Rebecca – Sport for All

Rebecca is a plodder. “I’m happy plodding,” she laughs. I immediately warm to her as I too am a plodder. We are talking running and I tell her I have long got over the embarrassment of my 10 year old son beating me at Park Run every week. Rebecca has run a few marathons; London, Chicago and New York, but to her it’s not about the time. “It’s a challenge, it’s a target and it’s that overwhelming achievement at the end”. Saying that, competitiveness, or maybe it’s pride, does still play a role in her marathon running, which she tries to do in just under five hours. When she ran the London Marathon she was pleased to be on track, and indeed finished in 4 hours 57 minutes. But it didn’t come without a moral dilemma in the race. Towards the end, she saw someone she knew. “I was going to stop and talk to this lady I recognised, who was struggling…I looked at my watch and I just thought I can’t. And even if I see her now, I feel guilty…She probably just needed a little ‘come on’ but I had twenty minutes to go – that’s awful isn’t it!” 

Her plodding running style is in sharp contrast to everything else she does. When I interview her she bounds in to the room and talks at a million miles an hour. Maybe her running is her way of slowing down. Recently she came home looking exhausted and her husband asked how a particular meeting had gone. “I just went blah blah blah blah blah…I just unloaded for 40 minutes”. But she has good reason to rant.

“I am really lucky to do the job I do. I really love it”.

Rebecca works at Sportspace. She has worked there for 34 years. “I am really lucky to do the job I do. I really love it”. She started as a teenager in an admin post and is now the Operations Director. She has always loved sport; team sports when she was younger and now running is her passion. The thing that really drives her, and her eyes light up when she talks about it, is how to get as many different people as possible, from all walks of life, more active. “It’s about more people, having more opportunities, in whatever way and whatever form works for them”. The way her and her team have done this is by appealing to the things people enjoy, not by forcing everyone to the gym. The XC Centre is a great example of this. By bringing together a skatepark, caves and a climbing wall, Rebecca and her team have encouraged a younger crowd who probably don’t think of themselves as sporty in the traditional school team sport way, to get active.

Just before Christmas it emerged that council had made a decision that Sportspace should to be taken over by a national profit-led company, ceasing the partnership they had with the local not-for-profit they had set up to run it since 2004. Rebecca and her colleagues were very emotional. They didn’t know what would this would mean in terms of their jobs and, importantly for Rebecca, what it would mean in terms of the philosophy to encourage sport for all, not just to those who could afford it. Under a company that is ploughing money back to shareholders rather than the community, what would happen in the future to people, like the elderly lady who told Rebecca, ‘this place saved my life’. One night at home she was completely overwhelmed by the whole situation, but didn’t want to talk to anyone. She just thought she would burst in to tears. But she tells how her 25 year old son was unusually tender. He said, “Mum I totally understand, you’ve been there before you had me, before you and dad. I totally understand where you are coming from”.

“It was an angry run”

There is one time when Rebecca hasn’t been a plodder. When she was furious about the situation with council, she went on a run to let off steam. “It was an angry run…and I vividly remember it”. Her sister, who often runs with her, saw her run on Garmin (an app that shares your running speed and other data). “I got a text later (from my sister) to say ‘what on earth made you run at that speed?’”. Rebecca giggles. “I don’t think I could ever do that speed again!” Maybe I need to get angrier to help with my running speed, and to be honest, reading all the details about council and how they have treated Sportspace, believe me I am. Depending on which way the council meeting goes on Wednesday, I may yet beat my 10 year old son at Park Run on Saturday.

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