Find out how Kayla took up running at 40 and encouraged hundreds of other women to do the same.
Before I turned 40, I had never engaged in any kind of exercise. I was overweight, suffering with sciatica and desperate for some pain relief.
My good friend Leyla, an exceptional runner had always inspired me with her incredible medal collection. Having seen her dedication to running while also having three children and a job, I started to think about doing something I thought I never would. I had a back injury, and when Googling how to relieve the pain I came across the NHS 'Couch to 5K' programme. I was entirely sceptical, but downloaded the app, found my only pair of never worn £6 supermarket trainers and set off one evening in June.
I must have looked ridiculous. I hadn't got headphones, so I tried to listen to the instructions on loudspeaker as I did the 5-minute walking warm up. So far so good, walking I can manage. Then it was time for my first ever 60 second run. I've never run any distance before so had no idea how it would go, and probably went at it a bit fast as I huffed and puffed my way to a very red-faced 60th second. Then there was a 90 second walk. I hadn't died, heartrate started to come down, and I planned not to try to go quite as fast for the next 60 seconds. And it wasn't too bad! By halfway I started to actually enjoy the fact that had managed to run a full two minutes, and as the session finished the app congratulated me on running a full eight minutes in total. Amazing!
Over the next few weeks, I familiarised myself with the social running app Strava, which records and uploads your runs so you can see what time and pace you ran - which was a massive boost for my motivation as all of a sudden, I became interested in trying to beat my last run's pace. This turned out to be the biggest element of my running motivation, as it gave me a sense of progress and achievement. The Couch to 5K app recommends running three times a week, which I found very difficult with having children, but my resolution was to make the time for a positive change, so I did.
Fast forward a few weeks and I entered a Race for Life 5K, delighted to have finished despite having to walk a few sections and feeling entirely unfit! Over the coming months I continued running 3/4 times a week and was pleased to see my pace steadily begin to increase.
My New Year's Resolution was to share what I had discovered, so I created Mother Runners Barnsley to encourage other mums to make their first steps into running. If I can do it, so can you!
When the group launched in January 2020, I couldn’t believe how many ladies signed up - we had a huge waiting list and it still to this day is in the double figures. Our first cohort of Couch to 5K were almost at the end of the course when the pandemic hit, and I thought that spelled the end of Mother Runners. Incredibly, it took us from strength to strength as we moved our sessions online and supported one another through a private Facebook group while we had to remain apart.
The group is an incredible mix of all ages and abilities, with our ethos of 'everyone crosses the same finish line, no matter how long it takes' at the core. Our non-competitive spirit sets us apart from other athletics groups, allowing all our ladies to feel equally able to take part in the activity.
I couldn’t be prouder of this wonderful group of supportive and strong women, many of whom have moved from 5K all the way to half marathon, with a few tackling the full thing this year!
Mother Runners is all about inclusion. We don’t care what age, weight, dress size or ability you are, you are welcome. Our group is a fantastic support both mentally and physically, encouraging each other to get out and get active.