Everyone seems to be aware of the benefits of running, but how to encourage them to act immediately? Gareth Hall may know the answer.
Usually, Gareth Hall runs in the evening for 20 minutes to a number of hours. That is the habit he has kept for over a decade, ever since he stopped playing rugby because of the injuries. Apart from a strong body, running also benefits his mental health. “It helps me clear my head, I can sort of just put my problems behind and go out for a run,” says Gareth Hall.
Since Gareth Hall sees the benefits himself, he began to try to promote running informally and latterly. He says, “I want to share what I had gained through running with other people.” Initially, he started his own triathlon club probably thirteen years ago. Then, the same passion motivates him to be keen on this campaign all the time and had finally empowered his decision of taking the job as the program manager of Run Wales, a Welsh Athletics program developed to provide running opportunities for everyone.
For many people, running is fraught with difficulties and loneliness. However, what Gareth Hall tries to do is helping people overcome their fear and find the fun of it. For him, Run Wales is a fantastic organization, which enables him to raise public’s awareness of running the program among hundreds and thousands of people instead of dealing with small groups of three to four people. To achieve that goal, managing publicity campaign in the online becomes a major duty of Gareth Hall.
The first step is delivering successful stories of the novice instead of the elite to convince ordinary people that they are capable of making that happen as well. For instance, the inspirational story about people who used to be completely non-runners managed to run marathons within eighteen months.
Once people are thinking and about running, Gareth Hall tries to provide the information that people need to understand what they should prepare to start running. Then, here comes the hardest part, where Gareth Hall needs to introduce the running groups to the potential runners, so people will really take action. From his perspective, running in groups is a good social tool to get more people to actually participate in running.
Since the running group Gareth Hall joins is a very big one, there are lots of people of different abilities. On one hand, as an expert himself, those who may rely on his advice a lot, which would give him a bit extra motivation to insist on running. Also, the atmosphere of the group makes Gareth Hall feel comfortable, he says, “it’s always nice when you see people do events together.” On the other hand, when it comes to the beginners, joining in groups means they can meet many people who know exactly how hard it can be to take the plunge because they have experienced the similar hardships themselves, therefore, they can be the most supportive person to help you succeed to some extent.
To expand the scale of running groups, Gareth Hall needs to find more run leaders, who can help train more people to start running. He explains, “we try our best to run the leader program, I often communicate with potential partners, such as local authorities, to help solve some problems of those run leaders, for example, if they need somewhere to do running stuff, I will help them find the venues where they can go.”
The achievement of the leader program in Cardiff is obvious, there are some big running groups with hundreds of members, such as Run Grangetown, CDF Runners, and DW Fitness First. Meanwhile, Grangemoor Parkrun has attracted nearly 4,000 people and 300 running clubs to run along the banks of the river Ely at 9 am every Saturday. “The campaign is particularly going really well in Cardiff, the numbers of runners have gone up significantly since we started the program, the numbers of run groups are growing daily with now one hundred thirty-seven run groups, and that’s what had been done within two and a half years,” says Gareth Hall.
However, Gareth Hall also meets huge challenge. According to him, it is very difficult to tell whether the program actually raises people’s awareness of running effectively. Somebody might have accepted the information, but it might take them forever to think whether they need to do the running. Meanwhile, some other people might have very negative experiences of running, particularly when they’re in school, where they were forced to run. Hence, Gareth Hall points out that, “everybody can run a lot, but they just don’t want to, I try to convey the message that everyone can run, but people can hardly understand it and determine to change the behaviour unless they actually take the first step.”
Currently, Gareth Hall is working with Diabetes UK and NHS, trying to have a group of type 2 diabetics in Cardiff starting running, because fitness is proven to be beneficial in managing and actually, in some cases reversing type 2 diabetes. He is confident about the achievement this program will make, “that’s quite new for us, and we’re going to try that in Cardiff first, because there are so many people in Cardiff and also lots of fantastic places where they can run, it’s easy to find target people who want to run, I believe that we can use our network of run leaders to bring this group together, and we’ll find the new participants and build this nice group.”
Although, there is still a long way before Gareth Hall can actually change the public’s behaviour model and achieve his goal, that to get everyone joining in running, the progress he had already made can’t be ignored. Just as he says, “we have goals, but we don’t put a number on it, at the moment, we just want more, hence, for those people who are still hesitant about starting to run, I want you to start it now, join a group and stick to it.”