James Illsley has had an inspirational journey from running novice to leader and has inspired a whole new wave of beginners through a couch to 5k programme.
James tells us about his journey and how he’s got to this point.
‘I never thought I’d be able to run’
I started running 12 months ago. I’ve been on a weight loss journey for the last few years and never thought I’d be a runner. I started, like many people, running on my own. Running groups, I thought, were for ‘proper’ runners. They certainly weren’t the sorts of places that people like me, i.e. slower, would be welcomed.
I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I started using the Couch to 5K app a while before, but was trying to lose weight at the time. It moved on a bit fast for those trying to lose weight. I actually started jogging in wellies whilst walking the dog – what a sight I must have been! My confidence was so low. I could only run for 30 seconds or so at a time and would pretend I was out walking the dog if I saw anyone else coming the other way!
Finding Jog Derbyshire
In December 2017 – with only a handful of parkruns under my belt – I plucked up the courage to send an email to Ian Travers, leader of Jog Derbyshire group Jog Crich. After a brief email exchange he assured me not everyone was super-fast and I’d be very welcome to join the group. When I went to my first meeting I was delighted at the warm welcome I received and was instantly made to feel part of the group. All abilities were catered for and I really started to enjoy the group runs.
Since then I’ve progressed even more. The Derby 10k in April 2018 was my first ever race of any description and I loved it. That inspired me to do more and more and I completed my first half marathon in August 2018. I’ve entered more races as I’ve been completely bitten by the running bug!
My journey to co-leader and leader
Jog Derbyshire has been a big part of my running journey over the last 12 months. The groups contain some incredible runners, but more importantly incredible people. I quickly learnt Jog Derbyshire groups genuinely cater for runners of all abilities and nobody is left out.
Initially I thought co-leaders had to be the better runners, but now know that’s not the case. I felt my experience could be used to help others get into running and get themselves healthier and more active.
I trained as a co-leader and passed my Leadership in Running Fitness qualification. That enabled me to take the lead on a Couch to 5k program which started in September 2018.
Before our first session, I imagined myself stood in a drafty car park with two or three others. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when 68 turned up to our first meeting! I was amazed at the numbers we attracted, but it just shows there is a demand for beginners’ programs such as this.
What’s up next?
In 2019 I’m planning on running my first marathon. I’m also completing a number of challenges to raise money for the British Lung Foundation, in memory of my father who suffered with lung disease and passed away in December 2016. Any donations, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.