Q&A: The benefits of a running community with Jessica Coleman

Jessica Coleman is a run leader with RunTalkRun; an initiative aiming to make both running and mental health support less intimidating and more accessible. She joins us to chat about the great work being done with RunTalkRun, the importance of a supportive community, the importance of food in fitness, and her top tips for runners starting out. Read on!

The interview

Please introduce yourself.

Hey! I am Jessica aka RunnerJessica, 28 and I live in Lincolnshire with my husband and puppy. I work full time in Beauty Marketing and when I am not working I can be found running or on long walks in the countryside. I am a mental health advocate and a RunTalkRun Leader in Lincoln.

When did you find a love for running?

I joined my first running club at the age of 7 (both my parents were runners and later in life my dad competed in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta). Running has always been a huge part of my life and I competed until I was around 14 – I then decided that partying and hanging out with my friends was much more fun and it wasn’t until I moved home after finishing university that I tried running again – when I re-discovered it at 21 it was different, I used it as an escapism and as a way to socialise. Fast forward 7 years, I have run 2 marathons, lots of half marathons and 10Ks and am now a Run Leader for RunTalkRun. I am so glad I re-discovered my love for running again.

Tell us what is involved as a Run Leader with RunTalkRun.

We run RunTalkRun every Tuesday which is a 5KM run/walk and talk around Lincoln, a safe space for people to exercise but also talk about what is on their mind or anything worrying them, no problem or concern is too big or too small – we are there to listen. We also offer support outside of our Tuesday night session and we have built a real community and support network, I have made some wonderful friends since becoming a leader. As a leader, our role is to plan the route and listen as we talk about everyone’s week there isn’t any pressure to talk or open up (this is optional), we just want our runners to know we are there – RTR isn’t about pace, time or getting from A to B, there is no pressure and no-one gets left behind. I would recommend RTR to anyone and hope your readers can contact their local RTR if they are interested!

How important do you think a supportive community is in promoting health and wellbeing?

I believe a supportive community really helps with motivation and keeping on track, especially with everything happening at the moment with the pandemic it is so nice to have the support network both online and offline – the opportunity to discuss everything really helps. However, my advice would be with communities – use them for support rather than comparison, don’t compare your own journey to others.

When it comes to looking after mind and body, what are the biggest benefits from running for you?

Running for me is my escapism, I use it as a time to digest my day, or my week and just run – I am currently not training for anything at the moment so I don’t have any goals in mind so I can just enjoy running for what it is. The endorphins you feel after running are simply like nothing else and I never regret a run (cliché I know!) especially as sometimes it takes myself hours to get out running! The mental benefits I have felt from running are amazing, almost always a run will help clear my mind or help me digest information and situations better.

What motivates and inspires you? 

Seeing how far I have come! If you had told me 7 years ago that I would have ran 2 marathons and my favourite running distance would be half-marathon I wouldn’t have believed you but I put my mind to it and I did it – If you want something enough, then nothing is out of reach!

You regularly post about food. How important is diet in living a healthier and happier life? 

I don’t like the word ‘diet’ as I feel it has such negative associations due to society but everything is about balance for me. I love cooking and experimenting with food, and I love sharing my recipes, these have gone down really well on RunnerJessica and I try to post food as often as I can. Food for me goes hand in hand with exercise, they compliment each other and you won’t see results from just one – they work together as a team. But, if you want to eat that pizza, eat it – food should never feel restrictive, it all comes down to balance.

Any top running training tips for those starting out?

Yes! Don’t worry about time or distance when you first start out, just run! No matter how far or how fast you run, you are a runner! Keep going, it will get easier and more enjoyable.

Lastly, what does a ‘healthy lifestyle’ mean to you? 

Balance! For me, it needs to be realistic and sustainable – I want to be able to enjoy running/training as well as eat food I love and socialise.

Thanks so much, Jessica! You can follow her journey through her Instagram account @runnerjessica.