A RUNNING group has surged in popularity in the last fortnight, with 120 people now regularly turning out to sessions in Blackburn’s Witton Park.

The free 5k Group Run was launched last summer by Rick Wilson, from Revidge, but has ‘taken off’ this month after word spread on a social media website.

Rick weighed nearly 20 stone a year ago but wanted to be fitter, so decided to train towards running the Pennine Lancashire 10k race.

The 46-year-old, who works for Lancashire County Council, said: “I thought about joining a proper running club but thought it might be a bit daunting, so I found this NHS running programme called ‘Couch to 5k’, which I started following myself. In the eight weeks before the race I managed to lose three stone and my friends couldn’t believe it.

“A few of them showed an interest and started following the programme with me, and then gradually a few more people got involved.”

Until Christmas around 30 people turned up to Witton Park, but the members then began publicising the group on Facebook.

Rick added: “We got everyone to invite their friends and set up a webpage to advertise the group, as we knew lots of people would be trying to take up running in the new year. Suddenly we were getting more than 100 people at each session, and about 150 people have joined the Facebook group in the last week.

“I’m amazed how successful it’s been.”

Rick and about 30 other members now act as volunteer mentors, to offer support and advice to new members, as well as joining in the runs.

The group has also been supported by Blackburn Road Runners.

Ron O’Keeffe, chairman of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I would encourage people to join in with activities like this.”

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