Joining a new social group is a nerve wracking experience for most people, but even more when you suffer from epilepsy. So for 42-year-old Jennifer Pitts from Hadfield, joining her local Jog Derbyshire group Start2Jog was particularly scary. But the friendliness of the group shone through, melting away Jennifer’s worries and finding her a jogging family who support and accept her.
“My decision to do something to improve my fitness started after Christmas 2016. I’d eaten a lot of chocolate and as I hated the gym I thought I’d give jogging a go. I’d hit 40 and my kids were grown up so I had the free time in the evenings to take some time for myself.
Joining a new group was a big milestone
“I suffer from epilepsy and this made me really worried about joining a new group. Although I’ve been seizure free for five years I’m very dependent on other people for security as I could have one at any time.
“This was a big thing to overcome with strangers. I was embarrassed by it and it’s taken me a long time to accept the condition. Joining with Start2Jog was a big milestone for me. No-one other than the leaders knew about it so I could just be me. It was a big confidence boost when I realised, ‘I’ll be fine.’
Worrying if I’d fit in
“I started with the couch to 5k Jog into January campaign and found the running difficult to start with as I’d not done it since school. Even running for a minute was a mammoth task and I never thought I could do more. I worried about whether I was wearing the right thing and if others would be younger or fitter than me. But there was a real mix of age, ability and body shape and size. We have one lady in her 70s so I thought if she can do it so can I.
“I felt fantastic when we got to the 5k and when I did my first parkrun it was a real buzz. I’m not very fast but that doesn’t matter. They’re such a friendly bunch. There’s a facebook group and lots of us use Strava. You get support when you think you’ve done a bad run but everyone reminds you at least you’ve done it.
Putting my trust in people
“When I shared my epilepsy story with everyone it was the first time I’ve felt accepted in a group without feeling embarrassed. It was a really big thing for me to tell them and they were all so supportive.
“We all socialise together outside of running – Barry the group leader organises social events or we go out for coffee. It’s nice to see each other without our lycra!
Achieving things I never thought possible
“I’m doing my first half marathon in May and at the start I never thought for one minute I’d be able to do that. Barry planted that little seed in my head to join a 10k first and then I realised I could actually do it.
“I’m a bit nervous but we all did a marathon relay recently and the atmosphere was amazing. The whole group came out to cheer us on. I’m still on quite a high from it.
“I never thought I could join a group who would become a family.”
How to get involved
Jennifer jogs with Start2Jog – you can find out more about them here
To discover your nearest Jog Derbyshire group use Find a Group