Skip to content

RunVerity is a run club for all abilities, with women and girls joining from as young as age 12, to their oldest member, 70 years old.

Why did you start RunVerity?

I wanted to making running inclusive for everyone regardless of their ability, the local running club I was in was very driven by competition, results and bringing the silver home. I knew how much running had changed my life and given me a confidence that I'd not had before and I wanted to share this with other women, the only clubs on offer at that time were "proper" running clubs with "real runners".

I knew that this put women off joining because I organised the annual beginner's running course within the club and spent a lot of time talking to women about what they wanted, what their barriers to attending a beginner's group.

Despite all my reassurances, so many women didn't turn up to the course and the women who turned up weren't real beginners, yet they thought they were because they believed they weren't good enough or real runners. I

set up RunVerity in 2014 offering beginner's running courses to complete beginners, women who hadn't run since school but had always wanted to give it a go. I started off with a group of 3, we met twice a week and went from running 30 secs in week 1 to 5km in 8 weeks.

We now have over 120 members (we have a small number of men, mainly the husbands of our members) and run beginner's and runner's refreshers courses every 8 weeks.

How did you understand what people wanted? 

I understood that even though chronologically you can be 42 years old, your training age could be 4 years old, so I started with the basic movement patterns of agility, balance, and co-ordination. We didn't start running straight away in week 1, we threw tennis balls, skipped, and weaved in and out of cones and we laughed.

We slowed down the pace, I showed women that by running slowly it was still running, even if they thought they could walk quicker, when running you always have 1 foot off the ground. We talked about the technical skills of running, what to do with your arms, that by learning a few running drills alongside the correct posture that you looked like a runner and that people on the street wouldn't know if you'd run for 2 mins or were just completing a 20-mile run, you were a runner.

We banned the word "jogging" as it seemed as though jogging was the 2nd prize, that you weren't quite good enough to be a runner.

I learnt that women wore their jumpers around their waist so people couldn't see their bodies, that they wanted to keep hold of their car keys so they could leave the session at any point. I learnt we needed to stop skipping as most women needed to then go to the loo!

We created a safe environment where it was ok to walk because the rest of the group always looped for you, so you were never left on your own. People wanted accountability and they also wanted to be given the opportunity to improve their performance and see what they were capable of when given the right coaching tools.

People also didn't want the pressure of a parkrun at the end of the course, they were too visible, I learnt the hard way as my runners would leave the course halfway through the event and I'd find them in the car park crying, especially if the parkrun was a lapped event and they could see their car and had to pass it.

How did you promote your activities?

I promoted mainly via word of mouth and social media, back then it was easy to advertise on Facebook and didn't cost too much. I also put leaflets and posters in local shops but the main source of promotion was being seen on the local streets running and friends telling their friends how safe the group was.

Women running

Run Verity's Impact

I have so many success stories but it’s Lisa’s story that has had an impact on me. Lisa, who at 15 years old was a runner, made herself the promise of running London Marathon one day. Life got in the way for Lisa, and she gave up running until about 7 years ago when she joined the beginner's course.

She lacked so much confidence, had put on weight and really didn't see herself as a runner, in fact she did the beginner's course twice, one after the other until she felt ready to go to the main groups. In October 2022, she finally realised her childhood dream and ran London Marathon, nearly 40 years later, that was a very special day.

What barriers have you had to overcome?

The main challenge I faced was the fact that I had to charge for the beginner's course and the subsequent running groups I offered. I needed an income myself, but I also found that by charging people there was more accountability in them turning up because they had financially invested in themselves.

Our members didn't complain but I found it challenging in the early days to the amount of criticism I faced on social media, other local running clubs were not supportive. We've been threatened on social media by a man who said he would "play sniper, find his shotgun and shoot us" as well as the usual comments/remarks from the wider general public about if we talked less, we could run faster to name just one of the many comments. We just keep going, we keep showing up and we keep running.

What are your plans  moving forwards? 

The beginner's courses have dropped in numbers since COVID so I have adapted the course by reducing the cost, making the groups smaller and more intimate with no pressure at the end of the 8 weeks to run 5km.

We used to finish the course off with a parkrun, but I found that this was too stressful for the runners because as parkrun grew in popularity, they became busier with a feel of competitiveness that didn't sit comfortably with my target audience.

They did not like being last, even with the tail walker, it just felt too pressurised. The end of the 8-week course now is very low key with the option to continue with a beginner's plus course so that they can build on their motivation, confidence and everything that has been successful over the 8 week course.

Women running


Top Tip for other organisations

Being active is sometimes not about sport, it isn't about winning, or being the best or being "fit enough" or the right body shape to start, it's about understanding that yes we know what we should all be doing, but if we haven't got the skills to break down our own barriers than getting out there and enjoying the benefits of being active is never going to happen.

Teaching/coaching skills to get out of the front door is the most important aspect of engaging someone, start small, in fact, start tiny, we used to have a pre-beginner's running course which was very popular before COVID, sometimes changing the wording of your group or course can make a big difference to whether an individual turns up or not.

Encouraging, supporting, listening, adapting and being flexible is all part of building relationships that last, not just with the coach but the relationship with being physically active. Teaching physical literacy and talking about being active for the rest of your life is, in my opinion, a fundamental aspect of breaking down these barriers.

Inspirational female role models that also share the s**t that are relatable play a vital role in encouraging people that they are never too old to start that it's not time to give up and sit in the chair by the fireside like my nan did when she was 55.

How does RunVerity embody the Safe action area

My whole ethos of RunVerity was to create a safe place for women to run, this was my driving factor. I didn't want women to feel that they were inadequate, worthless or not good enough, especially if they had plucked up the courage to join a running club to then watch the group of runners disappear into the distance whilst they struggled to keep up.

Having a group of runners wait for you to catch up to then start running again as soon as you get near them was not my idea of fun. I wanted to create a group that included everyone, of all abilities and I wanted us to be able to run together off road, on the pavements, in the park, in races that were deemed "unachievable" and mainly in the dark, when the streets were deserted and when we'd been warned as young girls not to go out in when the sun went down.

I want female runners to be seen as the norm not the minority and not to be frightened to show up. And that when they show up they will be safe to thrive and be the best that they can be, and if they are having a bad day/week/month then that's ok as well, they will be looked after and will feel safe.

Find out more