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Our World of Sport: Running with Beginners2Runners founder Steve Grantham


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Steve Grantham first featured in the KM eight years ago after the successful launch of Coxheath Running Club. Since then the former policeman has turned running into his life, launching Beginners2Runners which covers almost every area of Kent. They are just about the launch the 24th club, in Bexleyheath.

Steve Grantham and fellow runners at Leeds Castle
Steve Grantham and fellow runners at Leeds Castle

FAMILY BUSINESS

I have been out of the police for six years now, this is my full-time job now and it has turned into a family business. We have expanded quite a bit, my brother works with me, my mum does all the clothing and stuff. We spent the first year in my front room, but we have managed to get an office.

It was just a hobby to start with, encouraging people to run and I found out it was my calling! It is strange how things happen. I met my soon to be wife, Harriett, at the running club too. We met at B2R Leybourne and have been together for five years. I have a full-time employee and there are part-time staff. My brother helps to make sure all the clubs are okay, it is a case of splitting up the work because there is so much to do.

We are opening the new club on May 10 and I will be up there in Bexleyheath, teaching beginners and showing them how to do it. It has grown a lot but we still manage to keep the same ethos, we are a big club now but we still have a small club mindset. Anyone can run with us, we are not competitive, we have fun and I still run the business by myself which I think helps the continuity.

A BORN RUNNER?

When I first started running I was awful, I know the journey, how it feels. I imagine it is what people feel like when they look at Everest on the way up to it, when it’s time to climb the mountain, you think ‘this is impossible’ and that is how I felt, beyond hope.

My nan had lung cancer and died and I was like, ‘what are you doing’? I was 28 years old, smoking, overweight and wasting my life, I stopped the cigarettes and tried to take charge of things.

I went to the park, waited until about 9pm when it was pitch black and when I got onto the little field I tried to run a lap, I couldn’t do it in one go. I tried again and went round. I did it again and again. I started running 5k every day and by then I was losing weight and went on a diet, not a massive one. I lost five stone and got a medal from my first race but when I was there I felt out of place, all the runners were ‘proper runners’ I didn’t feel like I fitted in and I really wanted people to run with.

Beginners2Runners have grown to big numbers since Steve Grantham first launched the club
Beginners2Runners have grown to big numbers since Steve Grantham first launched the club

I tried to start a club in Coxheath, I put it out there on Facebook. Nobody turned up. Occasionally one or two would turn up. I got messages from people saying, ‘if I could run I would join you’. That is when the idea popped into my head that I wonder if I could make runners, rather than try and attract runners that can already do it, is there a way of helping people become runners, they stay and then we have a club. We weren’t then advertising to other sports people.

I hired a hall and said ‘anyone that wants to come along , I will teach them how to run.’ Sixty people turned up!

People were asking to sign up for the next six weeks, asking to do this and that, they were chucking £3 in a washing up bucket. I hadn’t thought it through properly.

Coxheath Primary School then let me use their field and within a few months we had over 100 people turn up, it was crazy. I roped in friends to help and then I opened Barming to split the members, I had too many! But all that happened was those at Coxheath carried on and another 50-60 turned up at Barming! We are now on 23 clubs with most of Kent covered.

I am never going to be the best but I think I am relatable because I am like most people, I do my best, sometimes I am fit, sometimes I am a bit overweight, I fluctuate, but what I do is I keep trying, that is what most of our members do.

I still go to the club three times a week and normally get a long run in on a Sunday. I still teach the classes as much as I started and I do it because I love it. The business is a side thing, a necessary evil, in order for me to get to do what I love.

Running night for those at Beginners2Runners
Running night for those at Beginners2Runners

GUILT-FREE PLEASURE

I love the freedom of running. There is no judgement. It is impossible to feel upset, depressed or angry when you are running, because you are too puffed out to think about it!

I have had anxiety and depression, but when you are running it is impossible to feel negative from doing something so positive. There is not a bad thing about going for a run, it is good for your health, good for your mind, you don’t feel guilty about eating your dinner that day, so all of the things you associate with negativity, running is the antidote.

I also love the freedom and the camaraderie and meeting so many lovely people. It is a guilt-free addiction basically. You can’t really feel guilty about getting fit, in the fresh air and it is addictive. Once you start, that high, that freedom, that positivity seeps into every aspect of your life, I think that is what people find a lot.

Before running I just used to exist, I would go through the motions, wake up in the morning, do my job, come home. I wasn’t an enthusiast father, I wasn’t enthusiast about anything in my life, then through running I had a change of career, became a better dad, I am enthusiastic about it now, we do lots of fun stuff and I think it wakes you up, it’s a zest for life.

I was out the other night, just a few weeks after five months of being shut. I was with a group in Harrietsham, running along the Pilgrim’s Way, you look out across the rapeseed fields, the sun setting just over it, a little chilly, but you think ‘I’m free’ and it doesn’t matter if I am rich, poor, whatever, this is what life is about. That is what a lot of people need in their lives.

Members of the Beginners2Runners club Picture: Phil Lee
Members of the Beginners2Runners club Picture: Phil Lee

FOR EVERYONE

A lot of people that come to be for running are broken people. They are overweight, can be up to their eyeballs in work, lost someone, suffered depression, whatever, they are looking for a solution. I say, I am not trying to sell them a potion or anything, I just say I am going to make you feel better about yourself, make some friends, and try.

Trying something and having people around you saying you are doing a good job is enough for people to turn around. They might not think they can run for a second but then they can run for a minute. I say to people, just make your first goal turning up, as soon as you have arrived you have hit your goal for the day and anything else you do is on top of that. If people can see a little win, it really helps the mindset and it can be applied to other aspects of life.

We have people who can run 5k in about 18 minutes and we have people who run it in 1hr and 15 minutes, we are open for everyone.

Our club is about just doing your best. We have fitness walking so people can stroll or walk and I would be happy to try and cater for anyone in a wheelchair, nobody is off limits. I want it to be a community that reflects the real life, not just people who are born lucky and can run.

Beginners courses are on now back running and anyone who fancies joining can contact the club through Facebook or emailing tellmemore@beginners2runners.co.uk

Steve and Harriett together after taking part in Brighton Marathon two years ago
Steve and Harriett together after taking part in Brighton Marathon two years ago

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