Maintaining running motivation with Exmouth Belles

The Exmouth Running Belles

The Exmouth Running Belles - Credit: Archant

Staying active during lockdown

Staying active through lockdown has been achieved with a set of fun challenges for the Exmouth Running Belles.

Like everyone, the Belles have had their normal activities by the current restrictions but running is on the list of permitted exercise and the group leaders have been admirably creative in setting tasks for members.

The Exmouth Running Belles are an all-female group, who have been great supporters of the Park Run, raised thousands of pounds for local charities and even had six members complete the London Marathon.

“We are a small group and very supportive of each other,” said Clare Medlock, running leader with the Belles.

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“During the first lockdown, we set lots of challenges to keep everyone motivated. It was things like finding certain colours, letters or words during the run.

“One example was that they had to run and take a selfie with certain objects we had put on the group chat, stuff like a certain sign or a letterbox.

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“The latest challenge is to take a selfie next to 10 letterboxes and we also had one where the runners were given a bingo sheet, with the task to find their numbers on the run.

“We take our direction and guidance from England Athletics.”

The story of the Belles began a decade ago and it is a measure of their growth and popularity that one member briefly held a national record.

“The Belles have been running for around 10 years, starting off as the Women’s Running Network,” said Clare.

“We rebranded to the Belles in 2012 and we now have a group of 60 runners. The youngest is 18 and our oldest is 67.

“There are members running at club level and others who just enjoy a 5km run.

“We did have one Belle aged 60, Susan Hill, who ran the fastest marathon time in the country and she held that record for around a week.

“We work well with Exmouth Harriers and have Belles who are members of both.”

One great advantage for the Belles is the stunning natural environment we all enjoy in Exmouth.

Running in East Devon is never a chore when you have so much wonderful scenery, although some of the hills can hurt.

“We’ve got so much choice of different routes in Exmouth,” said Clare.

“During the summer, we can run through the fields and along the seafront.

“In the winter, we have so many roads and routes we can take, quite a few hills as well.

“We take the Belles on sprints up hills and the three leaders will take it in turns on planning routes, so the girls don’t know where we’re going each time, which gives us a freshness.

“We have a looping system, so no runner is left behind. The quicker runners at the front will loop back around to the slower runners.

“We meet on a Monday and Thursday evening for our runs, and we ensure the Belles join the group officially, so we can complete disclaimers and have everyone registered with England Athletics.

“The three leaders are all DBS checked and we’ve got our run leader qualifications.

“There is a first aider in the group, a safeguarding lead and a Covid lead to coordinate track and trace.

“We do things properly but still a social group.

“In the winter, we do a long run on the first meeting of each month and that will be nine miles.

“The weekly routes are roughly five or six miles and it usually takes us about an hour to complete.”

Current restrictions do sadly mean the Belles are unable to welcome new members at the moment but keep an eye on their website for any updates.

“We’ve had to keep things limited in lockdown and runners are divided into smaller groups for our weekly sessions,” added Clare.

“The focus is to keep running safely, while staying as a group.

“We look forward to being able to welcome new members in the future and we do ask for runners that can complete six miles in roughly an hour.

“There is a separate group in Exmouth for beginners called the Tri-Hards and they are aimed at getting people active. “We decided not to run beginner groups because there is already a resource in Exmouth for that. “The reason we run the Belles is for women to get away from the pressures of normal life and enjoy social exercise.”

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