If you’re driving along Ely’s main streets, you’ve probably seen them. Men, women and teens of all ages, sprinting together whatever the weather in flourescent “Run Happy” vests.
Chances are they’re part of Get Your A:Run, a group set up by dancer turned running coach Arran Selhi in September.
The group has already accumulated 110 members and is going from strength to strength.
A semi-professional dancer, Arran had to give up a promising career in contemporary dance and ballet after tearing her back in two places and damaging her ankle ligaments during her last year at dance college. She began running for rehabilitation in 1998 – and hasn’t looked back.
“I have run injury free since then.”
Seventeen years later, with an England Athletics coaching license under her belt, Arran set up A:Run.
“I wanted to do something that I truly enjoyed and made a difference to other people. Running had always been my recovery, escape and my social too. I wanted to show others that running doesn’t have to be hard work, solitary or a drag.”
Arran’s 17 years of dance training give her the edge when teaching people how to run safely.
“Dancers need to make minute alterations to movements or poses to make huge differences to their performance and I wanted this eye for detail to translate to running form. I ensure groups aren’t too big so that each runner gets individual attention from me, so that I can help them build a mechanical understanding of their body and help them build confidence in knowing what’s working and how.”
Mostly meeting on Stour Green or at the Paradise playing field, the group tends to run four days and two evenings a week. There are no membership obligations in terms of sessions, so people can drop in whenever they’re able to attend.
“We are a team of everything from those just starting out at the walk/run level to marathon runners and triathletes.
“I have a fab 12-year-old girl who joins her mum at the Monday evening session. I have a mum and daughter team too who are more mature and are now keen Park Runners too.”
Arran, who juggles coaching with motherhood, says the simplicity of running makes it attractive.
“No kit set up or transport required; just me and the outdoors. I like the thinking time, the space and the peace of mind it brings.
“After many years as a dancer, I think my body enjoys the stamina and strength that it requires. Running makes you robust in more ways than just the physical.
“The running community is very supportive and I have made some great friends through the sport and find the community to be supportive and warm.”
Mother to Sophia, six, and Ollie, five, Arran says that competing in races appeals to the competitive part of human nature.
“Races are a way to set yourself a challenge, to meet other like minded runners and get that wonderful sense of joy and achievement from something so fundamentally human. We were built to run so let’s do it together! Many people do this to give back to the world through charity sponsorship and that is a very positive side to races.”
Once a month, the group participate in Park Run, a 5km race organised by volunteers at Milton Country Park.
As well as coaching groups of runners, Arran provides one to one sessions. One of her A:Run highlights so far was seeing one of these clients perform “superbly” at the 2016 London Marathon.
“But really there are trophies won at every session. I think what makes me smile most is seeing people out there now running, who said when they came to me last year ‘I can’t run Arran!’. Not just running, but enjoying their running too. It’s seeing the confidence growing in my team, that’s the best thing.”
One of Arran’s biggest success stories came when she was training as an England Athletics coach.
“I had a very trusting guinea pig who let me ‘work on her’ whilst I waited for my formal qualification to come through. She is my real success story as she built my self belief and helped me shape my approach to training with others. I’m very grateful to her for running miles and miles with me too.”
Many people may feel intimidated when they first start out – or may not want to come last in a group run. Arran advises either booking some one to one sessions to build up confidence and learn basic techniques or to find a friend of a similar ability to train with.
She also recommends the popular, free NHS fitness app, Couch to 5k, which trains absolute beginners to build up to 5km runs.
Arran says it’s rare that she has to psych herself up for running – regardless of what Mother Nature may throw at her.
“I genuinely wouldn’t want to be doing anything else! I am tired by the end of the week but very, very happy.”
A:Run groups meet on Stour Green with sessions taking place on Mondays at 9.30am (improvers), 8pm (beginners); Tuesdays at 9.30am to 2.30pm (one to one sessions by appointment); Wednesdays at 8pm (distance group run); and one to one sessions on Thursdays.
Group sessions cost £5 or £25 for six if used within two months. One to one sessions cost £7.50 per half hour.
For more information see http://www.a-run.co.uk/