Women are finding their feet with running thanks to a confidence boosting campaign.
Running can be a solitary activity, and with a third of women receiving some form of harassment while jogging on their own, some women can be put off getting out of the starting blocks.
A poll by England Athletics also revealed that a large proportion of women feel anxious when running alone, with nearly half of those surveyed stating that this is due to personal safety concerns.
Of those who had experienced harassment, shouting and car horns beeped by passing motorists were the most common.
But RunTogether, a national programme from England Athletics to get more people jogging regularly, aims to erase this via its This Girl Can Run campaign.
Sam Mollaghan, RunTogether ambassador and face of the This Girl Can Run campaign, says: “I have heard so many stories from both men and women through my running communities, comments like, ‘Run Forest run’, ‘Can’t you go faster’, ‘Run back to my place?’ and countless observations about our fitness and physiques.
“Even my own daughter called me to say she had been heckled recently whilst out on a run, just around her local area.
“This experience made her think twice about what she wears whilst running.
“It’s not right, we should all be able to run in whatever makes us comfortable, without fear of judgement, and as her mum it’s upsetting that she should have to be subjected to these comments for another person’s moment of ignorance.
“It saddens me that runners, both men and women, are subject to these types of comments when they are just trying to do something to improve their health and happiness.
“We all have to start somewhere, and for the majority of us that’s not in the most confident, lycra-clad place. Before passing comment, why don’t you try join us instead?
“When I started running, I tried not to worry about what other people thought of me, but I completely empathise with how many runners feel anxious when running alone. You can’t let it stop you.
“I turned all negativity on its head when I did the ‘I jiggle, therefore I am’ This Girl Can Run campaign and the positive response I got from that just lifted me further, and made sure I didn’t stop.”
The RunTogether website provides instant access to a rapidly growing network of multiple local running groups in Lancashire.
These include Chorley Runners, Revolution Running and RunSmart Leyland, which offer fun, organised jogs/runs with other people, led by qualified group leaders.
The structured sessions, with warm ups and cool down help to reduce injury and cater for all running levels, whether participants are starting up or training for a marathon.
Lucy Parkinson, 31, of Coppull, is a regular member of Chorley Runners and fully supports This Girl Can Run.
The mother-of-two, who is also a dog walker, says: “I joined as a way to keep fit and never looked back.
“I have always run in a group as it is safer.
“As a larger runner, I felt self conscious on my own but with others I feel better as there is camaraderie and people cheering me on.
“Anyone can do it. I would say go and give it a go.
“Chorley Runners gets so many messages on Facebook from people who are nervous about running, saying they are too old, to big, unfit etc, but they should give it a try.
“You get plenty of support.”
Malcolm Alderton, of Chorley, began running two years ago after he joined Chorley Council’s Couch to 5K running scheme.
As he got friendly with a group of runners the 60-year-old helped to set up Chorley Runners and became associated with RunTogether.
He says: “I signed up to the Couch to 5K scheme and I got hooked.
“I then became a qualified running leader and was a volunteer for Chorley Council.
“I continued to run and there was about 70 or 80 of us and so we formed Chorley Runners and affiliated with RunTogether.
“RunTogether’s aim is to break down barriers and get more and more people out running.
“People say they want to get fit but don’t feel comfortable running on their own.
“In terms of the This Girl Can Run campaign, there is a concern about being out on your own in the dark.
“Occasionally a car will beep and it may genuinely be a friend but even as a male, it can make you wonder why they are beeping.
“If you are a female on your own, it can worry you even more.
“The campaign also gives a push to get women into running. It is about making it a habit and knowing there is a safe group to run with enables running to become a regular activity.”
• Visit http://www.runtogether.co.uk for more information and to find your local RunTogether group.
For suggestions of running clubs click here http://www.lep.co.uk/your-lancashire/preston/have-a-go-at-joining-a-running-club-1-8368573