“When I first got the job as Community Champion, if someone said to me that in 12 months I’d be able to run 5k, I’d have laughed hysterically.”
Adam Kent is one of the Community Champions on the Active Dearne project – a familiar face in Swinton who has been supporting others to be active in his community.
He’s helped setup a walking football session that regularly welcomes more than 20 men each week, helping to provide not only an activity, but the chance to talk, which is crucial in an area with high rates of male suicide.
But walking and football were comparative comfort zones for Adam, who admits he’s not broken into anything faster than a walk since the 1990’s.
“I was on the walk leader training and there were some people from Rawmarsh Runners doing it, so we formed a bit of a link there,” he explains.
“When we started to ease out of lockdown and people were allowed to do a bit more than one bit of exercise, I got in touch with them about setting up a Couch-to-5k group. It was the right thing at the right time for people, and we had a good turnout.
“I’ve never run. I didn’t think I could run for a minute. But I did it and I felt brilliant about myself.
“I did it early in the day, between dropping my son of at school and starting work, and I was on a high for the rest of the day. Once I’d done the first week it seemed to get easier, but harder at the same time!
Adam was part of a group of around 20 people who completed the structured course, culminating with a 5k run. As well as the weekly group runs, Adam headed out for solo runs, finding his motivation in “not wanting to let people down.”
“I couldn’t promote something if I didn’t do it myself – It wouldn’t feel right.
“I always used to think, if someone sees me running then I’m going to feel ridiculous. I’m an 18 stone bloke, I don’t run. But doing Couch-to-5k broke down the barriers. Instead of laughing at me, they were saying, ‘go on!’
“I point at myself and say, look at me. If I can run 5k then you can. I thought I’d get outrun by a static caravan, but now I think I could run around one!”
With a young son and two jobs, Adam leads a busy life. Fitting runs into his routine a few times a week wasn’t easy. But now he is able to compare his days with and without running, and he knows which he prefers.
“On days where I didn’t run, I felt my days were sluggish. I’d graze on food, go to work, come home and sit down, and be done for the day.
“On the days I run, I’m more positive and I felt ready to take on the world. I can’t believe I’m a runner. I’m even thinking about doing something for charity linked to running.”
It took nine weeks rather than 12 months, but instead of laughing hysterically when someone mentions running to Adam, it’s a proud smile that comes across his face.
“It wasn’t an achievement I thought I’d be able to manage or be proud of – but it’s both. I’m not scared of running anymore.”
Find out more about Couch to 5k on the NHS website.