Since completing Couch to 5K, Lorraine Beavis has joined the legions of runners who have signed up to parkrun's increasingly popular 5km runs.
From being a sporadic exerciser, Lorraine from Leeds says taking up running has helped her lose weight, boosted her confidence, and given her a sense of achievement.
A veteran of 52 of parkrun's free weekly 5km timed runs, she talks about parkrun's unique appeal, making new friends, and the kick she gets out of striving to improve her personal best.
How active were you before you took up running?
Before starting Couch to 5K, I was a sporadic exerciser. It didn't come naturally to me, but I knew I ought to do something, so I would go through phases of doing different things, but never kept anything up for more than a few months.
Running is the only thing that I've stuck to – I've been running for nearly two years now and would be devastated if I had to give up for any reason. I just wish I had discovered running sooner.
How has Couch to 5K changed you?
I wasn't very overweight, but have lost nearly a stone and feel so much better – lighter, fitter, definitely more toned – and I feel more confident and proud of what I've achieved.
In addition to the parkruns, I've run several 10km runs and two half marathons – none of which I would have thought possible before I started NHS Couch to 5K.
How did you hear about parkrun and when did you start?
I did my first parkrun in on December 1 2012 after completing the NHS Couch to 5K running plan in October.
I became aware of parkrun as I live very close to our local one and friends told me what was going on. I then found out more through the Couch to 5K community on the HealthUnlocked website.
What do you like about parkrun?
I think it's a brilliant concept. The fact that it's free, that you can do it virtually anywhere in the country as well as abroad now, that anyone can do it – all ages, shapes and sizes, with dogs and pushchairs – makes it so much fun and so unintimidating. I would encourage anyone to do it.
How often do you do parkrun and where?
I do parkrun most weeks, mostly in Woodhouse Moor, Leeds – which is my local – but I have also run in Ipswich (my hometown), St Albans with my stepson, and Telford, where my stepdaughter lives.
I have done a total of 52 parkruns, plus five freedom runs, where you run the route on your own and record your time on the website.
I have also volunteered with parkrun – only on one occasion so far, but I want to do more because it was great fun and parkrun is only what it is because of its volunteers.
Have your running times improved since starting parkrun?
Yes, definitely. My time for my first parkrun was 37 minutes and 35 seconds. My best time at Leeds, which is slightly hilly, is 33:06 and my best time ever is 30:50. My aim is to run under 30 minutes.
Have you made new friends doing parkrun?
Seeing the same faces each week, you inevitably get chatting, and volunteering is also a great way to make friends.
Many of the runners meet up for coffee after their run, although I tend to head home for a bacon butty and the newspapers – all part of the Saturday morning routine now!
How does parkrun keep you motivated?
Running with other people and being timed, you are more likely to push yourself that little bit more than when running alone. Waiting for the text each week that gives your run time is exciting.
On the rare Saturdays that I don't do a parkrun, I feel quite flat. And of course, there is the constant striving for a new personal best. If you don't make it one week, there's always next week!