Six years ago, David Senior from Bolsover claimed he’d never be a runner. But after a fascinating journey he’s just started a fresh chapter as leader of the newest Jog Derbyshire kids on the block, Castle Striders.
David’s journey into running has enrobed his whole family, changing their attitude to life and providing a coping mechanism and confidence for his son Travis, who has autism.
We caught up with him to see how running has affected him and the family.
I’ll never be a runner
Back in 2015, having recently had their youngest child, Sebastian, now six, David started looking at opportunities for losing weight. Despite being an active child, a career in management had turned his lifestyle more sedentary.
“You know something needs to change when you’re walking up the steps to Bolsover and you need to stop at the top, puffing and panting.”
David started his journey by getting back into cycling, starting with a three mile route round Bolsover and building up to further distances. When his wife and sons started doing parkrun, it still took David some time to come round to the idea of running.
“I said, she’s never going to get me running, I’m not a runner. Then my twin boys, who are now 15 started joining her so I went and stood at the side to watch. It was quite intimidating and scary, all these people running past in their proper running gear. But it was that trigger that made me suddenly think, I might start running.
“I then went to do my first parkrun. It was the inclusive nature of it, the people you met and everyone being really supportive that made it so good. It didn’t seem to matter how fast you were going, everyone was really encouraging.”
A coping mechanism for autism
As all the family caught the running bug, the biggest change was in David’s son, Travis.
David said: “We had real problems with Travis at infant school because he wasn’t identified as autistic. He was the type of child who would take the classroom to pieces. He was never violent towards people but he was violent towards things.”
Running has given Travis an outlet and improved his confidence, resulting in massive changes to his life.
David said: “When he started running his whole persona started to change. He was deputy head boy at school, it looks like he’s going to come out as a grade A student and he’s looking at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. And he’d put that down to the control he has over his emotions through running. That’s affected us as a family because he’s a lot calmer and he’s been able to cope with things a lot better.
“With Travis we’d sometimes end up with him in the bedroom when he’d lost it and he’d be throwing things around the room. There’s still a mark in the back of the door where he threw a plastic stool. But if you were to meet Travis today, you wouldn’t think he was a child that did that and that’s all because of running. It gives him an outlet for his aggression.
“There is a chemical thing in the brain because it gives him the endorphin hit when he goes out for a run but it also gives him the confidence. He’s had a few problems going through school adjusting to things but running has given him that tool and people do look up to him.”
Running as part of family life
Running has become an engrained part of life for the Senior family. They compete against each other, factor it into their holidays and are even out at Christmas and New Year parkruns.
David said: “It’s definitely made a difference doing it together as a family. It’s been brilliant for family cohesion. It’s given us family time rather than taking it away because we do a lot of these things together.
“Our holidays have changed. I always said I’d never camp but now we do that all the time because you can camp on a footpath to go running or near a bridleway which you can’t necessarily get near with a hotel. We also plan out where the nearest parkrun is. We’ve done them up and down the country. I love that feeling of being able to explore.
“Even Sebastian, who’s six can run 5k and he asks to. Probably because he sees us do it. So if parents are doing the running it has a knock on effect on the children.”
Passing on the enthusiasm
David’s passion for instilling a love of running in others led him to start up Jog Derbyshire group Castle Striders in Bolsover.
David said: “My motivation for Castle Striders is just to pass on the feelings I’ve got from running. It got to the point I’d gone past just wanting to lose weight and actually started to enjoy it which is what we’re trying to capture with the group.”
Just a few weeks in and David’s dream is becoming a reality, with an enthusiastic group of people enjoying being a part of it.
He said: “It’s got a really nice atmosphere already. I wanted to open it up to anyone so we tailored the exercises from the off and we’ve now started a beginners group and on Saturday we’ve got guided runs for slightly more experienced runners which is about going out and exploring.”
Family continues to be a big part of the group with two of his sons and his wife acting as co-leaders.
David said: “My wife had lost her running mojo a bit recently but starting Castle Striders has given her the motivation back. We’re determined for people to get the benefits not just for themselves but for their families and friends. With our little journey as a family, it’s almost infectious.
“It’s looking like it’s going really well. We’ve got real hopes for the group and how far we can go with it.”