A Hartlepool running group with a difference is celebrating after members took part in its first organised race.
Run Fit Hartlepool meets every Monday and Thursday at different places in Hartlepool with the simple aim of being a friendly social group that supports each other to stay fit through running.
Started by Andrew Lilley in 2015, the group completed its first organised race on Sunday, May 21, which saw more than 40 runners of all abilities completed a challenging 7km trail route through Crimdon Dene and the Hart to Haswell Walkway.
Andrew said: “The group has been asking for me to arrange a trail run for a little while now.
“We have people of all abilities entering races across the country and others who have never entered anything so this was an opportunity for those who have never entered a race to experience what is actually involved before, during and after an organised race in a supportive environment.
“The atmosphere was fantastic and although the race was a good challenge everybody finished, which was great.”
He added: “One of the best things about Run Fit is the camaraderie.
“We’ve got runners of all ages and abilities - from triathletes and long distance runners to absolute beginners.
“No matter where they finish, everyone stays to support each other until the last runner is home.
“There is a real team spirit.”
Athina Lester, who has been a member of Run Fit since the start, praised the inclusive approach of the group. She said: “I joined this group at 53 years of age as a complete beginner having never run before.
“Since joining I have completed many 5K races and have also completed the leadership in running fitness course which allows me to lead group runs under the guidance of Andrew as coach.
“I run as much as I can during our training sessions but I always need to take regular walk breaks.
“This is fine as the group always manages to stay together and that’s the great thing about Run Fit - we never leave anyone behind.
“This first organised trail run has been a huge success – I can’t wait for the next.”
Anybody who is looking at how to get into running, or wants to improve are invited to come along.
You can contact Andrew through Facebook by searching for Hartlepool Run Fit or email: firstname.lastname@example.org