The benefits of generally being active and eating a healthy diet are widely known and it's never too late to make changes.

Paula Dunwell is a perfect example of this, taking on the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run having overhauled her lifestyle and lost a staggering 11 stone in the process.

Paula, a Community in Reach Nurse, remembers embarking unsuccessfully on her first diet as a very young child and by the time she was married had no incentive to lose the weight as her husband loved her just as she was.

Tragedy struck in 2013 when her husband lost his battle with cancer and Paula spent the next few years struggling to cope with complex grief syndrome, but it wasn't until her late 40's that the reality of her situation kicked in, while on holiday with her new partner. After three days of walking that included lots of coastal paths and rock climbing, Paula realised she physically couldn't carry on.

Determined not to let him down again the holiday was re-booked for the following year and in February 2017 at the age of 49 the hard work began, starting with walks along by the canals near her home in Stourbridge before one day plucking up the courage to visit her local gym despite being terrified people would stare or make comments.

It was here that Paula met Tom Kenworthy who became her personal trainer, tailoring her training plan with walking and strength conditioning to allow her to tackle those coastal paths with ease.

Training for 2-3 hours, five days a week and re-assessing her cooking and eating habits, the weight started to drop off and with her determination increasing Paula says: “I entered my first 10k aged 50, planning to walk the course having told Tom he was ‘never going to get me to run', which has become our stock phrase.

“He surprised me one day at the gym, getting me to run on the treadmill which I found so hard. But in the end, between walking and running I completed that 10k in 1 hour 41 minutes. I now enjoy running and afterwards I feel accomplished.”

Now two years on Paula definitely has the running bug, regularly entering events and even arranging her holidays so she is able to keep up with her training. This year alone, to ensure she keeps her weight in check, she has challenged herself to five half marathons while fundraising for the British Heart Foundation.

Paula fits her training runs around work, preferring to run alone and listen to music, saying: “Running has helped me mentally following my husband's death. It gives me time to think through issues but mainly helps me to stay focused, to relax and keep my stress levels down.

“It has not been easy losing weight, but it has been even harder to maintain especially as I have been injured. But I would say to anyone who wants to lose weight to bite the bullet and go for a run. I am very proud of what I have achieved and plan to keep increasing my distance and continue challenging myself even at the age of 52.”

To donate to Paula's fundraising appeal for the British Heart Foundation visit justgiving.com/fundraising/paula-dunwell4 

To enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run click here    

Anyone who entered the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k in May will automatically receive £10 discount off the half marathon entry fee, when using the same log in details.