Running, Mental Health & Me: Amanda’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Amanda, who runs with our Greville Smyth mums in Bristol, describes the effect effect that losing her dad soon after giving birth had on her emotional and mental wellbeing, and the benefits of being open and tackling the problem early on.

I’m a mum of two, my eldest is three and my youngest seven months. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter at Christmas in 2017. A few days before that, my dad was suddenly taken ill with what was a few days later diagnosed as a cancerous and inoperable brain tumour.

He received various treatments throughout 2018 and was thrilled to be here to meet my daughter when she was born in the September of that year. In the December, we were told his treatment was no longer working, and he passed away late January 2019. In addition, just a few days beforehand, my grandpa – his dad – had also passed away after a long illness.

The experience of going through pregnancy and having a baby whilst also navigating grief has been strange and overwhelming at times. Sometimes I felt guilty during pregnancy that I didn’t have as much time, energy or emotion to devote to thinking about the baby, but it also made me more grateful for what was happening and the things we had to look forward to.

Looking back to when my eldest child was born, although I never sought professional help, I now recognise that I was probably suffering with postnatal anxiety. I’d heard a lot about postnatal depression but, despite having struggled with anxiety at times before I had children, I can’t say that I’d heard much or knew much about how postnatal mental health issues could manifest as anxiety.

I knew with my second pregnancy that I was probably at an increased risk of struggling given my previous experience and what was happening with my Dad.

Once my Dad passed away I felt as though it was time to get some professional support as I was starting to feel overwhelmed and unable to get my head around everything, and that was making me less present and less patient with my family.

I had weekly counselling sessions with a psychotherapist for a couple of months and found it extremely valuable. It was great to have time each week to talk about how I felt, and speaking to a professional who was also completely unconnected to my family meant I could really open up and be honest about everything I was feeling. It really helped me to be kinder to myself and stop worrying about whether I was grieving in ‘the right way’.

Throughout the pregnancy and since I’ve had my daughter, I’ve had lots of support from my husband, family and friends and have tried to make sure I do as much as I can of the things that I know help keep me in good mental health.

For me, this includes getting outdoors, seeing friends, and trying to carve out a little bit of time each day on my own to clear my head. Not necessarily easy or always possible with a newborn, but getting back into running means I can usually tick off a couple of these at a time!

Although it’s been overwhelming at times, going through all of this at once it has meant I have really tried to live more in the present as much as I can, so when something good is happening or I feel happy, really noticing that and feeling gratitude for it.

At times, I’ve struggled with not having much time to myself to process what was happening. I make a concerted effort to try and get a bit of time for myself wherever I can (often now this is actually on a run) and counselling has helped me to accept that every experience of grief is different and doesn’t necessarily fit a model or expectations.


I have found running to be of huge value for my mental health. Before having children, I loved running as a means to relieve stress and clear my head, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d be able to get back into once I’d had a baby.

After my son was born I spoke to Mel at a local fair where she was running a TMR stall, and realised it was totally something I could do again! I went along to a social run not long after and have never looked back, even completing a half marathon in 2017 and training as a Run Angel.

I’ve made a few really special friends through TMR, have met so many lovely people on runs and am continuously inspired by all of the stories that are shared through the online community.

Running, Mental Health & Me: Sara’s Story


As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Sara Knowles is one our Cardiff Run Angels, with an incredible story. Here’s how she tells it.

I gave birth to my son 15 yrs ago this May.
The birth was long and traumatic, with a shoulder distention and all contractions stopping amongst other issues. In spite of the complications, our son, Jack Elan, was absolutely perfect, and after a difficult fourth stage and stitches, we were left in peace to rest and enjoy him.
Sadly in spite of every effort on my part alone at home, three days later he developed starvation jaundice and we were both admitted into the paediatric ward of our local hospital.
Jack was given a dextrose drip and placed in an incubator. Again, left alone I struggled to breastfeed him and the next day we discovered that the dextrose had been pumping into his skin rather than his vein, so we had a third degree burn to deal with as well. It was hell. 
After seven long days and nights of mental, physical and emotional trauma, I collapsed with a severe panic attack, the first of a series of problems with my mental health that I have been dealing with ever since. 
After 22 months of severe depression, anxiety and manic episodes, I conceded that I wasn’t going to get better without medical intervention, and was prescribed antidepressants. Four years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is a big label to bear. This February, I suffered the worse relapse of panic attacks and mental crisis I have experienced since Jack’s birth.
When TMR launched in Cardiff some weeks later, I was there, alone and afraid I would look obviously out of place in amongst sporty running women. Instead I found a really warm welcome, encouragement, support and brilliant friendship.
I am now a Run Angel and, at the age of 51, in a body that is not one to behold, I don my runners every Sunday and Wednesday to join encourage and support other Mums of all ages, shapes and sizes, to show them they can do it too.

