In 2018, the 5k Your Way initiative was launched by oncology doctor, and professional triathlete, Lucy Gossage in partnership with cancer survivor Gemma Hillier-Moses.
Their concept was simple: oncology professionals, those living with, or who have had, cancer and their families are encouraged to attend a local parkrun event on the last Saturday of every month.
A year on, Saturday 29 June marks the first birthday for 5k Your Way, and there are now 46 groups linked with parkruns across the UK and Ireland.
Lucy and Gemma reflect on the first 12 months, and what their plans and aspirations are for the years ahead…
We didn’t set out with the goal of creating something with the potential to become this big. We just wanted to find a way to encourage those living with and beyond cancer to experience the known physical benefits from being active alongside the psychosocial benefits from a support network that understands. And what better way to do this than by attempting to create a community within the wonderful community that is parkrun.
Lucy Gossage, 5k Your Way Co-Founder: “On 23 June 2018 I got up early to ride back from my parents to the first ‘5K Your Way, Move Against Cancer’ at Forest Rec parkrun in Nottingham.
“I hope some people come” said my mum as I left. But if I’ve learnt one thing in my time as a triathlete, it’s that it’s better to try and fail than to ask what if.
We were lucky, that first Saturday in June, to have the support from Stephen List at the Nottingham CARE (Cancer and Rehabilitation Exercise) programme, who brought down a large group to join us, many of whom have kept coming ever since.
Having nervously texted each other the night before, Gemma and I needn’t have worried about attendance. “I think we can call this a success” we messaged each other afterwards.
After that first, uplifting, energising and life-affirming Saturday morning, we decided straight away to make 5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer, a regular occurrence on the last Saturday of every month.
Since then, 5k Your Way has been gaining momentum month by month. Our growing group of passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated 5k Your Way ambassadors make each event unique and we are so grateful for the support of parkrun, both centrally and locally and of course the volunteers.”
Gemma Hillier-Moses 5k Your Way Co-Founder: “After being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 24 in 2012, I gained a completely different perspective on life.
Being diagnosed with cancer completely turned my life upside down and so I was determined to provide people with the support that I never received. I know first-hand how important movement is for both physical and mental health when living with and beyond cancer.
5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer initiative is really life changing in so many ways.
We didn’t start 5k Your Way with big aspirations. However, by the end of 2020, we aim to have a 5k Your Way group linked to every hospital treating cancer in the UK and Ireland. We believe we can do this.
We have such an incredibly inspiring community and a growing group of ambassadors that will only help us develop and grow this initiative moving forward.
However, we have work to do! Not least, educating and encouraging health care professionals to understand the benefits of exercise, both physical and psychosocial, for those living with and beyond cancer.
We want to ensure every health care professional working in cancer services is aware of 5k Your Way and we want to share the message that we’re not just a running club. We’re not even a running club. Just like parkruns across the world, our groups welcome anyone to walk, jog or run as much or as little of the 5k as they want; to cheer or to volunteer, and to join our 5k Your Way groups for a natter over a drink after.
5k Your Way is a support group with a difference; a coffee morning with a difference; a walking and running club with a difference. Just like parkrun, we welcome all.
Founding 5k Your Way has been a rollercoaster of a year. Each month, we hear inspirational and uplifting stories from across the country. Yet, by its nature, any group involving those affected by cancer will at times be heartbreaking.
Last month, Jane Sherwood, who set up the vibrant Leicester 5k Your Way group, now known as ‘Jane’s run’ died from breast cancer. Cancer can be cruel, but we hope that 5k Your Way is a source of positive energy and community for anyone affected by cancer in any way, through the good times and the bad.
For us, these words from Sue, a Nottingham 5k Your Way regular in her 60s, sum up what we wanted to achieve:
“I love it. It gives me something to think about, to focus on. When people ask me how I am I don’t talk about the bad stuff. I just say I’ve started running. And I talk about the running.”
We would like to thank all our incredible ambassadors, volunteers and HQ team (Luke Green, Lizzie Paddock and Ann Hillier) for their hard work and commitment to helping make this initiative a huge success. We will be forever grateful.
To find out more about 5k Your Way:
Lucy Gossage and Gemma Hillier-Moses
5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer Founders
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