Mile Shy Club: No one gets left behind

The Mile Shy Club, based in Manchester, are a beginner focused RunTogether group aiming to get people running for the first time. We recently caught up with Founder and CEO Jane Dennison to discuss how the group creates an inclusive running environment and their impact on the community.

Jane started running on her own 14 years ago to help save her from a mental health crisis, an experience which led her to set up her own running group to support others in difficult situations.

“Alongside CBT and medication, running was the one thing I found that I could do sustainably that helped me massively. It was this experience and understanding of a vulnerable community which propelled me to quit my day job at an international law firm seven years ago and do something that made a difference.”

From there the group has gone from strength to strength and continues to grow in the local area.

“We now have 15 clubs across three Manchester boroughs (with more on the way) and getting people who have never run – even exercised – before into running for the first time is what we’re about.”

“No one gets left behind”

Mile Shy Club group run collage

“We’re super proud of being a beginner focused club. Our motto since day one has been “no one gets left behind” and it’s written on the back of all our bright yellow Manchester bee t-shirts and vests!

“One thing I’m really proud of about our club is that we wait at the end of races and parkruns for our runners to come in. We cheer them home. There’s a bright big sea of yellow waiting at the finish line and it’s pretty emotional at times!”

Making a difference in the local community

Jane’s favourite thing about the Mile Shy Club is;

“100% the community. People are at the heart of everything we do.  And changing people’s lives for the better is super rewarding.”

As a result of this community focus, the club became a registered charity in 2017 to maximise their impact on the individuals joining the group and the wider local community. They identify the need in their local communities and setup projects to make a difference.

“We have a walking group that is funded by a local Muslim organisation (Voice of BME) and a new run club in the pipeline which is going to be launched in collaboration with another Muslim organisation. I present (a lot!) to local mental health groups and to Slimming World (who we work with).

“We also launched our first mental health support group recently supporting people in recovery from drugs and alcohol get into moving more as a way to find new coping strategies for addiction. 

Mile Shy Club group image

“We often do fundraisers, Most recently donating session fees to ‘Prevent Breast Cancer’ from two of our clubs. We hold an annual charity Santa Dash and each year we raise funds for local organisations, recently supporting Trafford Choices, 3 Dads Walking, and Papyrus.

“We regularly team up with local GP surgeries. In January 2020 before we went into lockdown, a local GP practice sent out a text message about our couch to 5k sessions and we had 170 people attend just one session! They got to 5k and had massively improved their lung health before Covid properly hit.”

BBC Couch to 5k showcasing the group’s impact

Recently, Mile Shy Club were featured in the BBC Couch to 5k advert to showcase the impact that the club is having on beginner runners and encouraging others from all backgrounds to try the Couch to 5k initiative. Jane, along with members of the club, had the opportunity to appear on BBC radio and TV.

“We were made up. I can’t tell you how exciting it has all been!

Jane Dennison on BBC Breakfast

“The launch day was amazing. One of my runners (Natasha) and I were on BBC Radio 5 Live. Then I went and spoke about Couch to 5k on the BBC Breakfast Sofa with Jo Whiley, Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt. My cousin who lives in Sunderland apparently nearly had a heart attack when he heard my voice in his living room!

“Then myself and 30 of our MileShy runners were interviewed again on live breakfast TV by Mike Bushell and we all did a run round the Quays with Jo Whiley.

“What really mattered to me that day, though, was that I invited a guy down called Owen who I have been working with on and off for the last few years. Owen has a learning disability and having him there meant he was representing the learning disability community as a runner on live TV during peak time. I just love that so much.”

Are you looking to get involved in running?

Find a group here

Photo credits: top image by Sonya Smith Photography

Read more stories from our running family