Park life: Biggleswade AC’s huge Couch to 5k class helps breaks record in Bedford

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s third Couch to 5k course was rounded off in sensational style last Saturday, as dozens of new runners crossed the line for their first attempt at the distance. The “graduation” run took place at Bedford Park, at the town’s weekly Saturday morning Parkrun event, which has taken place since June 2011. The 66 BAC C52K graduates on the day ensured the run smashed its attendance record, with 586 recorded finishers an increase of 58 on the previous best.

BAC Couch to 5k graduates, mentors and coaches. Photo by Damien Pitts

A whopping 124 people signed up to the course, and dozens more will be graduating in the coming weeks. The 12-week programme was based at Sandy’s Sunderland Road recreation ground, with weekly Wednesday sessions gradually and manageably ramping up through training in which participants initially ran for one minute at a time, then walking for a minute, repeated 10 times. The amount of running increased each week, with the walking reduced over time to help prepare runners for the 5km (3.1 mile) distance.

Coaches and “mentors” then helped to run two “homework” sessions a week at various locations in the area, to get those involved used to the discipline of running three times a week, a proven way to improve fitness and increase stamina. The improvements in those present were remarkable over the short period that the course took place.

Dave Eggleton was the first graduate over the finish line in Bedford, and said: “I started the course because I needed to get fitter, I wasn’t expecting after a few weeks to actually look forward to putting my running kit on. What started as a 12 week journey to help me get fitter has achieved its goals and made me some good friends along the way.”

Another hugely impressive participant was Sharon Griffiths, who overcame injury problems during the programme to graduate in fine style. She said: “I hated running at school and wasn’t very good at it, but the coaches and mentors have been fantastic with encouragement and praise to everybody. I’m definitely carrying on running now – I love it, which surprises me to say. It’s the best decision I’ve made.”

Andy King, who had “literally never run” before the course, was persuaded to join up by Sharon after mutual friends who took part in one of the previous courses recommended it. “They raved about the support they got,” he said. “The first week was hard and by the third week I was ready to give in. But what kept me going? The constant help from mentors who genuinely understood how you were feeling but would push you just that tiny bit more each session. I’m still astounded I ran 5K on Saturday. My self-esteem is at an all-time high, but without the support of Biggleswade AC, its coaches, mentors, and the other guys running with me, I wouldn’t have come near to finishing the course!”

Karen Soper added: “I needed this because I was so unfit and was not feeling good about myself at all. I feel so much better – I’m liking the way I look and it’s gave me a great feeling about myself. I now get up some morning before work and go for a run which then gives me a fantastic feeling for the rest of the day.”

Another to notice a huge difference is Kirsty Beard, who said: “Twelve weeks ago I was a stone heavier, and couldn’t run when prosecco was on a 2 for 1 deal at the bar 10 feet away! The classes and mentoring sessions inspire you to keep going. You could be the quickest or the slowest on the field, and you got the same encouragement, attention and support – but you also certainly got the same buzz, motivation and ‘can-do’ feeling.”

Many of the graduates have already signed up to Biggleswade AC, sending the club’s membership to an all-time high, and they will benefit from a revamped range of training nights, specifically tailored to help the progression of its freshly minted runners, with sessions taking place on both on the streets of Sandy as well as the recently relaid track. Much more info soon – keep an eye on the club website for more details.

Many thanks to club chairman Damien Pitts for photographs of graduation day

BAC C25k graduate results, Bedford Parkrun, 15 July 2017

David Eggleton 27:06
Brian Woodfield 28:03
Joanne Drummond 28:16
Tanya Edwards 29:56
Sharon Griffiths 30:17
Nick Lester 30:42
John Luff 31:07
Alison Elwood 32:03
Genette Smith 32:06
Tom Greaves 32:07
Jennie Day 32:10
Chris Rowley 32:13
Sarah Gatti 32:17
Tracy Brooks 32:42
Lisa Cobb 32:44
Beverley Ritson 32:53
Sophie Lester 33:00
Julie Spavins 33:16
Christine Crawley 33:31
John Crawley 33:34
Colin Oatley 33:48
Rachel Davies 33:54
Emma Kelly 34:07
Charlotte Larkins 34:08
Karyn Jones 34:17
Sue Whitfield 34:30
Janet Fogg 35:02
Peter Elwood 35:57
Kianna Davis 36:00
Sara Masella 36:05
Louise Oliver 36:05
Karen Soper 36:37
Kirsty Beard 36:38
Laura France 36:39
Sadete Noka 36:57
Katie Bishop 37:43
Polly Swinburne 37:43
Amy Smyth 37:43
Joanne Gray 37:50
Vicky Brettle 38:12
Christine Knowles 38:14
Nicola Summers 38:16
Elaine Oatley Fry 38:43
Kathy Doherty 39:06
Francesca McKiernan 39:08
Alan Shaw 39:39
Graeme Wright 39:39
Vanessa Kaye 40:57
Joanne Bishop 41:03
Nicola Gauge 41:33
James Keane 41:33
Helen Williams 41:33
Nicki Dear 41:57
Faye Eavis 42:00
Sally Burn 42:00
Deborah Cockcroft 43:42
Anita Taylor 45:38
Kirsty Day 46:12
Julie White 46:23
Susan Revels 46:24
Helen Hill 48:20
Sharon Davis 48:24
Timothy Mark Garratt 49:11
Andy King 49:44
Suzanne Chidley 50:27
Michelle Shaw 50:27

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