Strolling through Cardiff’s Bute Park on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, wearing a pair of Capri pants and shiny new Asics trainers, the fresh-faced Ruth Jones couldn’t look less like her world-famous, larger-than-life screen creation, Nessa Jenkins.
The Welsh comedy queen has for years had us in stitches with her role as the feisty and straight-talking Nessa in the comedy series Gavin and Stacey. Ruth continues to warm our hearts through her more recent on-screen role as the warm and fun-loving Stella in the Sky comedy-drama, which she co-writes with her husband, David Peet.
Off-screen, Ruth Jones is just as endearing, down-to-earth and funny and what’s more, she’s a runner! In fact, this year, she will be running the Cardiff Race in our WR10K Race Series.
Meeting with Ruth in her hometown earlier this week, to find out a little more about her journey in taking up running, it soon became apparent that Ruth Jones couldn’t be a more accessible role model for the female running community.
Sipping coffee in Bute Park, the race location for this year’s WR10K Cardiff Race, Ruth told us how her running journey first began. She said:
‘Initially, I started running to lose weight. At my heaviest I was about 110 kilos, so 17.5 stone, which is really not good and healthy and I had a bit of a revelation that this had to stop. I’d tried several diets but realised the only way that was going to work for me was limiting my calories to 1200 – 1500 a day.’
‘It took me a couple of years to shift four stone but at the beginning of 2013 I was still 90kg and knew I had to do more than just cut calories.’ While she was dieting, Ruth shyly admitted that weight-loss programmes such as Obese: A Year to Save my Life had become her guilty pleasure, but also the catalyst for her decision to take up running. She said: ‘Seeing Jesse Pavelka the personal trainer talking to these people with a massive weight loss challenge ahead of them made me finally accept how important daily exercise actually is.’
‘I’ve never been into exercise, but I signed up to David Lloyd gym in Cardiff and got this trainer, Marc Davis, who is absolutely brilliant because he’s both patient and determined and crucially has a good sense of humour! I started doing sessions three times a week and then built it up.
‘So the combination of cutting down on calories and doing exercise was great. In amongst that, I thought I’d try and get into running so I started doing the Couch to 5K.’
One of the biggest challenges Ruth faced upon first taking up running was developing confidence in what she could do. ‘I remember when the Couch to 5K programme would say to me “and now jog” and it would be for three minutes and I’d think “I can’t run for three minutes.”’
However, after being challenged by her personal trainer to run solidly for eight minutes and managing to so, Ruth realised her body was, in fact, perfectly capable – her struggles had been purely psychological.
‘When I went to one of my sessions, Marc said: “We’re going to run now for eight minutes on the treadmill and I went: “Sorry? You don’t understand, I can’t run for eight minutes, I can’t even run for three minutes.” Anyway, I did it and it was a real crunch point for me.
‘I realised I’d been saying “I can’t” but until you try you won’t find out will you?’
In October 2014, Ruth then participated in the Cardiff Half Marathon as part of a relay team with the Stella cast and crew, which she described as ‘one of her biggest lifetime achievements.’ Ruth confessed that she found running the 10K leg at the Cardiff Half a hugely nerve-wrecking experience.
She said: ‘I can honestly say that when James Corden and I stood up in front of 15,000 people at the Comedy Gala at the 02 arena in 2010, I was less nervous than I was lining up for the Cardiff Half.’
That said, Ruth was encouraged by a sense of camaraderie both on the day and while training with the team. It is this sense of team spirit and supportive race day atmosphere that Ruth looks forward to most in running and training for our WR10K Cardiff Race. ‘One of the main reasons I’m looking forward to the Women’s Running 10K in Bute Park is the camaraderie on the day, as well as in the build up to the day,’ said Ruth. She added:
‘When we were training for the Cardiff Half, there were 38 of us running with Tidy Productions. We would train together at lunchtime – I would run with Nikki and Ali – the make up artists who were in my relay team. We would take before and after videos and we’d always feel so good looking back afterwards when we’d done it!
‘For the Womens Running 10k, we’ve got a team of about 12 girlies so far – and it’s growing – cast and crew from Stella, and girls from the office.
‘We’ve downloaded our training schedules from the WR magazine – and we’re just all getting excited about the team element. And the cake afterwards. That’s very important.’
Ruth, however, admits she is currently going through a bit of a ‘rough patch’ in her training. ‘There was Christmas and I put on a stone and a half, and I’m finding it harder to get around, but I’m absolutely determined because I know I can do it,’ she says. ‘What I’m trying to do at the moment is walk and run.’
This is the advice Ruth would give to other women struggling with their training. ‘I’m a great believer in bite-size pieces, whether you’re talking about eating a cake or whether you’re talking about achieving something like improving your running,’ she laughs.
Ruth also recommends setting yourself a goal to aim for and a reward to work towards! ‘If I can run 60K before Easter Sunday then I’ve promised myself a big roast dinner with all the trimmings! 62k and I reckon I’ll deserve a lemon meringue pie ha ha! – 65K and it’s an Easter Egg! That thought is definitely keeping me going.’
Not a very healthy goal admittedly but it’s working! Especially given Ruth decided to give her new pair of trainers a whirl and go for a run after speaking with us.
If, like Ruth, you’re ready for your next challenge, why not run with Ruth in our WR10K Cardiff Race? Sign up here: bit.ly/13bmjZe