Birmingham City Council today unveiled their new running strategy RUN Birmingham at Aston Hall Park; the programme will form the cornerstone of their vision to establish Birmingham as a city of activity for all.
Building on existing partnerships with Sport England, The Great Run Company and England Athletics, the City Council is aiming to combat high levels of inactivity and reduce health inequalities by inspiring 5,000 people that are currently inactive to start running and attracting a further 15,000 people who may already being doing some sporadic activity to participate regularly in running. The ultimate aim is to have 100,000 people inspired to start and then to stay in the habit of running.
With over 80% of residents not regularly physically active, RUN Birmingham’s purpose will be to provide accessible opportunities to enjoy running, jogging and walking across the city.
The programme will build on the Birmingham’s award winning Active Parks scheme and provide a joined up range of beginner running courses, social running networks, club activities and organised events, supported by a framework of online and community based help and advice, designed to support all abilities on their journey towards a fitter lifestyle.
This collaborative approach will involve multiple providers from the private and public sector coming together to engage local people in walking, jogging and running opportunities in Birmingham. It will target communities right across the city, using the parks as the local focus for couch to 5k training groups as an initial step towards more active lifestyles.
RUN Birmingham has been awarded £1.55m of lottery sports funding through Sport England over three years to stimulate the project, together with investment from Birmingham City Council.
Charles Johnston, Executive Director Facilities and Planning at Sport England said: "We are excited to be investing into the growth of running in Birmingham. Bringing a range of providers together in one place to stimulate interest in running enables us to test out a range of approaches to getting people active.
“We will be using some of the latest technology combined with our developing insight to get people involved from communities across the city. The development of the new 10k event annually provides an exciting goal for many to reach, whilst very local couch to 5km programmes provides great entry points into running no matter what level of activity you have previously undertaken.
“We are excited to be building on a great relationship with Birmingham City Council."
Citizens were encouraged to “get off the couch” at today’s launch and pledge to complete a run, walk or jogging goal. RUN Birmingham will offer clear pathways to encourage activity in the city that will combat inactivity and support the development of participants in their local community.
The programme will cater for a full range of needs and running requirements, utilising some of the amazing spaces in and around Birmingham’s Parks and Places.
Birmingham City Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said: "This exciting initiative underlines our determination to get more people across the city physically active. As someone who has recently taken up running, I know how hard those first few steps can be, but I also know the massive benefits.
"Running is free, you can do it anywhere and it can do wonders for your physical and mental health. There are lots of wonderful places to run in Birmingham, including our beautiful parks and the canal network.
"RUN Birmingham will cater for everyone, from the nervous novice through to more serious runners who want to participate in major events. I have no doubt this initiative will build on the success of the Morrisons Great Birmingham Run and the Great Birmingham 10k."
For non-runners and beginners, as well as being able to access the successful Active Parks programme, they will also be able to get running with the introduction of eighteen Great Run Local events across the region. Great Run Local offers free weekly runs, organised by volunteers to suit the needs of their own communities, with participants having the option to start with the 2km distance and progress to 5km. Great Run Local also provides participants with wearable technology that records their activity and time,
The Great Run Local concept and technology was demonstrated today at Aston Hall Park, this will be the first venue to host Great Run Local starting Wednesday 12th August at 9:00am, and at the same time each week moving forward.
This city wide strategy will also feature the new annual Morrisons Great Birmingham 10K which was first staged in May this year, with over six thousand runners taking part. The 10k distance was an ideal challenge for new regular runners, with many now continuing the journey and training to run or walk the half marathon distance at the Morrisons Great Birmingham Run on 18 October.
One group from Birmingham doing exactly that are the Saheli Women’s Group. Group Leader Naseem Akhtar explained, “We had runners complete the half marathon last year who had struggled to walk to the bus stop eight months earlier.
“Since then lots of women in our community have been inspired to give it a go and are taking part in weekly training sessions and building up to this year’s half marathon after completing the Morrisons Great Birmingham 10k.”
Chief Executive of The Great Run Company Mark Hollinshead said, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Birmingham on this journey towards becoming a more active and healthier city.
“We’re hoping all our offerings from Great Run Local through to the Morrisons Great Birmingham Run will give residents the opportunity to get active and stay active, as well as bringing communities together as they support the overall aims of RUN Birmingham.”
RUN Birmingham will also work with the city’s already popular Athletics Cubs to assist them in the development of an offering that provides social running opportunities for beginners and young people within the existing club structure.
Chris Jones, Chief Executive, England Athletics said, “ We are delighted to be working in partnership with Birmingham City Council, The Great Run Company and other national and local partners to help transform running in the city.
“We believe this innovative and collaborative mixed economy approach will not only benefit the people of Birmingham, but also provide a template for increasing the number of people running, which can be shared across the country.”
All of these activities in the parks and across the city will also be supported by an online resource providing support to the runners who register for any event or service online. This service will be linked to participant’s postcodes, and feed into a central behaviour database, which will eventually build a picture of the city’s running habits.
This will provide a real time representation of levels of activity, and allow a quick response and increase in support for those that are falling behind.