One simple Facebook request changed Mel Bound’s life. When she posted a call-out for someone to run with on a group for Bristol mums, she sparked a movement that would end up reaching thousands of women.
“I put up a post and just said, ‘I need to do something. I’m really scared to start but I’m going to start. I’m going to put Lyla to bed on Wednesday night and then I’m going to the park. If anyone’s feeling the same, then just turn up.” When Mel arrived at the park that evening, there were 75 women waiting for her.
Fast forward a couple of years and Mel, 43, is heading up This Mum Runs, a movement which supports mothers to meet up and run together. Managing the organisation has become Mel’s full-time job, as she coordinates the group’s network of Runmakers – women trained to help mothers start and keep running. There are now around 4,000 people running with This Mum Runs throughout Bristol and Bath, and there are plans to expand.
Passionate about running
Speaking to Mel it’s obvious that, having rediscovered her own love of running, she is passionate about spreading the message to other women who may lack the confidence or time to start. Losing running had a huge impact on Mel, as it had been such a big part of her life. “I absolutely loved running the minute I started doing it – I just loved the feeling of it. I’ve got this really clear memory of my first ever race when I was 10. It was only a couple of miles, not even that, but I remember being on the start line and how it felt to finish, and that just stayed with me my whole life.”
Mel’s running went everywhere with her: through busy years living and working in London, and travelling around Africa in her early 20s. But once she had children, her running took a back seat. “I was knackered and didn’t have any time,” she says. The situation was compounded when she slipped a disc and needed surgery on her back, meaning she simply couldn’t run . She ended up afraid to run in case she became injured again. The effect, for someone who loved her sport so much, was not good. “It was a combination of having a baby, having slight postnatal depression, having surgery, all of the painkillers, being in chronic pain for 18 months – it changed me as a person. I knew I had to do something about it.”
But it was a comment from her personal trainer that led to Mel’s fateful Facebook post. “I had a year of rehab [after surgery] and I had a personal trainer who said to me, ‘You’re someone that needs to move. You’re going to have to be brave and do it.’”
This Mum Runs
Motherhood had changed Mel’s world, and she felt out of touch with the people she’d exercised with before, so she decided that the only way she’d manage was if she found other mums to run with – leading to that first meeting in the park in October 2014. Mel set up a Facebook group so the running mums could stay in touch, and organise weekly runs. Gradually, women in other parts of Bristol asked if they could do the same, so the programme expanded. Within a few weeks, there were around 250 women running with This Mum Runs.
Six months later – by April 2015 – Mel realised she needed to expand the remit. “When we started, the people who came along could run two or three miles,” she says. “We had this thing that if you’re on a run, you post a selfie. In January last year, one of the mums got a post that said, ‘It’s really lovely seeing all your posts but I can’t come to your runs, because I can’t even run to the end of my road.’ I didn’t realise there were people in our community who were feeling like they couldn’t come. They were talking about meeting in the park with a running book to try to work it out.” Mel realised she could help.
Now This Mum Runs offers Couch to 5K courses and programmes for women who are ready to run further, and is trialling strength and flexibility classes for its members. This year, Mel aims to expand the programme to four new locations. However, she’s keen to ensure that women have a consistently good experience with This Mum Runs, no matter how much it expands.
Although This Mum Runs members are united by the fact that they have children – Mel herself is mum to Lyla, now six, and Rafferty, two – it’s often the last thing that comes up when they run. “Everyone understands that you’re knackered, you might have had a tough day juggling loads of stuff, but you don’t necessarily want to talk about it. You don’t need to spend a whole run talking about nappies and weaning.”
There is no doubt that Mel gets a real kick from her work. “It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” she says. “I know how much of a difference running has made to my life and seeing how much difference it makes for women who have never believed they could start running, seeing them make that journey to thinking of themselves as runners is unbelievably rewarding. It’s given me back my own running and my identity. And it’s almost like it’s a piece that’s always been missing from my working life – making a bit of a difference to people.”