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Running towards dreams: Tony’s Big Life Journey

“It’s been good for my mental health. It’s made me into a different sort of person and given me confidence. I know I’m no Mo Farah but I know I am good at running and people look up to that.”

Tony felt his life was on a downward spiral before he came to Big Life’s Energise Centre in Salford. But thanks to volunteering he discovered a new passion that re-ignited his ambitions.

“Before I came to the Energise Centre – my head was all over the place and I was drinking and eating loads. I wanted to get out and mix with people more. So I went along to the Time to Talk group at the Energise and did motivation and weight loss.

“It was while I was going to Centre that I’d started to run more. It helped with my mental health – it clears your brain and gives you the chance to escape. Once I was feeling better and healthier, it came to the point that I was in a Time to Talk group thinking I’m ready for more now, ready to give something back.

“For first six months I was volunteering generally at the Centre – selling fruit bags, regularly visiting an old folks home around the corner and helping run the Time to Talk group.

“I also went to a weight loss class top my knowledge. The lady that ran that said we could put on a ‘Couch to 5K’ running course together. That sort of started it. She put the seed there and I went ‘yeah, why not’. She signed up everyone in the weight loss group for the Couch to 5K course.”

Before long he was running groups of his own.

“First the centre development workers asked me to lead a buggy run group at the Energise Centre and booked me in for a UK Athletics run leader training course to build on my skills.

 “Then after doing the course, a friend said we could start our own Couch to 5K course at Albert Park, Salford. For that first one we got 7 or 8 people to come in the pitch black. When I came for start of the second course there was only one car in the car park, then 20 people appeared from behind a hedge. Then more people started appearing from over the hill, it was like a movie.”

 Tony’s Couch to 5K running group has since become a fully constituted group and secured long term funding. He’s now looking for sponsors for his Tony’s Albert Park (TAP) Runners which helps people keep running regularly once they’ve done the 5K run.

“It’s been good for my mental health. It’s made me into a different sort of person and given me confidence. I know I’m no Mo Farah but I know I am good at running and people look up to that.”

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Coronavirus update

In light of the current situation, we are making changes to the way we deliver services at the moment. One-to-one appointments that would normally be delivered face-to-face will now take place over the phone or through video call. There is no need to call us to confirm – your regular point of contact will call you at the time your appointment was scheduled.

We are also no longer holding groups inside. We’re currently arranging alternatives where possible through considering walking or virtual groups. Please contact your group facilitator, or the centre where the group runs from, for more information.

If you’re worried, think you may have symptoms of Coronavirus or want further information, see the latest advice from Public Health England.

Finally, if you’re struggling through self-isolation, please don’t feel alone. There are local community groups being created all over the country, which you can find here. Alternatively, you can call our community centres in your local area, which you can find here.