This Mum Runs meets Jasmin Paris


International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a societal issue. The pressure is now on for a gender-balanced boardroom, government, media and sports coverage.

Collective, bottom up and top down action and shared responsibility is the key to real and lasting change. International Women’s Day is such a significant moment each year, an opportunity  to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, political and sporting achievements of women – while also acting as a clear call to action for accelerating gender balance.

This Mum Runs is a community powered, purpose driven organisation with a vision that aims to redress the balance when it comes to women and sport; to empower women everywhere to be healthier and happier through community and running – with a particular focus on mobilising women who are completely inactive.

Here are some stats that might (should) shock you;

2 million fewer women than men are active

I don’t know how this makes you feel, but reading stats like this has the power to make me weep.

And yet, this is not a new conversation.  It’s been like this as long as I can remember; I was the sporty kid at school 30 years ago but can remember how painful it was to watch friends who loved being active, not making the school sports teams and then slowly switching off from exercise completely. Many of them have spent the past 30 years completely inactive.

In more recent years, social media has added a myriad of pressures on women and girls who are persuaded that if you don’t look a certain way (ripped abs anyone?), don’t wear the right things, can’t (or don’t want to) ‘get faster’, then sport just isn’t for them.

Even the team behind the much lauded This Girl Can campaign admit that while the campaign changed attitudes, and women were inspired by the ‘real women’ shown in the campaign, the insight still shows that there “must be something about those women’s lives that is different to mine and enables them to exercise because I still don’t believe I can”.


Add the very real pressures on Mums of time and childcare and the impact of childbirth on their bodies and what chance have we got of actually changing things?

As it happens, we believe change is coming.  And we believe that Mums are at the heart of it all.

Whilst on the surface we may appear to be just a “running group for Mums”, we are driving the narrative hard to change the decades long status quo for women everywhere, forever.

We’re proving that if exercise is about how it feels, and about how it makes you feel, then it really is for every women everywhere.  And we’re using the power of community to make this a life long change for good.


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Through the work we are doing – with hundreds of free runs led by specially trained volunteer Run Angels in cities across the UK and a thriving online community – we are positively impacting Mums lives: as well as the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise,  we’re impacting on women’s mental health, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, increasing confidence, creating connected local communities and cascading healthy habits that affect the entire family.

The added bit of magic is that when Mums are active, their daughters are 80% more likely to be active too, so imagine the impact we can have on the horrendous statistics at the top of this article as a global community of active Mums?

What better way to celebrate the game changing work we are doing to #BalanceforBetter on International Womens Day, than a run in the Edinburgh hills and an interview with Mum and Ultra Runner, Jasmin Paris.


Jasmin recently took the world by storm when she won the infamous Montane Spine race – a brutal 268 mile, non-stop, winter mountain marathon that encompasses the entire Pennine Way.

Jasmin not only won the race, she beat the entire field of runners – both male and female. She was a day ahead of the first male competitor and broke the course record by a whopping 12 hours.

All this and she stopped at every checkpoint to breastfeed her daughter or express milk for her.

Just think about the epic-ness for a second….


What makes Jasmin most impressive to us is how she describes her relationship with running – a “hobby” – and why she gets up every day at 4am to run “because I love how it makes me feel”. 

In our interview, we explore how she fits it all in, how she handled the post race questions about “beating all the men” and what her message is to women and girls who think “I can’t” when it comes to sport.

Grab a cuppa, get ready to be inspired and watch Jasmin’s interview We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.

