Back in early August 2021, Wycombe Wanderers Sports & Education Trust (WWSET) teamed up with Paul Dineen from Run Right Coaching, and the team at Handy Cross Runners to launch ‘Stepping Stones: The Basics of Running’, an idea that came about through WWSET and HXR agreeing on a partnership deal for the highly successful ‘Hell Fire Half Marathon‘ which starts and finishes at Adams Park Stadium every year. More to follow on this when details are confirmed.
Stepping Stones started on the evening of Thursday 12th August with 12 initial participants, and was advertised as ‘More than a Running Club’ for the twelve weeks it was planned for. The perception of most traditional running clubs is that they simply guide runners through a course, oftentimes outpacing many of the participants, before a catch up at the end to post the results to Strava. This can be intimidating to people who want to get back into running or are starting out on their running journey, or simply lost the bug over lockdown and wanted to get back into it.
The abilities of each of the runners also varied. They ranged from people who wanted to join a running club but were intimidated by the more serious clubs, to people who had run on their own and were looking for the sociable element that the course provided. We were also joined by one seasoned marathon runner who had just moved to the area and joined us for the training to beat his PB, a retired former runner and rugby player, a Wycombe Wanderers season ticket holder, people who wanted to get into running to lose weight and everything in between.
Many experts consider exercise to be the closest thing to a miracle drug. As a form of cardio exercise that’s easily accessible, running is one of the most straightforward ways to get the important benefits of exercise. Since it improves aerobic fitness, running is a great way to help improve cardiovascular health. Plus, it burns calories and can build strength, among other things. There’s also a long list of psychological benefits runners gain from their sport. Getting used to running, if you haven’t done it in a while or ever, can be brutal. But once your body and mind start to acclimate, running can be blissful, meditative, and provide a sense of freedom.
What made the Stepping Stones course more unique was that we were able to offer the use of the Wycombe Wanderers Stadium, our home here at Adams Park, as the playground! Runners were encouraged to run up and the terrace steps ‘Rocky-style’ and run laps of the hallowed playing field.
The 90-minute Stepping Stones sessions guided our runners through an extensive warm-up routine which included activities such as the ‘Fire Hydrant’, ‘Donkey Kicks’, the whimsically named but very tough ‘Dead Bugs’ and ‘Russian Twists’. This was followed by running drills that were designed to encourage proper form whilst running. Your form is crucial in preventing injuries and thus enjoying your running in the long term. Drills were also specially designed for us by Run Right Coaching to improve flexibility, agility and core strength.
The final element of the sessions was a running activity, which varied from week to week. Whether it was explosive running with a parachute strapped to your back, or running up and down one of High Wycombe’s many hills, or even loops of the Sands Industrial Estate, there was certainly something for everyone to both love and hate over the course of the 12 weeks.
As the weeks ticked by and the group got to know each other, we were able to see friendships forming within the group and runners congratulating and encouraging each other with a real sense of delight for their buddies. After completion of the course, the Stepping Stones runners were offered a free one-month trial subscription to the Handy Cross Runners group – an offer that over half of the group accepted.
WWSET Head of Fundraising and Communications, Mark Fawkes, who headed up the group and participated in the sessions said, “The first Stepping Stones course was hard work, but great fun at the same time. Exercise is so important for our physical and mental health, and running is only really putting one foot in front of the other! We can all do it, and it was great to see so many people want to give it a shot and to see the progression made by all the runners. It was really rewarding to be able to offer a route back into running, in a relaxing and friendly atmosphere, but also to offer progression at the end of the course, breaking down that wall of intimidation that running groups sometimes carry with them.”
Wycombe Wanderers Sports & Education Trust would like to place on record our sincerest gratitude to Paul Dineen of Run Right Coaching for leading the sessions over the Stepping Stones course, and to Dave Meredith, Graham Arnott, Rickie Baron and John Houston of Handy Cross Runners for ably assisting with the delivery of the sessions.