Article date – 07 January 2019

In September 2018, St Helens Sports Development introduced a new ‘Schools’ Couch to km’ initiative, similar to the service’s award-winning Couch to 5k programme.

To date, the programme has been piloted with Billinge St Aidan’s Primary School, Cowley International College, Rainford High Technology College and The Sutton Academy, with pupils tested on their ability to run over a mile and the gradual training programme developing their confidence to build up fitness in a fun and achievable way.

By offering programmes between 2km and 5km, students and teachers can choose a starting point and progress to running further distances as their fitness develops.

Pupils complete one running session in school time and an additional session is delivered at Saints’ Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday mornings where pupils complete their run around the iconic rugby pitch as an added incentive.

The programme concludes with pupils attending their Junior parkrun graduation which is a free, timed 2k route around the borough’s green flag award-winning Victoria Park. After completing the run, pupils are presented with a certificate and wristband for their achievements. This, in turn, has boosted Junior parkrun attendance numbers as it looks to become the best in the region, with a significant number of young people from Billinge St Aidan’ s alone now regularly attending the 2k Junior parkrun at Victoria Park on a Sunday morning.

Following on from the success at Billinge St Aidan’s – where 88 pupils recently graduated from the programme – St Helens Sports Development have been invited back in January to work with different year groups and more uniquely, a parent and staff group. Legh Vale Primary School in Haydock is also getting involved with the initiative which will see over 70 pupils also benefit from the project.

One success story so far is the development of Sam Haraben, a Year 4 pupil at Billinge St Aidan’s Primary School.

Since taking part in Couch to km, Sam has grown in confidence, increased his fitness, ability to pace and enthusiasm for running. He now participates in the adult 5k parkrun with his dad every Saturday morning in Victoria Park where he continues to improve on his personal best (PB) time.

Hailing the impact of the project so far, programme coordinator, Emma Mather from St Helens Sports Development, said: “The pupils involved have worked tremendously hard and have shown great enthusiasm for their running.

“Some fantastic progress has been made and this is evident both through pupils’ fitness levels and also their confidence, which is an encouraging sign of the things to come.”

St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Based & Focused Services, Councillor Anthony Burns, said:

“As a council we are committed to educating our next generation on the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle, so well engaged initiatives like this are to be encouraged as they are a perfect example of the work we are looking to achieve. It is great to hear success stories like Sam’s and how this programme and others like it can have a positive impact on healthy living.

“Well done to Emma and the team on delivering such an effective programme which I’m delighted to hear is growing and growing, and will hopefully contribute to the development of the borough’s next generation of promising runners.”

If you would like to get your school involved, contact Emma by emailing


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