From out of breath in a minute to award-winning JOG leader
Tracy Parker, 43, started to jog because she wanted to lose weight. Now as the leader of the Swad Joggers JOG Derbyshire Group, she's won the Volunteer of the Year Award at the South Derbyshire Sports Awards. Here she details her journey from inactive to community stalwart.
Tracy Parker (left) running in her Swad Joggers top.
'I knew I had to do something about my weight'
"I knew I had to do something because I had started to put on lots and lots of weight. I was directed to go on a healthy eating seminar and it was there that I got chatting to someone who explained they went jogging.
"At that point I couldn't jog for more than a minute… I couldn't get very far at all and wasn't very fit, but I thought I would give it a go.
"I went along to sessions and really started to enjoy it, but then after six months, the JOG leader got a new job and so couldn't continue his group.
"At that point I said I would take down people's emails who came to the group so that we could continue to meet up informally and go for jogs.
"But then I was contacted by South Derbyshire District Council and then JOG Derbyshire and asked if I would consider setting up a new group. By that stage I had started to lose quite a bit of weight and it was really working for me, so I thought why not try and help others as I had been helped in the first place?
Tracy initially started Swad Joggers with her daughter Laura.
Training as a leader
"I'm probably quite good at interacting with people, even when I don't know them and I wanted to tap into that.
"When I went to do the training to be a leader it took me a bit out of my comfort zone because a lot of the other people were into their fitness in a big way, but I realised it would benefit the people I would be jogging with.
"I knew there was a demand for it too because although there are running clubs in the area, it can be too fast and competitive for people, which is the opposite of what we are about.
Fun at the Colour Run. (Picture by AF Photograghy)
Colour runs and volunteering
"I wanted something fun and friendly that would appeal to people, which seems to have worked as we celebrate two years on January 15. We had probably about 30 on the first night, which I ran with my daughter Laura, who has now gone off to uni.
"But co-leaders have supported me since then. We have got a Facebook page now, beginners and intermediates groups, people stepping up to do events and even our own t-shirt – it really has gone from strength to strength.
"There are colour runs and we have also marshalled at Conkers parkrun where we've had as many as 33 volunteers.
The Swad joggers gather for a group photo.
'Fun and free' groups
"My philosophy is to keep the run fun and free. I don't want there to be any unnecessary barriers to people taking part. If there is a £1 or £2 charge then it would not put off some, but it may put off others.
"I've even gone out and bought hi-vis vests for people rather than them having to pay, because it's one less barrier. I also want to show people that if I can do it and lose three-and-a-half stone, then so can they.
"People can often be very nervous, but I always stay with the new ones. I always send out texts to see how people have got on and asked them for comments to see if anything can be improved for future sessions.
Tracy regularly texts jog group members to see how they are getting on.
Encouragement by text
"If people drop off coming to sessions, I will text them as well. It's not to pester them, but to see if they are OK and if they need any help to start coming again. Motivation can be a key thing.
"From my point of view, I'm doing it as a hobby – I want others to get something out of it the way I did.
"As an assistant practice manager at a doctor's surgery, I see a lot of unhealthy people come through, so I want to help where I can.
A sense of belonging
Swad Joggers' branded shirts.
"We run in orange and black, which people can wear if they do competitions, and it sets them aside. We wear our vests with pride and it gives people a sense of belonging and they like to be associated with their club.
"I put a lot of effort into it – it's not just about the time you are jogging for – and I think people appreciate that. There is a lot of effort and work behind the scenes.
"I make sure I know everyone by name and keep a track of their progress and I always write a report of each session online to give people encouragement.
Tracy collects her South Derbyshire Sports Award.
Overwhelmed to be nominated for an award
"I'm totally overwhelmed to have been nominated and winning the award has made me so happy.
"I'd say it's as much down to the joggers and other members who have got so involved because without them and the way the group has grown, I wouldn't have won the award.
"It's really nice to know that people think that way about you and enough to nominate you."
Find out more
Click on the link to find out more about the Swad Joggers group, including contact details.
To search for a JOG Derbyshire group near you, visit the Find a Group page.
If you are interested in finding an activity in general, go to the club and activity search.