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Inspiring runners demonstrate transformative power of running

Great Run 2024 series highlights inspirational stories from runners around the UK.

Inspiring runners demonstrate transformative power of running

Article Source: AJ Bell Great Scottish Run
Last Updated: 8 March 2024 10:38

At The Great Run Company, we believe in the power of running - our runners have shared their inspiration behind taking part in our AJ Bell Great Run series events, whether it be the 10k, half marathon, or 10mile – and it’s clear to see: everyone has a story and reason for running.

The Power of Running campaign brings to life inspirational stories that highlight the transformative impact running has on individuals and communities in Great Run locations across the UK. There are many reasons for running, but we’ll be particularly highlighting stories of mental health, community, fundraising, and physical fitness.

For Great Run series ambassador and elite athlete, Eilish McColgan, running has always been a part of her life, and the Great Run events have been a proud part of her journey. Eilish first took part in the Junior Great North Run over twenty years ago, to now – a Commonwealth champion preparing for her fourth Olympics this summer in Paris, with the UK and European 10K and 10-mile records under her belt from the Great Manchester Run 2022 and Great South Run 2021.

Eilish McColgan, Great Run series ambassador, said: “I know firsthand the transformative impact running can have on individuals and their communities.

“It has completely transformed my life – not only is my body physically stronger than ever before, but I’ve met so many amazing people along the way.

“Running has helped millions lead fitter, healthier lives, supported with untold levels of fundraising, fostered lifelong friendships, and allowed us to create positive change in our communities.

“Mass participation events, such as the Great Run Series, provide us with an important reminder that regardless of your age, ability, or whether you’re first or last, everyone is together on the same start line to be part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone has their own personal best, their own goals to strive towards, which for me truly demonstrates the Power of Running.”


Every runner has a story
At Great Run, we know the power running has to make a positive impact on our lives in ways big and small, and that's why we’re celebrating local people, groups and communities coming together to be part of something bigger than themselves. Every single person who crosses the finish line is an expression of positivity, local pride, and personal achievement.

Here are just a few inspiring stories from the tens of thousands of runners who line up across our start lines each year.

Helen Ryvar
Helen Ryvar, 43, of Wrexham, North Wales, is the Guinness World Record Holder for running the most consecutive half marathons, hitting 111 back in 2021 following the sudden death of her ex-husband.

But Helen hasn’t stopped there, she’s now trying to break her own record for running the most consecutive half marathons for a female, and as of 29 February 2024, Helen has run 670 consecutive half marathons, with the goal of 1,000 half marathons by January 25 2025. Helen will be running all the Great Run series half marathons this year – joining the AJ Bell: Great Birmingham Run, Great Bristol Run, Great Manchester Run, Great North Run, and Great Scottish Run.

Helen Ryvar said: “It’s a little ambitious, it’s not easy by any means. I’m a normal human, now a single parent to three teenage kids. I run my own cleaning business and work full time. I fit these runs in around all of this by running 4:15am - 6:30am weekdays.

“Running has saved me from self-destruction, I’ve built a community, and I’ve raised money for various charities important to me, including Mind, Cancer Research UK, and Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham.

“I have posted every single run to Facebook, Instagram, and Strava since Day 1, and I’ll continue to do so until I hit my 1,000 milestone, and I’d love to encourage people to get into running as it’s helped me so much.

“Taking part in the Great Run series events will help massively, with motivation, with community and being a part of something bigger, as well as encouraging others to join me. I can’t wait to join the other runners this May in Birmingham, Manchester, and Bristol.”

“The Power of Running has given me connection with my local community, and local run clubs. It’s even connected me with famous people. It’s helped keep me fit and healthy and able to do things I never thought possible in the past like run races, get PB’s and even run 50–75-mile ultra races. Running makes me feel great about myself, it helps keep me in a routine and fit and healthy.”


Andrew Porter
Andrew Porter, 47, has ran every Great Manchester 10k since it started in 2003. Furthermore, through his motivation to stay physically fit and active, for the past few years, Andrew not only completed the half marathon, but he also then circles back to join the 10k start line, running both distances in the same day.

Andrew, said: “31 years ago, I was an Apprentice Engineer, and we had an annual football match between two sides of the factory. After 10 minutes of said ‘game’ I could barely walk and couldn’t breathe. I simply couldn’t believe how unfit I was. I vowed never again. So, when it was getting round to the time of year to do the match again, I started running, here I am 30 years later!”

