Over 100 runners from the charity Silverfit will took on the challenge of London’s brand new half marathon, The Vitality Big Half, in 2018, with many running a half marathon for the first time, as part of a social movement to get older people moving and combat social isolation.
The charity began life in 2013 when founder Eddie Brocklesby, the UK’s oldest female Ironman triathlete, saw a gap in the market for engaging with and assisting older people in getting active. Aiming to promote happier and healthier ageing through physical activity, the charity now runs sessions at 14 different locations across eight London Boroughs, with a nominal yearly membership fee of £5.
Describing their formula as a “sandwich” of socialising/exercising/socialising, the charity now have over 1,000 members across London and are hoping to expand in the near future.
Founder Eddie says: “Our average age at Silverfit is 67 so we do a variety of activities. We’ve just launched walking football for women; we do Zumba, Nordic walking, ordinary walking, Pilates and we’ve just started cheerleading which is very popular. We’re now doing 20 plus sessions a week with a very strong theme of meeting up socially. It’s so vital to our older generation, particularly those who are a little bit more isolated.”
Encouraged by the events mission to engage a wide variety of runners from the local communities of the four boroughs the event goes through (Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Southwark and Greenwich), including many of those where Silverfit sessions are held, Eddie was keen to get involved as soon as she heard about London’s new running event.
“I’ve done the London Marathon six times and it’s a fabulous route, and when I heard about The Big Half and the focus on community, I thought Silverfit could represent what the organisers are seeking to do; to involve older people and expand the level of diversity – I applaud all of that.”
Training their members for a half marathon has been an inspiring and rewarding process so far for the team of volunteers helping to get all 100 runners to the start line, many of whom will be taking part in a running event for the very first time.
Silverfit members Alan and Barbara Beer, who joined the group in 2014, have relished the new lease of life their Silverfit sessions have given them and look forward to walking The Vitality Big Half.
Barbara, who was recently diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a terminal illness, says: “It’s (joining Silverfit) the best thing I’ve ever done. We’ve met so many lovely people. I’m out all the time and I’m 78. If I can do this it will be such a great achievement.”
The couple, who have always enjoyed walking, currently attend classes in Bollywood dancing, walking, cheerleading, and line dancing, but have only recently been persuaded to make a step up to taking part in an official event.
Alan says: “This will be our first half marathon, it’s the first time we’ve been brave enough! We did seven miles last weekend but we’ve done distances greater than that before so we should be fine.”
Fellow Silverfit members Thelma Mitchell, and her friend Margaret Sackey, will be taking part in The Little Half as they embrace their new-found love of walking and Pilates thanks to Silverfit.
“I’ve got a very bad back so Pilates helps me to relax and sleep better,” says Thelma. “I used to walk anyway but the Pilates has helped me with the strength in my whole body.
“I’m very much looking forward to The Little Half. It’s the first time I’ve ever done something like this. I told my grandson first, and he said ‘Well done Nan’, so hopefully they’ll do it with me next year.”
Encouraged to join the group by her friend Thelma, Margaret has been part of the Silverfit family for three years now and reveals it’s the combination of physical activity and socialising that keeps her going each week.
She says: “I do it for fitness; to keep me fit and get me out of the house instead of sitting at home. It’s good to come out and join the group doing activities like walking. It’s the first time I’ll be doing a half marathon and I’m looking forward to it. I just have to give it a go and see how it goes.”
Silverfit hope to lead by example at The Vitality Big Half and show all those in the local community considering taking on a new challenge that anything is possible, no matter your age or ability.