A Birmingham dad has given a whole new meaning to the school run – by signing up for the Great Birmingham 10K to raise funds for his children's primary school.
Simon Gardner decided to go the extra mile after Chad Vale Primary in Harborne asked for help.
He set up a running group, invited fellow mums and dads to join and persuaded 15 of them to sign up for the Great Birmingham 10K.
Last year they generated £2,500 through the event, which helped the school create a sensory garden.
Now the Chad Vale Runners have their sights on helping the school raise another £2,500 by running this year's 10K on Sunday May 31.
”We're hoping we will have a big turnout this year,” the kitchen manager from Harborne explains.
“We have a few more members now and many of us have already signed up.”
Simon says he's looking forward to this year's new route, which takes in city centre landmarks including the Mailbox, Grand Central and the Jewellery Quarter.
The run starts near the Hippodrome and there will be a grandstand finish near Victoria Square and Colmore Row in the city's Business District.
“The new route looks great. It goes through some fantastic areas and is really different to before,” says Simon.
Chad Vale Primary school's PPTA will use any money the parents raise to replace an old slide which was removed when the site was extended several years ago.
Simon, who has two children, Grace 10 and Jemima 7, at Chad Vale and a four-year-old son, Noah, who is due to start later this year, says: “With austerity and the cuts to budgets my kids' school, like many others, has suffered.
“Teaching assistants have been lost, so the money the PPTA raises makes a big difference.
“The old slide, which was in the Foundation stage playground, hasn't been replaced since I've been taking my children to the school and the area's looking a bit tired.
“Any money we can raise helps improve things for the children.”
The 39-year-old, who's run every Great Birmingham 10k since 2015 and completed the Birmingham International Marathon in 2017, says he never imagined taking up running would help his children's education.
“I only started my own little journey in February 2015,“ he recalls.
“I wanted to improve my health and lose weight and my step-dad, who's a keen runner, encouraged me to join him.”
Simon, who is married to Dawn, entered his first Great Birmingham 10K the same year and has never looked back.
“I lost nearly 4.5 stones after I started running regularly and was the slimmest and fittest I've been since I was at school.
“Now I'm not too focused on my weight anymore. It's about how it makes me feel.
“Running is a chance to clear my mind – it's therapy really.”
The Chad Vale Runners now has around 25 members who meet up at the primary school to train on Tuesday evenings.
Setting up a running club and entering the 10k has led to new friendships and fitness levels.
“Most of us are parents at the school, although anyone's welcome to come along,” says Simon.
“There are people of all different ages and abilities from serious runners to people who just want to get fit and healthy. It doesn't matter what stage you're at, we'll run or walk with you.
“It's nice to see people become regular runners, improve their times and distances and make new friends.
“Last year we ran a 12-week training course to help people who'd only run 5k to get up to 10k in the run up to the event and we all managed to get round in under an hour.
“We will all have our Chad Vale T-shirts on for the run, which we've had specially printed and it should be a great day.
“After last year's event we met up with our families in Harborne and had a few drinks to celebrate.”
So what advice would Simon have for anyone starting out?
“Look for a local running group to join. Don't worry about what stage you're at. Someone else will always be on the same journey as you and the running community is like one big friendly family.
“I joined Bournville Harriers and I use the skills they taught me on club nights to help our runners.
“Some of the parents from school also take their children to the Junior Parkrun events.
“It's a good way to give you a sense of what a ‘real' event is like because it's organised and there can be hundreds of other runners.
“I never thought I'd be able to do anything like this when I started. I never imagined setting up a running group.
“But once it started we began thinking why don't we try and raise a little bit of money for the school too? Running the Great Birmingham 10k together is a great way to do that.”
To enter the Great Birmingham 10K click here
You can donate to Chad Vale Primary School's fundraising efforts at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/chadvale