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What I've learnt from my 500 runs - and tasks - with GoodGym

In September 2017, Beth Hoskins became the first GoodGym member to reach the 500 runs (and good deeds) milestone. Here, she writes about her experiences with the charity.

I first heard about GoodGym in the summer of 2013. Having volunteered at the London Olympics in 2012, I was looking for other volunteering opportunities to get involved in.

Having recently got into running, after years of doing no physical activity, the mix of community focused volunteering and running advice from a qualified coach was the perfect combination.

Worrying about whether I'd be able to keep up with everyone else meant it was a few months before I gave it a try but, in January 2014, I went along to a starter session in Camden and haven't looked back.

The first task I took part in was very close to where we met, so it was perfect for putting my running nerves at ease, and everyone that I met was really friendly - particularly the trainer, Shaun, who made an effort to chat to us all.  

I had such a great time that I signed up to become a member the next day and went along to the regular Camden group run a couple of days later

After a couple of months, one group run a week wasn't enough, so I started going to Lambeth too. My first Lambeth task remains one of my favourites, helping Vauxhall foodbank weigh and sort their donations. It's a classic example of how quickly a large group can get a job done; it takes us about 15 minutes to sort a tonne of food by type, where it would take one person hours to do on their own.

Having done over 300 group runs now I've learned a lot about amazing community projects going on that I would never have heard of otherwise. I've also had some pretty out of the ordinary weekday evenings - turfing the roof garden of the Southbank, lining a pond in Camden, painting some toilets in Lambeth, wheeling some trees down the road in Southwark, moving a pirate ship in Newham, painting a snake at an adventure playground in Lewisham and sorting coats in Westminster.

With GoodGym's help, I've also completed a Leadership in Running Fitness course, meaning that I can help out the trainer on a group run and even lead a session if required.

As well as helping out at various community organisations, I've also done good on a smaller scale by doing almost 100 missions

These missions have been very varied and have ranged from a few hours trying to clear an overgrown and inaccessible garden to a few minutes rehanging a picture. It's often a job that seems small but can make such a difference to someone who is isolated and doesn't have anyone else to turn to for help. Seeing how grateful the beneficiary is when we leave, makes the hard work worth it.

As well as regular group runs and missions, I've also been visiting my coach, Paul, for two years. It took a while for me to feel ready for the commitment of running to visit someone every week, but reading the story of my friend John and his coach made me realise what an impact it can make. Paul and I have got on really well from the start and, although it's just me popping in for a chat, it means a lot to both of us.

But it's not all just do-gooding, with the support of other GoodGym runners, I've raced a train and horses in Wales, run a marathon whilst drinking wine in Bordeaux, and visited places I never would have dreamed of going before. I've found out that there's amazing projects going on in my neighbourhood and, most importantly, I've made a lot of great friends that I hope to keep for many years to come.