'Running Can Be Good Fun. You Can Go out and See What Is Going on and Have a Quick Look in People's Gardens!' When Nationwide Company Women's Running Network Went into Liquidation This Year, Thousands of Women Were Left without the Chance to Run Regularly as Part of a Team. but for Several of Them in Penarth, It Was the Chance to Set Up a New Group, as Julia McWatt Found Out

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), June 22, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Running Can Be Good Fun. You Can Go out and See What Is Going on and Have a Quick Look in People's Gardens!' When Nationwide Company Women's Running Network Went into Liquidation This Year, Thousands of Women Were Left without the Chance to Run Regularly as Part of a Team. but for Several of Them in Penarth, It Was the Chance to Set Up a New Group, as Julia McWatt Found Out


Byline: Julia McWatt

* ome rain, shine, snow or ice, if you are walking around Cosmeston Lakes or the Marina in Penarth one evening, you are likely to spot a number of women, of all ages and walks of life, running past in their bright blue vests.

The new running group, Women Running Penarth, was formed by group leader Erika Fitzgibbon, and has already got more than 50 members, many of whom have followed Erika from her time as the team leader for the Women's Running Network.

The 59-year-old from Penarth felt that the women who had been part of the Women's Network deserved a chance to continue their running and they had worked so hard to build up the bonds within the group, that she and some other enthusiastic runners went on to set up Women Running Penarth which launched this month.

The club now holds sessions four days aweek, at different times of day, with four group leaders taking women out and giving them the opportunity to run in a safe and friendly environment.

Erika said: "It was such a shock when Women's Running Network went under and lots of areas now don't have a women's running club. It's a different thing, just running with women. We understand each other and we all know about that time of the month when we may not be feeling so great."

Erika did not start running herself until six years ago when she started suffering with osteoporosis and was told by doctors that she should do some exercise to help her bones.

She said: "I came to doing this because of my bone density. I was on medication for osteoporosis and was advised to do weight bearing exercise to help my bones. I was not sporty at all before, and I had never been very good at keeping fit. After two years I was taken off the medication so that is a good incentive to keep going.

"Sometimes it is quite good that I can say that I have not been doing this all my life. Some people will look at me and because I am slim they think I have been doing this a long time and I have always been like this. But when I tell them I only started five years ago, it gives them the confidence to have a go."

Since she started running, Erika has run four marathons all over the world, Venice, Edinburgh, London and Greece. She now plans to spend her 60th birthday in November running another marathon in Sicily. "The races, whether 5k or anything up to a marathon, apart from being challenging are a lot of fun especially if you do them in an area you don't know yet.

"As your fitness improves it gets a lot easier, but I know when not to push myself too much and go for a run just to have fun. You can go out and see what is going on, have a quick look in people's gardens and see if the swans are by the lake.

"It takes your mind away from the stress of the day. You don't think about anything else except what is around you."

Cath Wilton decided to start running last year after signing up to take part in the Cardiff Half Marathon to help raise pounds 40,000 that was needed for her four-year-old daughter Elodie, who has cerebral palsy, to go to America for surgery to help with her movement.

The 34-year-old mum of two from Dinas Powys had entered the charity event without any experience of running, and found she needed to get into training.

She said: "We were fundraising last year to take our daughter to America.

"There were four of us doing the half marathon and none of us had run in our lives. I joined the Women's Running Network last year and it was really good.

"I started training three of four times a week with all different abilities.

It was a good atmosphere and there ended up being so many of us doing the half marathon that we ran as a group on the day.

"It was hard at first and the only time I had ever done running I used to get pain in my chest and would start coughing. I was dreading it. But we were shown all the techniques to prepare. …

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'Running Can Be Good Fun. You Can Go out and See What Is Going on and Have a Quick Look in People's Gardens!' When Nationwide Company Women's Running Network Went into Liquidation This Year, Thousands of Women Were Left without the Chance to Run Regularly as Part of a Team. but for Several of Them in Penarth, It Was the Chance to Set Up a New Group, as Julia McWatt Found Out
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