If you want to join our 50,000 strong global community that is working towards real and lasting change, sign up for our weekly email

And if you’re keen to get more involved, want free community runs in your area, are a funder or brand that would like to work in partnership with TMR to accelerate our impact, you can contact Mel and the team

#thismumruns #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter


How I went from 4 milers to ultra running…. in 18 months

The first three months of the year are always busy for us at This Mum Runs – with lots of new runners taking their very first steps, others taking tentative steps towards their first events, or more regular runners taking on bigger personal challenges. Throughout February and March we will be featuring stories of TMR runners of ALL experience levels; we hope you find them as inspiring as we do.
Meet Nina. Mum of one, TMR Run Angel….and soon to be ultra runner.
Fearless Nina Peacock - Approved
My Mum was a runner and some of my enduring memories of childhood are being on holiday and driving to the middle of nowhere to drop her off so she could run home!  She was keen for me to run, but I tried it once and hated it!  Apparently, I was going to die!! My mother reminds me of this now often!  Mum had to have her knees replaced at 50 (a cautionary tale for us all) and had to stop running.  She found it really difficult and I think she now enjoys running vicariously through me.
I decided to start running about 12 years ago.  I can’t really remember much about why or how, but I did sign up for the Bristol Half and remember working in London and training running through Regent’s Park doing intervals.  I look back on this now and think I was very ambitious!  I did it though, and managed to finish in one piece.  Then I got pregnant and stopped running until about 3 years ago.
I run now because I love it.  I run with my dog and for me, it’s perfect Mum-juggling – getting the dog and myself exercised, getting some fresh air and getting that all important headspace and me-time.
I had struggled since I started running again with the whole comparison piece – because I know a lot of people who run, and many of those are faster, fitter, ‘better’ than me, I felt inadequate and like I couldn’t compare.  I have now made peace with this and see *my* running for what it is, enjoyment, not a contest, even with myself.
That half marathon before I became a Mum was the furthest I’d run until last Spring, when I decided to run half marathon distance again.  Dave (my dog!) and I took off and ended up running 15 miles, slow, steady and with lots of photo stops!  I have decided I’m not a massive fan of racing.  When I was going through the comparison phase, I entered a 10k and decided I was going to run it in under 50 minutes (where the target came from, I have no idea).  I told someone this and therefore it had to become reality, even though when I looked at my previous 10k times, there was nothing under late 50 minutes.  Anyway, I ran the race, I finished in 49:58 and it nearly killed me! I hated every minute of it, and it really put me off races. I have taken part in 10k’s since, but running with friends and to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the event, rather than race.
I am also a member of a trail running club (although I don’t get out as much with them now that I run with TMR) and most of the lovely people in that club run ultras (and loads of them run super crazy distances, think 100 miles without a break!) Listening to their stories, it sounded like a great experience; very sociable, no pressure, no real race – about the experience rather than the time.  It sounded right up my street and after talking to friends in the group about a possibility of a trail marathon, I decided on the Green Man Ultra, as it’s around Bristol, on lots of the trails I already run.
I nearly entered last year, but couldn’t make the training commitments, but hearing about my friend Rachel’s experience last year, I decided it was on my bucket list and that I’d make time this year.  The fact that other TMR mamas were entering pushed me over the edge and that was it!
Although friends have said to me ‘You’ll be fine, you can run that distance’ (30 miles), my OCD took over and I have a 10 week training plan, cobbled together off the internet.  I still hadn’t run more than 15 miles before the start of this year, so wanted to feel comfortable with the distance.  The plan is actually going well, although I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it works for me – especially around the planning, letting my family know what I’ll be doing etc, and therefore actually getting it done.  The long runs have been great fun.  There were 3 of us from TMR signed up as far as I was aware, and Rachel joined us as our official guide, having done it before.  I stuck a message on the TMR Facebook page, and we met 2 more lovely mamas who joined us for our first long run (17 miles) and one of those, Erin, is signed up and we’ll run together on the day – the beauty of TMR!!  I’ve now built up to 22 miles and the 30 mile distance seems achievable!  I am planning to go slow and steady, with lots of photo stops and walking up the hills, in true Ultra style!!
I am amazed at how far I’ve come in the past 18 months – I was running 3 times a week, around 3 – 4 miles, but felt like I wasn’t a ‘real’ runner due to comparisons, trying to be something I wasn’t.
Now I’m loving it, running 5 days a week (sometimes more than once!) and having fun.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Ultra – an adventure – outside of my comfort zone, but in a completely different (better for me!) way than trying to run faster!  I would encourage you to give it a go – spend hours (4 1/2 for us last Sunday!) outside; running, walking, having fun with friends – EPIC!
This Mum Runs is a people-powered community-first organisation that empowers Mums everywhere to be healthier and happier. Through a network of volunteer Run Angels we offer free, social runs every Wednesday and Sunday across London, Bristol and Bath – with Cardiff and Brighton launching soon (and more to follow in 2019). To keep up to date with our plans – and for plenty of inspiration too – sign up for our weekly email here.

