Residents in Sheffield’s S6 district are well used to seeing a horde of fluorescent lycra-clad women racing along their streets on a regular basis.
But Sheffield’s women-only Strideout running club has now proved such a success it has scooped a top prize in a regional awards scheme – and plans are afoot to expand the group further.
Initial discussions about the club started among mums dropping their children off at gymnastics classes at Wisewood Sports Centre.
One of the parents was Gaye Fletcher, who took her daughter Isobel along to the gym sessions and went running while waiting to pick her up.
Gaye said several of the mothers made excuses about how work and childcare commitments held them back, or claimed they lacked energy and motivation.
Eventually Gaye, joined by fellow fitness enthusiast Andrea Barber, started Strideout in May 2009, with an initial five women running for an hour every Monday.
Today numbers are up to 160 – and its popularity has led to it being judged ‘group of the year’ in the Run England awards for Yorkshire and Humberside.
“We were completely and utterly shocked by the award, it was absolutely fantastic, but it has made us want to move forward,” said Gaye.
“There is the need for women to be supported to return to running or to take it up as a hobby.
“A lot of people recognise us as the mass of fluorescent women on the streets!”
Gaye added that she wanted mums to understand that finding the time to run was not impossible.
“I wanted to offer them the opportunity to see that with a little dedication and planning they could run too.
“I started asking mums to join me for a run for the one hour while our children had their gymnastics class and then Strideout was launched.
“So what started as a small pipe dream for two newly-experienced run leaders has now built up to a 160-strong running group which caters for all abilities and ages.
“We have 16-year-old girls running with mum right through to 70-year-old ex-marathoners.”
Runs in the spring and summer are off-road across places such as Wadsley Common, Bradfield, Loxley and Dungworth, and at other times on roads in Walkley, Stannington, Hillsborough and Wadsley.
Routes are risk assessed, and both Andrea and Gaye hold UK Athletics coach licences.
The club has grown with support from community organisations, GPs, schools and children’s centres, and it is promoted at Sheffield Hallam University, at the central library and by the NHS.
Every week, four run sessions are offered, alongside walking and jogging sessions for beginners.
“We now have five run leaders supporting groups and have given women the confidence and support to go out there, enjoy the beautiful local countryside and reap the health and well-being benefits of running,” said Gaye, a student support officer at Hallam University, who is also a member of the Hallamshire Harriers.
Other run leaders are Janice Ashforth, Alison Baum, Laura Hudson and Louise Goss.
Ideas for future expansion include organising more sessions, a ‘mini-Strideout’ for parents and children and a cycling spin-off.
Women pay £1 a time which goes towards expenses such as the hire of a room at the sports centre.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or for more information.