social side, so that people are there to support each other.”
Funding only covers the Run 0 to 30 Minutes courses, but Beckie is also running a paid-for Run 30 to 60 minutes session for those who want to take their running journey further in a supportive environment, and she is hoping that many of the group will move on to that.
“The nice thing about that is that it launches after this one finishes so that they will become the support network for the people who came through afterwards,” she says. “It’s about building a community, which is exactly what Active Norfolk were looking for.
“The people taking part have either never run before, or haven’t run for a long time. When you bring a group like that together, people are going to running at different speeds. This isn’t a race against everybody, it’s about what you can do.”
She also runs her own running group on a Tuesday night from the Costa coffee shop on the Sweetbriar Industrial Estate
“At the moment that’s aimed specifically for ladies,” she says. “In winter when you can feel particularly vulnerable, it’s a safe place you can run from.”
How Beckie’s own running journey started
Finding some head space
Beckie’s own running journey started when she needed some head space from the demands of bringing up two young boys, Alex and Joseph, she headed to Sports Direct and bought a pair of running shoes.
But what started out as 15-minute runs to clear her head was to take her in a different direction as her passion for her hobby saw her switch careers from retail management into becoming a personal fitness instructor.
“I had two children under the age of two and a husband working 12-hour days. I just needed the head space,” she recalls.
“I didn’t have the funds or the time to go to the gym, so I went and got a pair of shoes and started running!”
From there she moved up to the Norwich Half Marathon and then a 10K at Reepham, and to mark her 40th birthday she then signed up and ran the New York City Marathon finishing in 4hrs 24.
“It was the most amazing experience ever!”
She’s also run the Berlin Marathon, 4hrs 14, and is determined to get below the elusive 4hour mark when she runs her next marathon though her hectic work schedule means she is currently focusing on half marathons right now.
Rebel Fitness Club was born in September 2017 after she made the switch from a career in retail management to becoming her own boss.
“I’ve been a massive Star Wars fan since I was a child, and I wanted to do something where I had the freedom for it to be what I wanted it to be.”
And she says she hasn’t looked back, with ambitions to grow her business and create other Run 0 to 30 minutes running groups across the county.
“The success of this first one has been amazing. I never quite knew how it would go, but it’s been received really well and the ladies who are there are all progressing brilliantly, and the amount of support has been second to none.
“I think there will be some lifelong friendships there as well.”
One runner’s verdict on the Run 0 to 30 minutes programme
Emily Lowthorpe describes how the sessions have helped her regain her fitness
I nearly didn’t make it to the first session of the Run 0 to 30 minutes running club. It was a cold and wet January morning and I took one look out of the window and thought “shall I bother?” I gave Beckie a ring to find out if it was definitely going ahead and her enthusiasm gave me the boost I needed to start my running journey.
I’m in my mid 40s and after several years without any real exercise I wanted to try and get back into shape. I used to play football and enjoy team sports so when I found this new running group on the Active Norfolk website aimed at people like me who had never run before it sounded perfect.
I was surprised when I turned up to find 12 other lovely ladies had also braved the weather and Beckie soon had us all feeling at ease and warming up. We started off gently with a 90 second walk followed by a one minute jog and repeated this ten times. It was hard work but we all did it and it felt good. We are now in week 6 and doing blocks of walking for one minute and jogging for seven and we are planning our first 5K run at Catton Park in a couple of weeks’ time.
During the last six weeks our group has been out in the driving rain, wind, mud and snow but everyone has come through each session smiling and the support of Beckie and the rest of the ladies has made the whole experience fun and inspiring.