Cathryn is flying the This Mum Runs flag in Wales

In March, This Mum Runs launches in Cardiff with plans to offering free social runs from various locations across the city.

Hiring Cathryn Scott as the Community Leader for Cardiff is such an exciting milestone for us and she will be spearheading our city wide expansion plans. 

Here’s a chance to get to know Cathryn – how she discovered her love of running by accident when she was 15 and her dreams of building a huge TMR community of running Mums in the Welsh capital.

Meet Cathryn

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Hello! I’m a Mum of three children age 9, 7 and 4,  was born and raised in Barry and have lived in Cardiff for 17 years.  I’ve worked as a parenting blogger, freelance journalist and PR – and am a qualified yoga teacher!

I was 15 when I discovered quite by accident that I can run. I wasn’t a sporty child at all – always the last to be picked in team games and I mostly hated PE at school. However when my class were asked to take to the running track for an 800m race during a term of athletics lessons, no one was more surprised than me when I beat the rest of my classmates by a full lap.

That was the start of my love affair with running and I ran off and on throughout the rest of my teenage years and 20s. It all stopped when I wanted to start a family, though, and it would be 12 years later before I’d even think about putting on my running shoes.

In December 2017 I nervously started running again, with the goal of being able to run 10K by my 40th birthday in June 2018. On the first attempt, I managed seven minutes on the treadmill but was a red hot sweaty mess,  barely able breathe – and I nearly jacked in the whole idea there and then!


However I persevered and slowly began to see progress. I reached my 10K goal (and have got two sparkly medals to prove it) – and, after being persuaded by friends, took part in my first half marathon, the Cardiff Half, in October 2018. I loved it so much I’m doing it again this year as well as a few other events along the way too. I also am a regular at Cardiff Parkrun as well as Junior Parkrun with my kids children, which I absolutely love.


I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the team bringing This Mum Runs to Cardiff. TMR is just THE most incredible community supporting Mums to make a bit of time for themselves through running-  I’ve watched it grow from afar and was so excited to hear the plans to expand into Cardiff that I jumped at the chance to apply for this role!

In the first week in my new role, I’ve already been busy planning our Cardiff “Launch Run” on Sunday 3 March as well as setting up our first weekly Cardiff runs, and some other exciting social events which we’ll share details of soon. I’ll be sharing all the details in the This Mum Runs Cardiff Facebook community here

As a busy, working mum, running gives me the much needed headspace and mental clarity I’ve realised I need to function. It’s also helped me to learn to love my post-baby body again, helping me realise just how strong she am and how much I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I just can’t wait to share all of this, and more, with the Mums of Cardiff through This Mum Runs. I hope you’ll come and join me!

This Mum Runs is a people-powered community-first organisation that empowers Mums everywhere to be healthier and happier. Through a network of volunteer Run Angels we offer free, social runs for Mums every Wednesday and Sunday across London, Bristol and Bath – with Cardiff and Brighton launching soon (and more to follow throughout 2019). To keep up to date with our plans – and for plenty of inspiration too – sign up for our weekly email here. 

A huge thank you @Facebook – who’s support and funding through the Facebook Community Leadership Programme has made our expansion into new cities possible.

My 57 year old Mum inspired me to give running a try.

The first three months of the year are always busy for us at This Mum Runs – with lots of new runners taking their very first steps, others taking tentative steps towards their first events, or more regular runners taking on bigger personal challenges. Throughout February and March we will be featuring stories of TMR runners of ALL experience levels; we hope you find them as inspiring as we do.

Meet Sandra (half marathon first-timer) and her daughter Sarah (marathon first-timer).


Hello, Im Sandra and I’m 57. Last week I completed my first ever half marathon, which I was lucky enough to run with my daughter Sarah, and my TMR friends. Here is my story.

