Updated: Apr 18
Over the past 13 years of Jog Derbyshire, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know lots of jog leaders. We’ve seen not only how they support their jog groups but what the groups give them back in return.
Earlier this month we celebrated Volunteer’s Week and thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with long standing jog leader Helen Purdy. She’s been part of the Jog Derbyshire network since the beginning with her Derby based group Pride Joggers (originally The Trotters).
After seeing an advert for jog leaders all those years ago, and having only recently started running herself, Helen decided to give it a go.
She explains: “It was January 2009 when I did the first Leadership in Running Fitness course. It was terrifying. Everyone else was a personal instructor or worked in a gym. And then there was me. I thought, I shouldn’t be here, what was I thinking. After the course it took me six months to pluck up the courage to actually start the group.”
Building up confidence
Despite the nerves, Helen gathered her sister, friends and friends of friends together and Pride Joggers was born. Keen to embrace the Jog Derbyshire ethos, she wanted to show that anybody could run with the right support.
Helen said: “I’ve always specialised in the people who are slow, the beginners. And I think that is what the Jog Derbyshire ethos is. It’s getting beginners into running.
“I still remember the first time I ran a mile non-stop. I thought, blimey if I can do it, anyone can. I still firmly believe that everyone’s got a 5k in them as long as you start slowly and you work up at your own pace.”
Creating a safe atmosphere
As Helen tells us about the groups it’s clear she’s created an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and safe.
She explains: “We have a good chat. My word, some of the subjects we cover during a run. We’ve covered the menopause, the best broadband to get. You name it, we’ve talked about it. That’s been one of the loveliest things about the group, over the years people have become good friends outside the group too. I love that, it’s not just about running, it’s bringing people together.
“I think the fact you’re side by side, so you’re not making eye contact really helps people to talk. You’ve got that bit of distraction and you’re in the open air so it feels safer I think. And that’s what I try and do, create that safe environment. People have told me things that I’d never repeat to anybody else. I’m there to support them, not to bring them down in any way.”
“So really our vibe is a bit daft, informal and just enjoy ourselves. It gives everyone a reason to put their trainers on at least once a week, get outside and meet friends.”
The benefits of volunteering
Over the years the group has adapted and changed through different periods and challenges. And whilst other groups might not have survived, it was the benefits she personally gets from the group which kept Helen going.
She said: “I just get so much satisfaction out of proving to people they can do it. Beginners who come along are really nervous and skeptical and worried. Saying ‘I’ll never be able to do this’ or ‘it’s just too scary’ and then there’s that moment they achieve their 5k and realise they can do it. It’s just amazing.
“I’ve got to be honest, I’ve been doing the group a long time and my running mojo hasn’t always been oozing out. It’s kept me going when probably I would have stopped running.
“There are people who run with us who then dropped off the radar for a bit but have come back. I think that’s quite a compliment that people feel they can come and go like that. If they felt awkward they wouldn’t do that. It’s really nice to see old faces pop up again, I love that.”
Gaining new skills
Supporting the group has also enabled Helen to further develop and gain new skills.
She said: “It’s helped my confidence. Even after 13 years I get nervous before run night. You know, will they come, will they enjoy it?
“I’m quite empathetic so working with the people who are struggling or who have less confidence, that’s made me realise that’s probably where my strength is.
“I’ve always been able to talk to different people but being in charge, being responsible for them has been really good.”
Being part of Jog Derbyshire
She’s also become an integral part of volunteering more widely across Jog Derbyshire, helping run Kedleston Hall Trails, setting up Derbyshire Dynamos and lobbying for things to support the groups like certificates. She even won a Derby Sport Award for her contributions to Kedleston along with fellow jog leader Julie.
Although there have been times when life’s threatened to get in the way, Helen’s been unable to let go.
“There are times when I’ve thought, I think I’ll stop doing this and I just can’t. The thought of not having that in my life, not having that group of friends, that activity, I can’t give up.
“Jog Derbyshire has done so much for me. It’s one of the best things in my life really. When you think about all the people across Derbyshire who’ve started running and found a love for it, or found friendship or improved their mental health. It’s fantastic and I’ve seen it grow so much over the years, I’m very proud to be part of it.”