Whilst blogging about women’s running groups in Jersey I was directed to Jersey Girls Can, a free, non-competitive group that looks to support and encourage others in meeting individual running goals. After witnessing their interaction on social media and meeting the group in the flesh, it became clear that this was so much more than just a running group. It was the success story of a girl whose life was dramatically changed through running and how she’s now looking to pass that torch onto others.
Laura Storey knows a lot about running that most experienced runners don’t. She knows the anxiety that comes with being uncomfortable in your body and facing the thought of exercise, the sense of exposure when you join any running club and the feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness from always being at the back of any run (or worse still deciding not to turn up at all). She also knows what it’s like to give up. Just over a year ago Laura was at her lowest, feeling overweight and unhealthy in most aspects of her life. Her work social life was more conducive with a night at the pub than with any form of sporting activity, so a change in roles provided the perfect clean slate to make the necessary changes.
Laura joined a local running club and with grit and determination found the mind-set needed to adopt a different attitude towards exercise. Within the space of nine months she shed a staggering 4 ½ stone and revolutionised her fitness and exercise regime. She became so passionate about running and its positive effects that she took her qualification to become a running coach in the hope of inspiring change in others. Her experience makes her perfectly placed as a coach, others relating to her story and finding her approachable and understanding. Sensing the need and demand to create a female only running club, Laura took the leap in June with the help of Kylie Hatter and established Jersey Girls Can, specifically aimed at introducing women to running in a friendly, supportive and social environment.
The group hold a variety of sessions including the Couch to 5k programme, participation at Parkrun meets and intervals sessions during lunch hours. As well as devoting her regular mornings and lunchtimes to the group Laura has lent her one-on-one support whenever her members need it. “It’s vital to give that extra encouragement when I sense people are losing hope. I know what it is like to quit and I’ll do whatever I can to help push ladies through that barrier”. With little more than word of mouth and personal recommendations the group now boasts over 230 followers.
Her enormous success over the past four months is testament to how necessary such a group was in Jersey. She has seen women unable to run more than 200 metres go on and complete 10K races and watched the group evolve into a community of friends and exercise buddies. For most it’s not just about running, but about the process of making changes in your life and the feeling of self-reward that follows. Whether that is through losing weight, forging new relationships or believing you can achieve a life-long goal that may be completely unrelated to exercise. “Success is a powerful drug that can change your life and how you view the world”, Laura explains.
What the group has given Laura and vice versa, has been an unexpected surprise. She has lit a fire in a lot of women who had given up on running and bettering themselves and created a network that offers praise and encouragement no matter how small the achievement. She ensures that her members are on track to reach their goals and that they strive to push themselves. “Running is one discipline that can adjust people’s attitudes to what they can do in their life. Getting them used to setting goals and believing that they can achieve these together.” The group’s Facebook page is littered with bright and sweaty selfies of women with gleaming smiles and this feeling of positivity is evident at their regular sessions.
It has been an emotional six months for Laura, who regularly finds herself welling up at the success of the group and its members. “You can actually see that light bulb moment in the ladies, when it stops being a chore and becomes a life choice and that feeling is contagious”, she gushes. Laura’s problems are now the ones we would all like to have; maintaining a healthy balance and trying not to ever overdo the exercise, continuing to manage her runaway success as a coach at Jersey Girls Can and looking for that next goal in her life!