Sunday’s very first ‘Run Portlethen’, a five-mile women-only road race and a one-mile family dash, was a huge success.
Lynne Erskine, chair of the Sportlethen Community Sports Hub and one of the founders of jogscotland Portlethen (aka ‘Run Porty Run’), was the driving force behind the new, community-focused event.
“Most of the other Aberdeenshire hubs put on an annual running event and it was something I was keen to try and do,” she told runABC Scotland.
So when Lynne was contacted by Aberdeenshire's community sports hub officer with a very short-notice funding opportunity, she knew she had to work quickly.
“We basically had two days to come up with ideas. The funding available was aimed at groups of the population who are at risk of becoming inactive, and two of those groups are women and families. I thought this was amazing – and a great opportunity to offer a female only running event.”
Targeting the event at women and families was particularly important to Lynne, whose jogscotland group also runs a weekly session just for teenage girls.
Lynne said: “I have four children, and I'm keen to develop opportunities for family participation in events – hence our family mile dash.”
“One of my daughters is 13, and I can see just how difficult it can be to engage this age group in physical activity and positive body image, so I'm keen to lead by example and help get them out there and develop fitness and confidence.”
Public response to Sunday’s event was overwhelmingly positive. There have been – perhaps unsurprisingly – a few comments regarding why the run was only for women, but Lynne and her team aren’t ignoring them.
“We’re closely monitoring this event to see whether the fact that it was female only has worked to increase female participation, or whether this event should be mixed in future. We’ve been asking our runners what their thoughts are too.”
On the day the weather was perfect for the 117 women who joined together on the start line of the five-mile event, with the rain stopping just in time to reveal a cool, dry and sunny day. 90 runners took part in the family mile, with ‘lots of smiling faces’ to be seen.
Lynne said: “We had a fantastic amount of community support, and it has just been amazing to be able to kick off an event like this in Portlethen. We’re already looking forward to next year!”
Chelsea Cook (Orkney Running Club) won the inaugural event, setting the time to beat for future runners at 36.45. Sophie Shaw (Metro Aberdeen) was runner-up in 37.10. Third place was local runner Claire Gauld, taking part in her first official race and ‘ecstatic’ to be on the podium.
Image: courtesy Ken Watson