I signed up for a beginners running program shortly after my 50th birthday. I’d never run before – in fact I HATED PE at school. But I felt like it would be a new challenge, that would help me feel fitter and lose some unwanted weight.

After this a hip problem stopped me running for a few years, but through my daughter I found This Mum Runs. With them, I run for my health but most of all I run for the social aspect and I’ve truly made some great friends. I look forward to seeing them every week and we really keep each other going.


Before this Sunday, I’d run two park runs and three 10ks. Anything more had seemed totally out of reach.  But I set myself a goal of completing a half marathon before I was 60 – and when I crossed the finish line of the Llanelli Half, I’d done it three years early – so as you can imagine I am over the moon!

Leading up to the big day,  it was almost not going to happen. I’d taken a fall during a training run and fractured my elbow.

After 8 weeks of recovery,  my confidence was feeling pretty knocked; but with the support and encouragement from my TMR friends, I got back to it. I started again with 30 min social runs, then 45mins runs with everyone’s support – and particularly the support of my new friend Gina who I’d met through This Mum Runs.

4 miles became 6 then 8 then a 10 a long run with Sarah too and an 11 miler. Honestly I couldn’t believe it when I finally got to the race start line! I’d set myself the target of completing it in under 3 hours – and I managed to finish in 2:44:03 with a huge smile on my face!


My friend, Gina, who has only run one other half marathon before this, got a PB running it in under 2:30 – I was so pleased for her and am so thankful to everyone for their love and support.

My top tip for anyone training for a race this spring? Stick to your own pace, don;t worry what anyone else is doing and trust your gut. Find some friends to train with, it makes so much difference! Running really is mind over matter and if I can do it anyone can! Also on race day – jelly babies are the perfect pick me up!

Meet Sarah


A few years ago, my Mum signed up to a beginner running course and at first me and my sister just chuckled – this was just something that never in a million years did we expect Mum to do. She’d always been a walker (as she doesn’t drive) but running….?!

Seeing her so happy and confident, though I wanted a piece of the action too as I did enjoy sport at school and life had just got in the way.  So I signed up to the next beginners course as she went up to the Improvers group.

4 years later, I’m a regular runner and This Mum Runs Run Angel – and as cheesy as it sounds, I now run because I absolutely love it! I do some of my weekly runs with a TMR group and some on my own or with a couple of friends. I love the headspace it gives me, I love how it makes me feel, I love what it brings out in me and others.


I really enjoy doing park run, and over the past 4 years have run eleven 10ks and ten half marathons.

I have also been fortunate (!) enough to secure a place in this years London Marathon raising money for AGEuk.

From a young age watching the London Marathon on the TV and always enjoying running, it was something I’d always wanted to be a part of. When I then started running and entering so many half marathons, it was something that only time was in charge of. Ballots 3 years running were no joy so I applied for a charity place – raising funds for a charity that meant something to me and my role with patients at work [as a phlebotomist].

My life has totally changed now – with running firmly fixed in my weekly planner. Ive gone from never having run, to following a Marathon training plan written by Runners World! Most of my training is based on the intermediate plan, but with the easy plan for days when life is busy or I’m just too tired so that I don’t give in. If it feels too much,  I just take a step back which is something that has really helped with half marathon training too.

Something new I am trying is two strength sessions per week and a sports massage (which I can promise you, isn’t a treat!) once every 5-6 weeks. What I still need to get to grips with is how to ‘fuel not feed’. Running as much as I now am makes me soooooooo hungry… and I have a bit of thing for cake!

Four years ago I could never have imagined entering the London Marathon – and if I can do it, anyone can. Every bit of advice I’ve ever received has come from others or read in a book so my top tip is to ask lots of questions and read as much as you can bear! Most of all enjoy yourself. Smiling really does make it easier.

Sarah is running the London Marathon 2019 to raise funds for AgeUK. Her Just Giving page is here.

This Mum Runs is a people-powered community-first organisation that empowers Mums everywhere to be healthier and happier. Through a network of volunteer Run Angels we offer free, social runs every Wednesday and Sunday across London, Bristol and Bath – with Cardiff and Brighton launching soon (and more to follow in 2019). To keep up to date with our plans – and for plenty of inspiration too – sign up for our weekly email here.

Inspiring others motivates me to volunteer with TMR – and make more time for me!

