International Women’s Day: Cricklewood fitness coach’s free sessions lead women from couch to 5km park run

PUBLISHED: 17:47 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:43 05 March 2020

Sofia Ali (kneeling) with her Walk2Run group after her free weekly sessions. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Sofia Ali (kneeling) with her Walk2Run group after her free weekly sessions. Picture: Nathalie Raffray


On a cold but bright March morning a group of women, most of them over 60, turned up for their free weekly Walk2Run session in Gladstone Park.

Sofia Ali (kneeling) with women who attend her free running sessions. Picture: Nathalie RaffraySofia Ali (kneeling) with women who attend her free running sessions. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

They turn up at 8am every Tuesday to the Olive Road entrance to the park no matter the weather or their ability and complete a 5km circuit.

The sessions were started by Cricklewood local Sofia Ali 18 months ago for women only as she wanted to reach those who had never run before or who were returning after injury, or a long absence.

Sofia, a 62-year-old England Athletics Leadership in Running fitness coach, said: "I felt there was a gap in the market for those who wanted to try running but found the thought of Parkrun too daunting.

"I'm impressed by their commitment. Some have run 5km, some now run 10km, from nothing.

"The Parkrun group are running their own International Women's Day celebration on Saturday where all the men volunteer and none of the women.

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"These women are worth celebrating. I'm so impressed with them. Some have got knee replacements, hip replacements, and they run in spite of this."

Cllr Ellie Southwood, who is partiallysighted was signposted to the group by a friend in October. She started by walking with a guide and recently completed her first 5km Parkrun. "When I first came I walked 20 paces ran 20 paces. Each time I run someone guides me. These ladies are amazing, they take it in turns in the Park Run, we're tethered together, left a bit, right abit, hill coming."

Alison Crumb, now 70, said: "[At 68} I thought I must do something before I'm 70 and never did then I did the Parkrun just after my 70th birthday.

They told me I was the first person to win in that age group so that gave me a boost."

Sally Long, Cricklewood Library campaigner, was recovering from a knee replacement when she joined and has since lost three stone.

Journalist and photographer Francine Lawrence also had a knee replaced. "It's a great way to get me to get up in the morning, come out to the park, keep fit with a lovely group and it's free! Why go to a gym?"

Sofia does warm up exercise before the run then core exercises afterwards, sending them home with an exercise to do and sends a weekly email to keep them motivated.

Her group motto is "She believed she could, so she did". For more information turn up, go to Facebook Walk2Run, or ring Sofia on 07951 091078

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