Find out how Hartlepool is inspiring a new generation of keep-fit fans

Matthew shows how it should be done.
Matthew shows how it should be done.

Britain’s golden Olympics have inspired people to get into shape.

And with the inspirational Great North Run also on the way, the momentum for fitness is showing no signs of easing up.

Cath Burgon tries out a warm-up exercise under Matthew's watchful eye.

Cath Burgon tries out a warm-up exercise under Matthew's watchful eye.

A Hartlepool programme is helping people to take those first important steps to a better lifestyle and there’s opportunities for even more people to get involved.

A project called Begin To Run is being held at three venues across town.

It is the perfect starting point for people who have not exercised for years - or for those who want to get back into running after a period away.

It is spearheaded by Kay Stokes and Matthew Stoddart, from Hartlepool Borough Council. Kay explained: “A lot of people who take part are people who used to run but they’re not keen on going to gym classes.

People are always nervous when they first come along but we always cater to the needs of the individual.

Kay Stokes

“We ask them what their aim is. People are always nervous when they first come along but we always cater to the needs of the individual.”

Matthew said: “Some want to complete an event like the Colour Run and others have mentioned that they had been watching the Olympics.”

Sessions are held in blocks of ten. At the start, people are eased into the programme and each class always starts with some warm-up exercises.

After that, a typical activity for beginners might be 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of walking, and then repeated - with the length of the runs increased as the weeks progress.

Picturesque Ward Jackson Park provides the backdrop for Begin To Run.

Picturesque Ward Jackson Park provides the backdrop for Begin To Run.

By week four, one group found they could manage three-minute runs at a time.

And the runners were progressing so well, they were tackling Indian runs where each runner takes their turn to lead from the front.

The ages of those taking part can range from 17 to people in their 60s.

One of those enjoying better fitness was Cath Burgon, 54, who said she signed up to “keep fit.”

Cath Burgon, right, gets ready for a Begin To Run session with Kay Stokes and Matthew Stoddart.

Cath Burgon, right, gets ready for a Begin To Run session with Kay Stokes and Matthew Stoddart.

Cath temporarily gave up running after a knee injury but she’s loving the Begin To Run sessions. “They are ten weeks, they are ideal and they are a bargain at £10.”

Her aim was to climb Ben Nevis. “If other people can do it, I can,” she said.

Anna-marie Newbegin, 38, signed up after spotting a report on Begin To Run in the Hartlepool Mail.

She has been attending since the start of the latest block course and said: “I am getting fitter every day and I can see it in my fitness levels.”

Once people complete the ten week Begin To Run sessions, they can opt to step up to the Aspire course. That’s for people who are enjoying a better level of fitness but don’t feel ready to join a running club.

The emphasis is always on fun and, while people are encouraged to wait for a new course to start before they join, new courses are always on the way.

Setting an example to the runners are Kay Stokes and Matthew Stoddart.

Setting an example to the runners are Kay Stokes and Matthew Stoddart.

Begin to Run currently has groups at Brierton, Burn Valley and Ward Jackson Park which run as follows;

l Brierton Leisure Centre from 12.10pm each Tuesday. Meet in reception.

l Burn Valley at 12.10pm each Wednesday. Meet at the Stockton Road end.

l Ward Jackson Park from 5.30pm on Thursday. Meet by the cafe.

The cost of taking part is £10 for ten weeks.

For more information, email kay.stokes@hartlepool.gov.uk or call (01429) 284045.

Matthew Stoddart and Kay Stokes who lead the Begin To Run sessions.

Matthew Stoddart and Kay Stokes who lead the Begin To Run sessions.

Mo Farah about to win the Great North Run 2015

Mo Farah about to win the Great North Run 2015

The Great North Run which is inspiring people to get fit.

The Great North Run which is inspiring people to get fit.