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Neil Featherby: The story of GoodGym - a mix of running and contributing

PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 July 2020

The Good Gym Runners working away on another voluntary job Picture: Steven Hitcham

The Good Gym Runners working away on another voluntary job Picture: Steven Hitcham

Archant

During the last couple of years I have had a number of discussions with several people who are part of the run group, the GoodGym, who run and exercise by way of doing voluntary work.

Steven Hitcham, founder of the Norwich Good Gym Picture: ArchantSteven Hitcham, founder of the Norwich Good Gym Picture: Archant

This led to a proper chat with Steven Hitcham, the man behind the Norwich GoodGym, who told me how, why and when he decided to get behind this project here in the city.

I did also mention to him that at some point it would make for a good Run Anglia column, but before I went ahead with it, I also wanted to know a bit more about him and his running background.

It wasn’t until he was 22 when he first discovered the benefits of running which, by today’s standards, is still very young. But as opposed to being a runner/athlete during his school days and teen years, it was football, cricket and tennis which appealed to him far more than a running track.

However, after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury, he completely lost his appetite for fitness and, just as I mentioned in my column last week with regards to myself at the same age, socialising had far more appeal.

The GoodGym Runners on their way to another job and good deed Picture: Steven HitchamThe GoodGym Runners on their way to another job and good deed Picture: Steven Hitcham

But just as I did, with a little more maturity and, dare I say, having got the nights out with lads out of his system, the desire to get fit again came back. Due to the fear of another such injury occurring, his love for running soon kicked in and he quickly noticed all the physical and mental benefits which came with it.

Being the type of person he is – having a passion for helping others – he also set about developing a career for himself by way of coaching clubs, groups and individuals whilst also having it in the back of his mind to develop his own community-based running and fitness programmes.

This all of course is what led to his GoodGym project, which he got off the ground in 2017 to help people get fit by doing good.

“We’ve helped over 60 different community organisations to date, which includes Eaton and Waterloo Park, Grapes Hill Community Garden, Train Wood, Redmayne View Care Home, Break Charity and many more,” he told me, enthusiastically.

Three years on and 160 good deeds later, the GoodGym really has done a lot of good, that’s for sure. These good deeds can be anything from gardening, litter picking, painting and decorating to playing activities with older people.

“Essentially, anything if it helps the community,” he added.

Away from his GoodGym project, to say he is a very busy man is an understatement; he is also the founder of Exercising People in Communities (EPIC), Norfolk, which is a non-profit organisation which delivers a variety of sports and events to care homes, disability centres, workplaces and LGBT+ groups.

Part of their event calendar sees them organising the EPIC 5K Races in Aylsham, North Walsham, Norwich and one for Norwich Pride #RunWithPride to raise funds for LGBT+ charities. Like so many other events effected by the Covid-19 outbreak, though, this year has seen them adapting their events to virtual runs which, oddly enough, is almost becoming the norm – although let’s hope for no more than this year only. They are also in the process of organising a new event for the 2021 East Anglia race calendar which will be a 5x1km relay. Steve is also head coach at the relatively newly-formed Aylsham Runners which after its first year already has 100 members.

Good luck to Steven Hitcham with all his projects and for those who might be interested in learning a bit more about the GoodGym, it first came about in 2008 after a group of people decided that people could effectively train and keep fit outside of the gym whilst also putting good use to their energy and fitness gains by helping other people in their local community. Twelve years on and there are now 59 GoodGyms scattered around the UK, with lots of interest still building up in other areas.

Since social distancing regulations came in to place, here in Norwich this has prevented the usual Monday night meet-ups at the Forum. Not to be outdone, though, Steve will after checking all jobs which come in, do a mini risk assessment prior to then organising various groups around the size of each job. On the plus side this has made it possible to get even more good deeds and jobs done during the course of each week. Every cloud has a silver lining.

For more information check out www.goodgym.org/areas/norwich or if you would like to get involved and be part of this growing group, then contact Steve at steven@goodgym.org and for the EPIC 5K mini series at Aylsham and North Walsham check out https://totalracetiming.co.uk/race/157 and https://totalracetiming.co.uk/race/160.


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