This Mum Runs

This Mum Runs

In November 2015, working mother of two, Mel Bound, put a plea on Facebook for a running buddy – 75 mums turned up. The following week, hundreds more arrived and This Mums Runs was born. Now recognised by Facebook as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Communities in the World, this multi-award winning community offers free running sessions to empower mums to be healthier and happier. SL talks to Mel about her inspiring story, about switching her career in her 40s and why she's on a mission to transform how women feel about exercise, especially those who hated PE at school….
Photography: Alice Hendy

Being active is an important part of my life
Running and sport have meant the world to me since I was very young and took up sport to deal with chronic asthma. However, post babies I had to discover a new relationship with sport, and with my body. I feel lucky This Mum Runs is not just a passion project but a career, so I can incorporate being active into every part of my life.

This Mum Runs was a happy accident
I was a busy working mother with two young children who was seriously out of shape and feeling isolated. Following surgery for a back injury, my rehab trainer suggested I found another mum who also hadn’t exercised for a while. So one dark cold November night in 2015, I posted in a mum’s groups on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to join me for a run. On the first night 75 women turned up. The week after, hundreds more mums arrived. My post had struck a chord.

Six million UK mums struggle to make time for exercise
The main message of This Mum Runs is that exercise doesn’t have to be serious, about results, entering races or any kind of target. It can simply be about getting a bit of time to yourself every week, making new friends and feeling healthier.

In fact 60% of our community have never exercised before
A turning point for This Mum Runs came early on when a woman posted she’d love to join our running community, but couldn’t run for a bus. So many women said they felt the same way, I offered to coach a group of 15, from not being able to run at all to managing 5k.

Sport at school have put many women off
As well as helping mums back into exercise who have already done some before, or those who regularly exercise but want to join a community, I want to help those who have spent their whole adult life being inactive. The sheer number of women who hated P.E. and have never seen themselves as sporty, who now run regularly, is astonishing.  I built This Mums Runs around them.

This is the golden key for women who think they can’t exercise
When it comes to running, my philosophy is if you run to how you feel –because of how it makes you feel – then running is for anyone. This is a pressure-free approach that provides the golden key to regular exercise for women who think they can't.

Women empowering women
A team of 300 volunteers, called Run Angels, have been trained to lead our free social runs every week, all planned at family-friendly times. This gives thousands of mums the time, space and support to feel happier and healthier through running. The volunteers take care of warm ups and pre-plan routes so all you need, apart from your trainers, is to turn up.

Your time, your space, your pace
We want to create worldwide community of mums who are making time for themselves through running. As well as our free runs, we have a growing programme of coaching and courses led by Run Makers, our specially-trained coaches. Our runs are planned around time – not distance – so you choose between 30, 45 or 60 minutes. They are for all abilities, pace is not important and we use a looping system to make sure that no one gets left behind.

Running is not just for the body
Every day we receive multiple messages from mums about how running has changed their life. Our recent campaign for Maternal Mental Health Week shared stories of women who had found This Mum Runs instrumental in their journey towards mental wellbeing, such as the mum overcoming a postnatal bereavement. Each story gave us a huge insight into the capacity of running to enable women to open themselves up to recovery.

My ‘pinch me moment’ took place in a field
Standing in a field, talking about sleepless nights and mum’s mental health with the future King of England, was definitely up there as a pinch me moment. Afterwards Prince William wrote to us to tell us how much he loves what This Mum Runs are doing to empower mums.

From inactivity to Half Ironman
Whenever I’m asked to prove how what we do works, I tell Claire’s story. Four years ago Claire was totally inactive. She wanted to be a better role model to her two girls and started running with us every week. I remember her repeatedly worrying she would hold us back. She is now one of most dedicated volunteers and earlier this month completed a Half Iron Man - 1.9k swim, 90k bike and 21k run.

Created by a career crossroads
Before This Mum Runs, I’d spent 18 years working in marketing and events, most years travelling 80,000 miles. After having kids, it was a familiar story of feeling torn between work and family, I was being paid part-time but working full-time hours. Then my job was put at risk of redundancy. Although I’d fallen in love with the work I was doing with This Mum Runs, I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to take the leap and make it my job.

I put my career switch to the vote
So I put the decision about whether to follow my dream or stick to corporate life to the This Mum Runs community. I posted two photos on Facebook of me wearing different footwear, simply asking ‘Trainers or Heels?’ The response was overwhelming. Thousands of messages replied ‘Trainers!’ Strangers stopped me in the street to say ‘Trainers’. Someone at a service station on the M4 even shouted ‘Trainers!’ as I filled up with fuel. So when I was offered voluntary redundancy, I took the leap.

You need passion and tenacity to change career
I was in my early 40s when I changed career. Yes, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done but I don’t regret it for one single second. This is my dream job and I want to do it until the day I die. My advice is, if you’re armed with the facts and you have the passion and tenacity to go through with it - go for it.

Resilience is a requisite
Nothing just comes to you when you run your own business, and things won’t always go your way. You need to be passionate, able to make quick, informed decisions and most of all, be really resilient.

I’m still figuring this out
My work life and personal life are so intertwined I find it hard to separate them out. Running is my job and my hobby. Knowing when to switch off is a key challenge of working for myself, as you run the risk of just working all the time. If I’m honest, that’s something I’m still figuring out.

This is what I learnt the hard way
When you're tired – rest. It takes practise, but it’s a lifeline and stops me from burning out. I might take ten minutes for a cup of tea, have a short sleep mid- afternoon or treat myself to a lovely bubble bath. I always feel better for it and more able to cope with the stresses of work and life. We all have a limited capacity and when we push ourselves too hard, we'll break. I've learnt this the hard way.

We are not just a running club
We are a global force for good, who want to empower ourselves and champion each other to live healthier, happier lives. We work hard to be responsible for, and kind to, our minds and our bodies.

This runner’s revolution is open to everyone
We are all shapes, and all sizes from 6 to 20. We are 25 and we are 65. We are fast, we are slow, we love the chat and we love the peace.

Your gut is always right
My business philosophy is to follow your gut. The few times I have ignored my instincts over the past four years, I've got things wrong! Listen and your gut will tell you what to do.

This was my lightbulb moment
I was telling a mentor how hard I found the challenges of a fast-growing business and how I often felt out of my depth. She said "It feels hard, because it is hard". This was a lightbulb moment for me – I'd thought I was failing in some way. Building a business is a roller coaster and not for the faint hearted, but I often think of her words and they really help.

When the going gets tough, this is my salvation
Running somewhere peaceful, in the woods or by the coast, is always my salvation. That, and having a cuddle with my kids always helps to put things into perspective.


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