Everyone is welcome in the Lions Running Community says award winning Shelby Williams

Shelby pictured at the awards ceremony with Stuart Isherwood (left) and Stuart Liver
Shelby pictured at the awards ceremony with Stuart Isherwood (left) and Stuart Liver

There’s no excuse not to put on some running shoes when you can join a group like the Lions Running Community. Fiona Finch reports on its founder and coach Shelby Williams who has just won a top England Athletics award.

She is the pride of the Lions and always puts her best foot forward.

Award winning Shelby Williams with members of the Lions Running Community

Award winning Shelby Williams with members of the Lions Running Community

Now inspiring Shelby Williams is celebrating after winning a top national award for her work.

Shelby scooped the Volunteer Run Leader of the Year title in the recent England Athletics awards.

It was a proud moment for the 48 year old who, driven by a desire to share her love of running amongst all abilities, founded the Lions Running Community.

It is based at the Golden Lion Pub in Higher Wheelton, near Chorley and its members range in age from 12 to 60 plus.

Lions members gather at their home base - the Golden Lion at Higher Wheelton

Lions members gather at their home base - the Golden Lion at Higher Wheelton

Described by judges as: “A truly inspirational woman who funded her own qualifications to provide a great coaching experience” Shelby was singled out her tireless work establishing a community anyone can join.

The club was also runner-up in the Regional England Athletics Club of the Year category.

As well as helping people achieve their running goals, the Lions Running Community focuses on helping to improve people’s mental wellbeing and gives them the opportunity to socialise.
Shelby. who discovered her passion for running while a pupil at Penwortham’s Priory High School studied biomechanics at Roehampton University, fitness instructing at Preston College and run coaching with England Athletics, to build her coaching skills and make training more holistic and inclusive.

She also gained mental health qualifications and has become a Time to Change Mental Health Champion with England Athletics. She said: “It depends on what your goals are. If you want just to be able to get out and get fit and go running just a few times a week or if you want to run something like marathon there’s lots more training involved. It’s really what you want to get out of running...For me it’s about trying to build a full picture of somebody, rather than saying let’s go out and run..”

Rob Bywater, (pictured left), with his running guide Stuart Isherwood at a Preston Parkrun

Rob Bywater, (pictured left), with his running guide Stuart Isherwood at a Preston Parkrun

Her citation for the award noted: “Shelby has a truly person-centred approach to coaching; she understands individuals’ goals and people have the upmost trust in her and thrive because of it.”

Communications officer Rob Bywater can vouch for the club’s inspirational work. He is registered blind and found the club gave him a new freedom to run and get fitter, in a sport which he had previously felt excluded from.

Rob said: “Shelby’s won the award for her fantastic work setting up a community that anyone can join regardless of their running ability, which is all-inclusive. It was something I just didn't think I could get involved in. I used to go to the gym and have a run on a treadmill. It's made such a difference to my life. They've done so much for me."

He added: "There is a focus on addressing mental health issues and social activities as well as running.”

Community member Howard Sidery said: “The running group that Shelby set up has got me from a novice runner who could barely run for five K to a marathon runner who has completed a 55 k ultra. Also, I have made many friends in the running community by being involved in the club.”

Meanwhile another club member Angela Rose Eckersley said: “I’ve been running for years either alone or with my friends, but I always avoided joining a group. I had it in my mind groups would be highly competitive. However a friend persuaded me to give the Lions a try after we saw them running along the canal one evening. I can honestly say the group is the most friendly, welcoming and inclusive I’ve ever known.”

Shelby, who lives near Hoghton, said: “Winning the award felt absolutely amazing. I have always had a real passion for sport, particularly running and love helping others. Personally, I’d had difficulties trying to get involved in a running group and I wanted to do something to make it more accessible to everyone.That’s why I trained as a run leader and went on to set up the Lions Running Community. When you’re a new runner, trying to find somewhere where you are accepted is massive. I set up the club as a place where people would feel confident, where there were no divisions between runners based on their ability. I wanted to make sure that everybody felt part of something, that’s why we call it the Lions Running Community rather than a running club.”

She added: “The group is going from strength to strength. We started off with around 20 regular runners now we have around 80."

The group includes beginners on the couch to 5K course, an Iron Man competitor, a female athlete who can run a Parkrun in under 22 minutes and many other ability levels.

Shelby added: “We’ll talk together and socialise together. We also get involved with events such as raising money for our local children’s hospice and the provision of a community defibrillator, which has been installed outside the pub. We have recently done a an activity to raise awareness of male suicide and the importance of talking to others to address issues."

The runners appreciate the social side of the group, going for cinema visits, runs further afield, meals and even on holidays which incorporate runs in iconic locations.

Shelby said: "It’s a true running community. Thank you to everyone who nominated me for this award. I’m obviously exceptionally proud, but also a little bit humbled, because I couldn’t do it without the runners and the support of other people in the club and run leaders. It’s very much a team effort. I always say to our runners it’s them that make the club. I wouldn’t be there if they weren’t.”

If anyone needs further convincing that it’s time to join in she said: “I think it’s a very easy way to get fit, explore your local area and the great outdoors ... It gives you that time to breathe. For me as well it’s really about the friendships you build from participating in such a great sport."

There are several community runs each week and at weekends. For more information contact Shelby on 07979 653790 or email her at shebby71@yahoo.co.uk