This Mum Runs has grown to be the incredible community that it is, because of the wonderful women who make up the community. The engine behind the entire TMR machine making our free run programmes possible, is made up of nearly 500 amazing Run Angel volunteers – who are motivated by making a difference to other women’s lives.

Meet Emma. 

Emma trained as a Run Angel in East London in late 2017 and since then has led runs with a huge smile on her face, week in, week out from her local park in Walthamstow – creating a wonderful close knit community of Mums determined to carve out some space for themselves through running. Emma is a Mum of 3 AND a part time teacher – volunteering with TMR is one of the few ways she makes time for herself, whilst also giving something back to her local community.

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When I am running with TMR, I am not a Mum or a wife or a daughter or an employee. I am me.

This Mum Runs has grown to be the incredible community that it is, well..because of the women who make up the community. Without the generosity of time and spirit from our volunteer Run Angels, none of the work we do to bring free social runs to more Mums across the country would be possible. 

Meet Jane.

Jane has been an important member of the London Run Angel team since October 2017 and she embodies everything special about This Mum Runs. She’s kind, funny, committed, generous with her time and support – and not afraid to share some of her own vulnerabilities too. Frankly, everyone needs a Jane in their life!

Here she shares a little bit about her own running journey and what inspired her to get behind the This Mum Runs movement.

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My beginning-again running journey with This Mum Runs

I have been fit all my life. Pre pregnancy, I even had a personal trainer.  I was a size 10, and I felt and looked great.


Then I got pregnant.  6 months of sickness and debilitating tiredness followed and as a Director in a fast paced start up, all my energy went into keeping my Team and business afloat.  There was no time, (or energy), for exercising.  Then there was birth.  A physical marathon and body blow of epic proportions.  Then breastfeeding.  Constant, 24/7, exhausting.  Then the toddler tasks.

For the last 3 years I have not exercised.  The world of yoga and lycra leggings is a world I no longer know.  More than that, it is a world in which I do not feel I belong.    Pre pregnancy my motivation was to try and fashion a 6 pack.  That goal is long gone (and quite frankly, one I care very little about now!), so where was I going to find my new motivation?

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Facebook is enabling This Mum Runs to bring the world’s Mums closer in 2019

2018 has been an incredible year for This Mum Runs and I wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect on the most game changing of events that happened this year – winning a place on Facebook’s year long Community Leadership Programme, which kicked off in San Fransisco in October. It’s safe to say that being recognised as one of the top 100 most influential communities in the world can unlock huge potential for This Mum Runs in 2019 and will accelerate our vision to empower the world’s Mums to be healthier and happier.  Here I share my (somewhat intense) experience of the programme so far.


Last year, Facebook announced a return to it’s founding strategy to: “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. In February 2018, I attended the invite only Communities Summit where Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, showed just what they were prepared to commit to when it comes to bringing the world closer. He revealed  plans for the Facebook Community Leadership programme (FCLP) – a global programme to provide grants, training and support to enable great community leaders to make an even more positive impact in the world.

When he revealed the plans, I have to confess, I cried. It sounds a bit dramatic, but here’s why.

Leaders of successful communities usually fall into the role by accident – and certainly don’t set out planning to build a massive movement that changes thousands of lives. Often, they start with one individual experiencing hardship, crisis or a personal challenge reaching out for help, or with a desire to help others. The most incredible of communities start out in this simplest of ways.  A few people connecting around an issue, who tell their friends, who tell theirs and so it grows. Such groups quickly gain traction around a common purpose and an altruistic desire to to connect or help others; sometimes they find themselves in the slightly unexpected position of being able to drive real social change through their efforts.


This too has been my experience with This Mum Runs.

As a new Mum, recovering from back surgery, struggling with mild post natal depression and feeling lonely, I had lost myself. A single (slightly desperate), post on Facebook looking for a running buddy led to 75 women turning up for a run; this led to hundreds of women joining the Facebook group I set up to organise run meet ups within weeks; 6 months later, growth was so fast and overwhelming I had quit my job to manage it; and within 4 years we have grown to a global community of 50,000 women delivering hundreds of free runs every single week.

