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Did I ever tell you story about when I was 10 years old and I cycled from my home in Upton Park to Barking on my new BMX bike and somehow ended up on the motorway and had to be rescued by the police who escorted me away from the busy traffic?

Then there was the time me and my friend bunked off school and hung out in Barking Town Centre until the police caught us and called our parents.

Mum was not impressed.

These were the kind of scrapes I often found myself as a child, going off on little adventures as far away from home as possible.

Barking was a frequent place for me to abscond to  because I had an uncle who lived there, and we used to do dancing shows once a year at the Barking Assembly Rooms so it felt familiar enough but still exciting if that makes sense.

Occassionally I went to Dagenham Sunday market with my nan and grandad in their old Bedford van listening to their old stories about the area, and as a teenager I ended up going to Barking College, and made many friends in the area.

So although I can’t claim to be from there, it has always had a special place in my heart.

Which is why I am, absolutely delighted (NO LIKE SERIOUSLY) to announce that Barking & Dagenham is going to be the first area of the UK for Too Fat to Run programmes to be delivered on the ground instead of via its online programmes.

Working with local community organisation Studio 3 Arts, we have been successful in securing £60K of Sport England funding to get hundreds of local overweight women running over the next year, while making a video documentary sharing the women’s stories and their views on the sport.

The funding, from Sports England, will recruit and train 10 new run leaders in the borough, new to the sport, and likely to be able to engage locals who will deliver Too Fat to Run? programmes with specific groups of women who will all participate in FREE monthly 5K events #OneBigFatRun in a local park, amongst other things.

The project is being run with partners Barking Enterprise Centre and London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council and of course Studio 3 Arts who’s CEO Liza Vallance has been a Too Fat to Run advocate for a number of years.

Liza Vallance - Swansewa HM - lizaLiza who is registered disabled and a busy mum of two completed her first London Marathon this year and has been a brilliant role model to women locally. We are busy identifying other ambassadors in the programme and will be hosting a VIP launch on 27 September at 6pm at the BEC.

One of the exciting things about this project is the fact it is a pilot and Sport England are encouraging us to test various models to see what works best. The programme is being evaluated independently too so at the end of the year we will have some really robust data and recommendations around what worked and what didn’t, and also how best to scale up Too Fat to Run around the UK in the future.

I am so excited by this development as it has been almost impossible up until now to scale up without access to some extra capacity and funding, and the partnerships mean we can hit the ground running (so to speak) and really get local people engaged right from the off.

We will be delivering a series of 5 weeks to 5K programmes, as first seen on ITV’s This Morning and then delivered online with more than 400 graduates to date (our next online programme starts in September if you are interested)

Also we will be testing out a Get on Track programme which makes going to the local Athletics Track less scary, and running weekly Go Slow social runs where not being able to run fast or far is not a barrier to coming along and getting involved.

We are looking for local partners and women already involved in the sport to get involved and of course local women who are up for giving it a go.

On Sunday 24th September we will be hosting our first One Big Fat Run event in a local park where interested women can come and meet other participants, ambassadors and the women leading the programme.

To register your interest in becoming a participant or leader, contact:hello@studio3arts.org.uk | 020 8594 7136

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Studio 3 Arts who have been instrumental in helping me to access this funding, and Sport England who have given this wonderful opportunity to test our ideas.

It’s a fair bet that I will be seen pounding the streets of Barking & Dagenham and frequenting their local parkruns very soon.

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