COLUMNIST: Meet new people and get fit by running

Great Manchester 10k - pictured (from left) Stephanie Bateman, Richard Taylor-Draper, Eden Taylor-Draper and (front) Jack Marshall.
Great Manchester 10k - pictured (from left) Stephanie Bateman, Richard Taylor-Draper, Eden Taylor-Draper and (front) Jack Marshall.

I have been running on and off all my life.

As a child and teenager I was a member of my local athletics club, excelling in both sprinting and long distance, as well as field events too.

When motherhood came along, exercise took a bit of a back seat, but when my daughter started high school, my training regime started again in earnest.

Quite frankly I was only running to de-stress after a particularly bad day at the office, so when the offer of a chance to compete in a race and raise money for charity came along I jumped at the opportunity.

It is thanks to my friend of 20 years, Richard, that I got to compete in the 2015 Great Manchester 10km, raising funds for what was then called Lymphoma and Leukaemia Research, now named Bloodwise.

Richard is the dad of Emmerdale soap star Eden Taylor-Draper, who plays Belle Dingle, and through her TV connections gets involved in lots of charity events.

Eden has over the years formed a friendship with fellow teenager Jack Marshall from Belton who suffers from Moebius Syndrome, which means he is unable to walk unassisted, has difficulty with hearing and is unable to smile.

Despite his illness, Jack has raised thousands of pounds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research by undertaking mammoth challenges including climbing Yorkshire’s Three Peaks and taking part in junior runs - only earlier this year he climbed the highest mountain in the British Isle, Ben Nevis.

And it is for this reason we all took part in that particular race for this worthy cause.

For me completing the course was the ultimate feather in my cap, I was 43 at the time, I thought I was getting a little past it.

It was made all the more poignant as the month previously a long time friend contacted me to say her mum had sadly passed away from leukaemia - having been given 12 months to live, she died after just six weeks. She asked if I would run in her memory, and I couldn’t have been more privileged.

The whole experience was simply amazing for me. I got myself fit, I took part in my first competitive race for decades, my pace continued to improve and my head got into a really good place - most of the time!

And here I am now, two years down the line and my passion for running hasn’t waned, although my body is starting to tell me it is starting to struggle. I have, since 2015, completed numerous 5km and 10km races, along with four half marathons, twice completing the brilliant Great North Run.

Over the years I have raised thousands of pounds for a number of charities including Cancer Research, Cruse Bereavement and the British Heart Foundation - thanks must go to everyone who continues to support my efforts.

So as the new year approaches what do I do next? And more importantly, what will you do?

If you have never run before, why not give it a go? There are numerous clubs across the Isle and further afield that could assist.

A great way to get started is the Couch to 5K scheme, which has been designed to get you off the couch and running in just nine weeks. You can find out more information at www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.

Another fun way to start running is Parkrun, which is held at hundreds of venues, the nearest are at Scunthorpe and Doncaster, for free every Saturday at 9am, visit http://www.parkrun.org.uk/ for more details.

It’s a great way to start your weekend and offers the chance to meet new people. So what are you waiting for?