Before starting Couch to 5K (C25K), Loraine Mosley was overweight, out of shape, and at times even struggled to lift herself out of the bath.
At risk of developing diabetes, the one-time couch potato seized the opportunity to get fit when a group of workmates challenged each other to do C25K together.
The programme, with its structured runs and training advice, got Loraine into the habit of regular exercise, and by the time she completed the challenge she was feeling a real buzz from running.
Following in the footsteps of many C25K graduates, she tried her local parkrun, initially just to stay active, but she soon became addicted to the free weekly 5km timed runs.
One year and 31 parkruns later, Loraine, from West Sussex, had lost over 20kg (3.1 stone), dropped three dress sizes, and rolled back the years – all, she says, thanks to running.
How active were you before starting Couch to 5K?
I wasn't active at all – I was truly on the couch. Some days, the walk from the front door to the car on the driveway was probably the most activity I got.
I went skiing a couple of times a year, but as time went on, I was finding it increasingly difficult. My legs weren't strong enough to ski in anything other than perfect conditions, and I was starting to sit out a lot of runs.
What motivated you to do Couch to 5K?
I needed to lose weight – I was 95kg (15 stone) – and get fitter. We had a competition in the office, with a few of us starting C25K at the same time.
We set a penalty that the first one to drop out had to buy the others a bottle of drink each, but we all made it through the programme.
There was no free booze, but I got much healthier, so I think we all won in the end.
How did you find Couch to 5K?
I can't say I enjoyed all of the programme. There were times I hated it! After the first run, I had to lie down for half an hour. I couldn't believe how hard it was. Now, I'll go out for an hour's run and feel fine.
I'm never going to be speedy, but that's not important to me. C25K has helped me enjoy exercise. Feeling my heart beat faster … I enjoy the feeling. I get a buzz from running that I've never known before.
How has Couch to 5K changed you?
C25K has changed me enormously. I had impaired glucose tolerance and was on the way to type 2 diabetes. I'd grown so large that I'd started to struggle getting out of the bath.
I couldn't hold a conversation and walk for any distance, and I needed time to get my breath back after walking up stairs. In terms of clothes, I had gone up to a size 20 – and I looked old!
Now my glucose levels are normal, I've had to buy a new wardrobe – I've lost over 20kg and my jeans are now a size 14. I have so much more energy, look years younger, and am much less stressed.
I've completed a couple of 10km runs and signed up for my first half marathon. I can run up stairs while having a conversation and think nothing of it. I don't worry about getting into and out of the bath – I just enjoy life so much more.
When was your first parkrun?
There was lots of talk about parkrun on the C25K community on the HealthUnlocked website. It seemed like a natural progression for many C25K graduates. I didn't go to my first parkrun until I'd finished C25K.
The first one I did was in August 2013. A friend and I'd agreed we'd try to run one a month to keep up our running after C25K. Somehow that turned into one a week. Parkrun is addictive!
Has parkrun improved your running?
Yes, my times have improved. My first time was 41 minutes and 45 seconds; my personal best is 33:55, but I know I can do better. My target now is to get to the magic 30!
Who do you tend to run with?
I generally meet friends there, but I tend to run around alone. We'll have a chat before and after our runs, but we each run at our own pace. I've actually managed to get my husband along once, although he walked part of the route!
Have you made new friends doing parkrun?
I've made new friends through joining the runs. There's definitely a parkrun community. I'd have no qualms at all going along to a new parkrun if I were away from home on a Saturday morning.
How does parkrun keep you motivated?
It's fun! The fact it's timed gives you something to aim for. At Tilgate, where I do parkruns, we don't always take it too seriously: we regularly run in fancy dress!
There are always people to encourage you. I love the marshals, who are all volunteers.
Seeing people much older and much younger giving it a go takes away my excuses about short legs or being old, and the variety of shapes and sizes means I've never felt embarrassed about running.
What do you like about parkrun?
I love the atmosphere and the positive encouragement for everyone, not just the front runners; I love the fact I can't kid myself about the time. It also helps that Tilgate is a great venue – it's beautiful.
I also love that now I can do it, whereas for years I wouldn't have had a hope of running that far.