Six years ago Rosanne Lightfoot was a size 20, hadn’t done exercise since her school days and was on anti-depressants. Now she wears a size 10, gets a natural high from exercise and runs a community running club that attracts up to 100 people a session.
The Acklam housewife has been rewarded for her amazing efforts that are helping others to change their lives by receiving a Teesside Hero Award – along with husband Craig who helps run the club with her.
They received their trophy in a surprise presentation by charitable movement Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, watched by many of those who benefit from their twice-weekly sessions around Hemlington Lake.
Lisa Preston, of Foundation patrons Hunters estate agents, also presented a trophy for £1,000 for a good cause of their choice – with Teesside Hospice set to receive the cash boost.
Asked how they felt about the accolade, Rosanne, 52, answered: “It was a complete shock! I had no idea. Once I’d overcome the shock, I was swinging from the chandeliers.
“To be called a Teesside hero is amazing. We’ve taken our trophy to show everyone we know and the reaction has been astonishing because they keep telling us we deserve it. We just feel really proud to know that people think what we’re doing is really good.
“We do it because we enjoy seeing people excelling and coming on.
Rosanne’s life as a community champion who inspires dozens of others of all levels of fitness to run is a far cry from where she was in 2009.
Back then she was “size 18, going on size 20”, had been on anti-depressants for six or seven years and was still recovering from a breakdown
Rosanne’s life began to change on a Saturday morning six years ago when her then 14-year-old daughter Megan told her she wanted to take part in the popular Park Run in Middlesbrough’s Albert Park.
“I wouldn’t let her go by herself so I took her along and joined in,” she explained. I hated it – but Megan wanted to go back so I’d go along with her every week, hoping she’d get it out of her system.
“I was last every week for months – but by the time Megan had had enough I was hooked! I used to chunter away to myself, saying ‘I hate this’, but then the feelgood factor kicked in. I started to get a natural endorphin kick from the running.
“I went from being size 20 to size 10, from taking 40 minutes to cover the 5k course to 26 minutes. I also realised there’s a lot of people out there who think they can’t run and don’t have support from others to encourage them to do exercise.”
Rosanne, who is profoundly dyslexic, set up community running club Swift-Tees, who now meet every Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening at Hemlington Habintech Centre before making their way around a 5k course at whatever pace suits them.
Husband Craig, a plumber with housing group Thirteen, now coaches participants, while they have eight volunteers who are now qualified as Leadership in Fitness and Running trainers.
“We have so many amazing people who join us. Regulars include those with Aspergers and autism, ladies who’ve been in abusive relationships and even a guy who was having to learn to walk again after a brain tumour but has since run his first marathon.
“We’re a community support group really. It’s supportive, not competitive. We do have fast runners but some just walk and that’s fine. We’re called Swift-Tees because we’re anything but swift!”
Among those who take part are daughter Megan, now 20, who first inspired her mum to take up running and 22-year-old son Charlie – who suffers from Aspergers and is also dyslexic and dispraxic – who took part in last year’s Great North Run.
Fly Me to the Moon editor and keen runner Robert Nichols, who nominated Craig and Rosanne for the award, said: “Rosanne and Criag are at the forefront of a group that is helping people get healthy and forging a real community spirit. The number of individual success stories is amazing – and it’s all down to their inspiration.”