RTW runners 4th anniversary

On Sunday 31st May 2020 RTW runners will celebrate 4 years of running together!

A conversation amongst “park-running” friends at the Mount Edgcumbe gastro pub in Tunbridge Wells led to Joe Watts coming up with an idea to start a local running group for people of all abilities. A group which would welcome all ages and one which would be friendly and less intimidating than your usual athletics or road running club.

A group of park-running friends pictured in January 2017

Joe had already attended and compeleted a “leading athletics” workshop in December 2014, a “coaching assistant” course in July 2015 and on 14th May 2016, Joe became a qualified “Leader in Running Fitness”. This latter qualification provided Joe with the required qualification and insurance to set up his own running group and to lead group sessions. Just over two weeks after qualifying, RTW runners was born!

In March 2017 Joe went on to complete a “Coach in Running Fitness” course – a 4 day course which provided him not only with further knowledge and understanding of the sport of running, but the qualification also provided him with the necessary insurance and expertise to coach people one to one.

For the first 18 months, the group was relatively small and made up of a group of close friends who were regulars at the local Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun, the event at which Joe was volunteer Event Director from its inception in April 2014. Weekly participation of the group ranged from between 2 and 5 people during that first year and a half. On the 24th October 2017 the group welcomed its very first double-digit attendance and from then on numbers remained consistent, usually with between 8 and 12 people attending.

A small group of RTW runners – August 2017

In the Summer of 2019, the group saw a real surge in numbers, with regular attendances of between 15 and 20 people attending the all abilities group.

The all abilities group completed a “glow run” for Halloween in 2018

Joe put together his own beginners running plan which he called, “Zero to 30” and the first group was provided in October 2017. The 8-week plan which Joe devised was more gradual than the popular NHS “Couch to 5k”, which takes people from no fitness to completing 3 walk/jog interval sessions per week over 9 weeks. Joe could see that this jump from no activity to suddenly being active and pounding the streets 3 times per week would often lead to overuse injuries and therefore, he devised a plan which involved one 40 minute walk/jog interval session per week, supplemented by two 40 minute walks in order to help build both leg strength and aerobic capacity. The idea of his “Zero to 30” plan, was not to get people running 5k by the end, but being able to jog continuously for 30 minutes – a far more achievable goal and a more gradual process.

One of our “Zero to 30” running groups

The “Zero to 30” groups have proven very popular and continue to run throughout the year.

Bespoke made bracelets were handed out to our 2018 “Zero to 30” graduates

In the Autumn of 2018, Joe was contacted by a fellow runner who had just returned to Tunbridge Wells, having lived in Boston (USA) for the past few years – her name, Claire Henry.

Claire Henry at RTW parkrun in July 2019

Claire had known of Joe from his time volunteering at the local parkrun and she had just completed her “Leader in Running Fitness” course and was keen to get involved with leading running groups with RTW runners. The rest, as they say, is history as Claire was instrumental in not only assisting Joe with his existing running groups, but also leading her own Sunday morning, “Beginners plus”, “Social run” and “Back to basics” sessions.

Christmas social 2018 at the Trinity Theatre, comedy cafe

In the summer of 2017, Joe completed an intensive full-time personal training course in London: 2 weeks at level 2 fitness instructor, 2 weeks at level 3 personal trainer and a futher diploma week which incorporated one day courses such as indoor cycling, outdoor group fitness and exercise referral.

Joe joined Pure Gym, Tunbridge Wells on a part-time basis in October 2017 providing indoor cycling, circuits & core classes as well as launching beginners running groups. At this time he also launched his own personal training and running coaching business, “Plega Fit”.

A group of RTW runners at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun

In January 2020, Joe moved from Southborough to Forest Row, East Sussex and made the brave decision to go full-time with his personal training and running coaching business. He had planned to set up running groups in Forest Row, with launch dates set for April 2020, however, as we all know, the Coronavirus pandemic led to a full lockdown in England from 23rd March 2020 and therefore these plans had to be put to one side.

Joe is looking forward to starting groups up in Forest Row, East Sussex

Undeterred by the lockdown situation, Joe kept himself busy planning ways to help people stay active as he launched weekly WhatsApp group chats for members of the group as well as providing online fitness classes using Zoom and setting virtual challenges, such as the “3km solo challenge” for the RTW runners club on Strava.

Most recently, Joe kicked off two virtual running groups on Monday 25th May 2020. A “Zero to 30” group for which there are 8 people participating as well as an “all abilities” speedwork group which has 14 people signed up and completing their main weekly session. At the end of each week the group will come together virtually in order to discuss their experience, how they are progressing and as an opportunity to ask Joe any questions that they have.

RTW runners vests were designed in 2018 and made available to the group

Further to the latest Government announcement (Thursday 28th May 2020) on the lockdown restrictions, Joe plans to set up small outdoor groups of no more than 5 participants from Monday 1st June 2020.

We would like to finish off this post by thanking anyone who has joined us for any of our running groups over the past 4 years. We have 194 people registered with the group via RunTogether and we look forward to welcoming many more people over the coming weeks, months and years!

Stay safe, fit and healthy and keep on running!

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