“I like to have a few races lined up across the year. I’ve done all kinds of races from 5K through to Ultramarathons and even 24hr runs. I sign up, and I know I then I must run and complete what I’ve signed up to do. I’m also at a point where if I don’t run/exercise, I feel unfit and worse than if I had gone out and just done a little jog. It’s habit and it’s incredibly addictive. I’ve always kept going with the Great Manchester 10K, and I don’t intend to stop either.”

“I think one part of the Power of Running is the mental health aspect. I recently ran in the hills for two hours covering just over a half marathon, I was wet through and covered head to toe in mud when I got back. It was a great two hours. Can I tell you what I looked at or where I went? Vaguely I can, but not in any detail. Why? I think I go into autopilot (bearing in mind my 30 years of running) and simply run and my mind just wanders. I liken it to sleep and dreaming. Dreaming is your brain defragmenting and ordering your experiences within your memory banks, when I’m running, I feel this is also what happens. Yes, you think about specific things or your route but also your brain is in defrag mode, CTRL/ALT/DELETE. End Task. Once I’ve run, come home, shower, I eat a mountain of food and sit down, and I can properly relax as I’ve dealt with all the day to day garbage in my head whilst running.”


Holly Tilt
Holly Tilt, 28, is running the Great Bristol Half Marathon and making her comeback one year after sustaining a serious head injury, all while continuing to manage the symptoms daily of post-concussion syndrome.

Like many others, Holly first took up running during lockdown, following the ‘Couch to 5k’ programme. It wasn’t long before she was hooked, soon progressing to 10k, half-marathon and marathon distances.

Running became a significant part of Holly’s life, so when doctors told her she’d have to stop running, the news came as a major blow to her.

That was in May 2023, soon after Holly sustained a serious head injury that continues to affect her daily life.

“When I first started running, I never imagined I’d become a ‘runner’ and how it would have such a huge impact on my life,” says Holly. “I could not have anticipated all the additional things that you learn from running aside from the physical benefits.

“Running has such power because it’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about structure and setting a goal. It’s about pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of, getting outside and doing something good for yourself, while looking after yourself mentally and physically. Running has the power to create real change in your life and sometimes you don’t realise it’s happening. It’s a joy for me and an anchor.”

“I'm a big believer and advocate for running for mental health, and exercise has been a huge part of my recovery. Bristol is my nearest city to my home and my university city - where I went to drama school to study for my career in the theatre industry which I can't go back to post injury. The Great Bristol Run is the weekend of the year anniversary of my injury and significant life change. Making my comeback after I thought I wouldn't be able to run at again; let alone run events – it’s magic.”


Halee Robinson
Halee Robinson, 21, is running the Great Birmingham Half Marathon.
Halee is a competitive netball player and fitness influencer who shares videos on Instagram to encourage women to stay active.

Halee said: “I am about three months into training and have another two to go so I hope to run some longer distances, reaching 15k plus over the next couple of months. The reason why I am running is also a motivator. I will be running for the Birmingham Children's Hospital charity. On my physiotherapy placements I have met many inspirational children and hospital staff that I would love to support by running for this charity.”

“The Power of Running to me is how it teaches discipline, routine and the strength of my body and mind. Anything is possible! Even on days where I don’t feel like going out in the dark or cold, I use positive self-talk and envision how I will feel after the run and that always gives me the spirit to get on a run! Discipline is a big takeaway and I think from starting to run at a young age I’ve always been able to apply discipline to any situation. This could be why I am still playing elite netball and being able to balance university, netball training, running training and netball coaching.”

“My motivation stems more from discipline. Although that satisfying feeling post run is incomparable and usually sets my day off to a good start as I am morning run lover. I also play netball competitively so knowing that following a progressive training plan will improve my overall fitness on a netball court is also a reason which encourages me to run.”

“I’ve also joined a run club that has started near me called BTND run club led by Jake Williamson. This has been super fun and chilled as I can do a low intensity run whilst meeting new people! My other hack to running is buying myself a new pair of trainers or nice bit of kit that you love because then I just get excited to get ready to go on the run which is half the battle!”


We want to hear your story
Every runner has their own reason for running - what’s yours? Tell us about your running story and what the Power of Running means to you, and you could feature in our campaign: greatrun.org/power-of-running/

Find your Great Run
The rise of the runner has been about so much more than just sport. Every person who puts on a pair of trainers and heads out of their front door instantly becomes a part of a global social movement - one that has facilitated untold levels of fundraising, fostered lifelong friendships, and helped millions lead fitter, healthier lives.

Mass participation events also provide an important reminder, that even in an increasingly divided society, people can come together and be part of something bigger than themselves. Each and every finish line is a joyful expression of positivity, local pride, and personal achievement.

Take your place on a start line near you: AJ Bell Great Run Series

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