The First ever post

Growth like this comes with huge personal sacrifice. In the beginning – for the first couple of years in fact – I was drowning. Locked to my phone every hour of the day and night, desperately trying to respond to every message I received and terrified I would miss something from someone who needed help. I’d had no training – there’s no Community Leadership MBA – and was not equipped to deal with some of the things I was told. But I wanted to help. I quickly tried to recruit volunteers to launch more runs and help meet the needs of women who clearly wanted to make a change in their lives.

Growth like this comes with tension at home too – nagging from families (“get off that bloody phone!”), and sacrificing friends who get tired of you cancelling events.  Perhaps they think we’re wasting time on social media and don’t see what we’re doing as meaningful work.

It’s deeply ironic that the majority of meaningful community building work like this, whilst seemingly very ‘public’, is mostly unseen and solitary. It’s driven by individuals with passion and commitment and purpose, but lacking funding, experience or the organisational framework to sustain such a pace of growth. It comes with so much influence and potential to change people’s lives – but without the money, training and resources to truly sustain it. It’s the slightly surreal experience of winning awards, media interest and meeting royalty, while secretly worrying about how to replace the kids outgrown school clothes.

Prince william

So hearing from Chris that Facebook were going to step up, that through FCLP they would recognise community owners as leaders worth investing in, well… it was an emotional moment for me.

Of course, cynics may say that community leaders are the best ambassadors for Facebook tools, will act as a powerful sales engine for engagement hungry advertisers and that this programme is an investment by Facebook in their image which has recently taken such a public beating.

Well, maybe this is partly true.

But what has always been clear to me through everyone I have ever met at the organisation, is that Facebook people stand behind their vision and purpose with almost altruistic vigour. As individuals they are passionate about connecting people and improving lives. As teams they commit hard to the work they are doing. And they believe Community Leaders are a new brand of leader that can help them move tangibly closer to their vision of bringing the world closer.

This is not just big corporation rhetoric either. The programme comes with a total of $10M in grants in the first year of this programme alone, together with a a year long programme of training delivered by a newly formed and super talented team, hand picked for their global community building credentials.

In short, this is game changing. And it’s a no brainer that I would apply – along with more than 6000 community leaders from around the world.

We went through a rigorous 6 month long selection process. Every application was evaluated in a multi-phase consideration process (written applications, screening, interviews, video production…). A diverse selection committee of Facebook-ers and external advisors was assembled to make final selections. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for those discussions!

When the winners were finally announced, I was in a tent in deepest France and had been on tenterhooks for weeks waiting for a decision. I had almost given up hope, so ‘excited’ doesn’t really cover it – hyped, ecstatic, proud, amazed, stunned, relieved, happy…and more than anything absolutely certain that this moment would unlock the most incredible things for me as a leader, and for the This Mum Runs community. I celebrated by lying in a hammock with a glass of wine to try and calm down my racing thoughts!


In October  I (somewhat nervously) boarded a plane to join  114 other ‘Fellows’ from over 46 countries at Facebook’s HQ near San Fransisco for the first of four meet ups.


The experience over the 5 days that followed was so intense that its taken me a couple of months to find enough headspace to process it.

Arriving severely jet lagged and meeting some of the other Fellows, I realised straight away that I had found my tribe.

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When you have been working in relative isolation for so long, it’s quite a moment to realise that there are people just like you. People from all corners of the world, driven by the same sense of purpose, and experiencing the same stresses, challenges and roadblocks along the way. As we started the week by sharing our personal and community stories, the Facebook team were on hand with boxes of tissues to mop up our tears.

Aside from the excess of emotion, I was left with a strong feeling of hope. Yes, hope. That – despite the challenging political times , the endless fake news and click bait headlines and the relentless pace of everyday life – the sheer good-ness of the people in that room collectively has the power to quite literally change the world. Between us we represent millions of people from every single corner of the globe.

There were some – perhaps unsurprising – common themes across all our communities, despite our broad geographical spread. Parenting is a universal challenge and there are several groups supporting both Mums and Dads. Mental Health. Health. Physical Wellbeing – I was delighted to see 3 or 4 other running communities.

On the first couple of mornings, unable to sleep I went for a run at 4am. Once with a doctor from Senegal and another time with an inclusivity champion from Egypt (also a Nike athlete). We talked about our work and the common challenges that women in our respective communities face. The conversations we shared were incredibly empowering for me and these were real ‘pinch me’ moments.

