A RUNNER will take on this month's Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run nearly six stones lighter – after being compelled to lose weight after she saw her official race photographs.
Michelle Bebbington completed last year's 10k in a time of 1 hour and 55 minutes by walking around the city centre course and, following the publication of the photographs made available to all runners, the mum from Hartford, in Northwich, was not impressed with what she saw.
Michelle, 44, followed a strict high-protein shake-based regime and lost 5st in the space of five months immediately after last year's event, and lost a further stone since she started running again.
And 12 months on from her wake-up call, Michelle – who is Head of HR Services at the University of Manchester – will be lining up on Sunday, 28 May with the aim of halving her finish time from 2016.
Michelle, who will be taking on her third Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, said: “My aim is to significantly improve.
“Last year's event was the straw that broke the camel's back.
“I saw my post race picture and I just thought ‘what are you doing'. So that just sorted me out to get some weight off with the intention that I'd improve my time next year.
“The first time I ran it I made it around in 1.35, and that was with a bit of training but at a similar weight.
“I set myself a target that once I lost 3st, I should be looking to get back running and start training again. That helped with the weightloss and generally feeling good about myself. Then, at the end of the year, I'd hit my weight target and I had completed a 10k run.
“I was quite surprised how nervous I was the first time I ran – in Manchester that was my first proper race. It was a nervous experience especially with body image issues.”
Michelle has set herself the target of running ten 10ks in 2017 alongside some fun runs, and has inspired the rest of her family to take part too. Husband John, already a seasoned runner, will also be taking part in Manchester's Greatest Run, while Harry, six, has started taking part in junior fun runs around the region.
Michelle added: “We have been doing little things to encourage us all. It has been a massive change for the family. It has impacted on Harry and my husband, who is a runner anyway.
“My husband always tried to get me running and I had said that I wasn't built for it, but I am all right now.
“They love it. It has been a whole lifestyle change for the three of us. It's not obsessive, we both work full-time so I'm often bringing my kit into work just to keep going – we're trying to do three runs a week, one of which has to be a 10k.
“It has inspired my husband, but when I run 10k, he'll go out and do a run just to match it, and it's under an hour so I'm always cursing him.
“He does push me but I push him as well. Both John and Harry are really proud.
“We go to the events together, they cheer me on. We do the same with Harry when he's doing the junior runs.
“It has become a way of life for us all rather than coming in and sitting in front of the TV. We say ‘are we going for a run tonight' or ‘whose turn is it for a run', it's things like that, it has really changed how we are as a family now.”
Michelle will once more be part of the team running from the University of Manchester, with 2,200 staff and students forming the Purple Wave at the 10k.
With the aim of getting students active, Michelle is impressed with the support provided from the university.
She said: “It's amazing. The support we have from Sport Manchester, they do running clubs and training plans, and there are a number of running groups on campus to encourage people to get active and hit the targets for this year's Purple Wave.
“Last year, it was one of those where I was adamant I was going to turn up. I'd done no training but I had to do it, it was for charity. I was adamant I was going to walk it, I knew I couldn't have ran it.
“I was at the launch event last month with Greg Rutherford and the difference between me then and how I am now is amazing. I'm so glad I did it.”
To join Michelle on the start line, enter online at greatrun.org/manchester