Whether you’re a keen runner or a total newbie who doesn’t know where to start, now is the time to tie those laces and hit the pavements and parks – that’s what more and more people in Handsworth, Birmingham, are doing every day.

Many of us dread the thought of running on our own. Wouldn’t it be a bit boring or would I embarrass myself? By the time we’ve sorted out our kit, our ‘get up and go’ has often ‘got up and gone’.

However, the people of Handsworth are proving they’re made of sterner stuff.

Over 200 locals are meeting weekly to run together through the award-winning parks, streets and hills of Handsworth and they’re loving it. Here’s why the Handsworth group’s growing by the day:

1. Handsworth is beautiful

Handsworth is much misunderstood. Popular perceptions see it as a grey, inner-city suburb with lots of problems but Run Birmingham’s, carefully-planned, routes will take you through another world – one where you discover beautiful vistas and scenery.

Clinton Gordon, Run Birmingham activator: “Handsworth Park is a hidden gem.  Only 15 minutes by bus from the city centre, the park is 63 acres of landscaped, grass slopes, a large boating lake, ponds, beautiful flower beds, trees and wildlife plus our very own band stand. Our park is definitely not what you expect to find in inner city Birmingham and it is a beautiful place to run on a sunny Sunday morning.”

2. Making new friends

What you don’t always hear about is the running friends you meet along the way. From your run club buddies to social media mates, running and friendships go hand in hand. The friends you meet through running might just enrich your life in ways you never imagined.

“Join a running group like Active Parks Handsworth on Sunday mornings and you’ll see people are more concerned about whether you’re having fun than how fast you can run,” advises Tonya, 48, from Birmingham. “My running friends and I push each other to achieve more and have lots of fun! Running friends form a deep bond. To push yourself, you have to dig deep and also be vulnerable so I think this makes your friendships stronger.”

3. Handsworth mum’s ‘me time’

Taking time out a few times a week to get some fresh air, clear your head and raise your heart rate can leave you with a classic dose of the dreaded ‘mummy guilt’.

This should not be the case, Hayley, 36, from Birmingham explains why running is perfect exercise for busy mums: “Being a single mum can be quite lonely at times so the social side of my running group is one of the things I enjoy most. I think running is perfect exercise for mums because you can fit it around family life, it is so flexible, easy and free. Running for me has become ‘me time’. Time to get out of the house, breathe some fresh air, forget about cooking meals, chasing after kids and tidying the house.”

4. Happy Handsworth

It is well documented that running is great for reducing stress and improving well-being. It releases endorphins giving a sense of happiness and increasing energy levels.

Fiaz, 34, from Handsworth explains why he runs: “I was new to the city and was finding it hard to settle in and meet new people.  I was still looking for work and started feeling isolated and a bit low which is hard for a guy to admit. Joining the ‘5k group’ with Run Birmingham is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve met loads of new people.  I now know and love my local area far more and feel happier and fitter than ever.”

5. You might shed a few pounds

Any exercise is good exercise but when it comes to losing weight, it’s hard to beat running. After all, running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories.

Working towards a goal will always help boost confidence and lend a sense of achievement.  That goal may start as getting fitter or losing weight but for those runners who ‘get the bug’ there’s a busy calendar of challenges across the area – from free weekly 5k up to full marathon and beyond.

Birmingham grandmother, Cheryl from Birmingham, said: ““Joining the ‘5k group’ is the best decision I’ve ever made.  I’ve achieved so much. I’ve lost weight.  I’m fitter now than I’ve ever been and I have even completed a half marathon. I can now say that I enjoy running.  That’s something I never thought I would say.”

Inspired? Go to www.runbirmingham.com/activities and load up which day and type of run suits you and find your nearest group.