Full disclosure, it wasn’t all work and there was plenty of time to get to know each other and learn more about ourselves. For example, I learned that Facebook-ers are ridiculously good at Karaoke


And that if you put a typically reserved community leader in front of a dressing up box, we go crazy;


Also that I am absolutely TERRIBLE at Bocce Ball (google it, I had to…) but scarily competitive.


But aside from the fun stuff, Facebook did work us hard.

7am starts, 10pm finishes, back to back sessions of learning and networking and campus tours and dinners.  The learning curve was steep but I tried to soak it all up despite the tiredness.

A big focus for the programme is unpicking and digging deep underneath the bonnet of this new kind of leadership. There are no manuals, you can’t go to business school (yet) to learn the theories. Which explains why so many of us have felt that we are totally ‘winging it’  because quite literally we are. We’re all making it up as we go along!  And as it turns out, doing a pretty good job of it despite our lack of training.


Facebook has partnered with external experts to try and understand this new kind of leadership and they shared some of this with us. It was pretty exciting to learn that the style of leadership we have all instinctively adopted as community leaders – based on collaboration, mutual growth and empowerment instead of the more traditional authority, hierarchy and competition, really has the power to change the world.

As they shared with us that more than 70% of the worlds business leaders struggle to understand this kind of flexible leadership and lack the skills to build communities, we all began to realise the potential in what we have created.

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The ultimate goal of the programme is to give us the profile, knowledge and tools to become self sustainable when the programme ends.  So these first few days covered:

  • Powerful Storytelling
  • Media Training
  • Product Immersion
  • Fundraising and Investment
  • Self Care

I valued the opportunity to hear from incredible leadership experts like Sarah Schonberg, to learn from the most masterful of storytellers George Gabriel and to hear from inspiring product leaders across Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.

I’m not going to lie, some of the sessions were intensely hard work and demanded a lot of self reflection. Not something i find easy.  On the first day for example, we were asked to write down 5 words that best described us – and whilst others scribbled away furiously, I struggled to get past the word “Mum”. Finding the personal storytelling incredibly difficult too, I soon realised that there might be some work to do on re-discovering myself!

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One of the most shocking things for me was that virtually all the community leaders in the room were experiencing chronic underfunding. A handful were already spending significant chunks of their time fund raising, raising investment, or trying to generate revenue. Having spent 6 of the last 12 months raising investment (and the same 3 years ago), plus a huge amount of time and energy growing an online store to generate much needed revenue, this was certainly  something I could relate to. For most, it was so far beyond the realms of their experience they literally have no idea where to start – and many are laying their homes and families on the line to keep their work going.

We are some of the worlds most influential community leaders, impacting millions of lives around the globe between us….and yet nearly all of us are struggling to unlock the funds we need to sustain our work.

This is a clearly a big problem. Actually no, this is just plain WRONG.

And why being a part of FCLP also provides us with the potential for funding from Facebook.

Up to $50,000 is available to us if we are able to demonstrate a project plan that will both connect people in real life and moves us closer to sustainability over the 9 months.

For This Mum Runs this means a now approved project that will double our footprint. The grant will give us the funds to grow from 3 cities to 6 and to grow our volunteer team from 400 to 800; we plan to grow sustainably in those cities by recruiting paid Community Leaders and empowering them to grow their communities by providing them with central support as well as a budget to launch and activate their own communities.

I will say again. This. Is. Gamechanging.

Growing our ‘In Real Life’ community is and always will be our number one priority. It takes us closer to realising our vision of empowering the worlds Mums to be healthier and happier. But more than that too; growing our community enables us to continue to grow on so many other levels, like one big, continuous virtuous circle. We plan to use community growth as a catalyst for funding, partnerships and other revenue streams – which will ultimately make us sustainable (*fist pumps in the air Rocky style*)

As we enter our 5th year, I feel that we are only just beginning.

With this funding in place, the support of FCLP and the frankly awesome team I now have around me, we literally have the world in the palm of our hands.

We are a powerful force for good and we plan to turn the fitness industry on it’s head. We’ll use the power of community to inspire millions of women to make more time for their own wellbeing.

This moment is a once-in lifetime opportunity to show the doubters that running this community is not just a lifestyle-driven pipe dream that I do for pin money, but a long held dream to change the lives of millions of women around the world.

And I can’t wait to get started.


`#thismumruns #facebook #fclp