May 22, 2015
Ever wondered what I did before becoming a superstar plus size fitness blogger? Well it was something equally as important for sport but I guess a little less high profile.
I was a volunteer manager.
Well, I did other things as well but for 8 or 9 years of my career I worked in volunteer management, either on the ground or at a strategic level writing policy.
Volunteering has played a massive role in my running journey, in fact the very first time I considered returning to sport was whilst I was volunteering as a steward at the London Triathlon…I was placed at the top of a hill warning cyclists to slow down, it was thrilling. It gave me an insight into a sport I knew nothing about and I had a blast despite it being a very long day.
It was about 5pm and the last wave of the day had just come out of the water into transistion (I didn’t even know what transition was until that day) when something strange happened, I saw a little old lady cycle career round the corner on a sky blue bicycle complete with front wicker basket.
I couldn’t get her out of my mind. She was at least 65 and her bike looked about the same age, but she was grinning from ear to ear…I started to wonder if she could do it perhaps I could too (even if I was very overweight and completely inactive)
And the following year I did.
Over the years I have volunteered less and less myself (mainly because I am selfishly running all the time, although I have just started volunteering at my local running club leading their beginners session), but I still remain a huge advocate for volunteering, and volunteering at all levels.
So you can imagine the excitement I felt when I was invited to the launch of RunIt a new campaign led by London 2012 legacy charity Join In to get more volunteers involved in community sport and boost participation in running.
So on Tuesday morning (still tired from my ITV thingy) I headed off to Hyde Park to meet 10km European Champion Jo Pavey and former 5km world record holder, David Moorcroft, when I arrived I was delighted to see Olympian Mara Yamauchi there too.
I was less excited to find out we would be running a 5K around the park…mind you it wasn’t raining so I should have been grateful.
Running is the fastest-growing participation sport in the UK and volunteers are the backbone. ‘Run It’ will celebrate the existing volunteers within running and inspire more people to help out at running groups and events across the country. From informal running groups, athletics teams and marathons; running depends on thousands of people helping out.
Sometimes when you think about sports volunteers you think of the old official type figure with grey hair, comfy shoes and a clipboard, but we need to get away from that image and realise that you don’t have to be sporty to enjoy sports volunteering.
Seven out of 10 grassroots sports clubs still need more volunteers and in all areas of their work. As Join In’s research reveals, each volunteer creates the capacity for at least 8.5 more participants in sport. So as David Moorcroft so passionately put it
If you love running help others run
By connecting running clubs with volunteers, ‘Run It’ will increase the amount of people taking part in running across the UK with more people leading happier and healthier lives through sport.
I wouldn’t be a runner without volunteers. I’ll always be grateful to people like that. All athletes have stories to tell you about volunteers, particularly in their early careers. I am still in touch with my first coach, he made so much possible for me.
But for me when I think about volunteering I don’t automatically think about the role that played in elite athletes careers…cos funnily enough I’ve never been an elite, but I do think about the nice people who look after my bags at races, the people who hand me water when I am gasping, and the coaches at my running club who run with me at my steady rate despite the fact their mates are waiting in the pub with a pint.
Regardless of where you are in your running journey, wether you run or whether you want to run but haven’t quite got there yet…I challenge you to get involved in RunIt as a volunteer and not have it have a positive effect on your relationship with the sport.
Join In is a London 2012 legacy charity that puts more volunteers into community sport. For further information visit joininuk.org/run-it