Even Jenny Blakely’s voice sounds energetic as she confidently answers the phone in the Ladies’ Workout Express gym (LWE) in Belfast, which she manages.
It’s no surprise that Jenny (28) loves her job. She has worked in the fitness industry since leaving college at 18, apart from a couple of years’ break in retail management.
And this woman practises what she preaches when taking classes in 21st century workout essentials such as steps and aerobics. Jenny says: “I’ve always been a very active person, and I loved PE at school. I played hockey and netball at Laurel Hill High School, where my PE teacher, Mrs Becket, was inspiring. We had some of the best facilities, too, among local high schools.”
Once she’d left, Jenny ran for Lisburn athletics club. She tired of the demands of training after a while, though, and moved on to body pumping and aerobics. “It was just that you had to get your backside out, whether it was raining, windy or sunny.”
Yet the running bug resurfaced and this year, Jenny is tackling Runher 2009 on June 28 with renewed enthusiasm. This is because she is one of several women at Ladies’ Workout Express who are supporting the CLIC Sargent children’s cancer charity by getting sponsorship for their efforts on the day.
The reason Jenny has selected this charity is because, although her three-year-old daughter Hannah has fortunately not suffered from cancer, she was born with a rare condition — gastroschisis — which meant her intestines formed outside her body.
So her mother knows first hand all about caring for a sick child. Jenny recalls: “Because I’d had a miscarriage before, we didn’t want to tell anybody I was expecting until three months. On Christmas day 2005, we made the announcement I was pregnant, but on December 28, we found out the baby had this condition. We were so happy, then we crashed.”
After the birth, the whole family had a testing time. Jenny says: “Hannah spent one month in intensive care in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, then was on the infant surgical unit for several weeks where she had three operations. Two were to reposition the bowel, one was to remove a piece of intestine that had died.”
She adds: “It was very scary and I know just what it’s like to be the parent sitting by the bed for hours. CLIC Sargent depends on donations and does brilliant work supporting families of children with cancer. And whether you raise £10 or £100 in the race, it all goes straight to the charity and will help make a difference.”
Jenny is evangelical about the value of running for woman. That’s why she started the running group at LWE. She explains: “Running has amazing benefits for women. It improves your cardio-vascular health, it’s a fantastic fat-burner, it’s good psychologically as you’re challenging yourself. And it’s an all-round toning exercise that gets to all those key areas — bum, hips and thighs.”
Twice a week the Express women get together and tackle relatively short runs that will increase in distance as the Runher date gets closer. As Jenny sees it, these 12 — four members of staff and eight clients — are beating the loneliness of the long distance runner. She says: “We support and encourage each other.”
In fact, Jenny thinks there is something special about a women-only run. She adds: “When we go out on our training runs, it’s like getting together with a group of friends.”
Last year, Jenny and her group completed eight kilometres which was, in her words “a real achievement”. This year, she intends to do the full 10km.Jenny, her partner Gareth, and Hannah live in Lisburn and are a pretty fit bunch. “Hannah loves running around in our large back garden, and I believe in children getting out in the fresh air. ” Hannah is in good shape, apart from a large scar and absence of belly button. Her mother says: “That’s no real handicap. In fact, my father says it’s a good thing, as he had three daughters, all of whom had their navels pierced. At least I’m avoiding the hassle.”
Come the Runher, Jenny will be sprinting to victory, not just for herself, but for a lot of sick children and their worried parents.
Runher takes place on Sunday, June 28, at the CIYMS Sports Complex in Belfast. You can walk, jog or run either 5 or 10K at the Belfast Telegraph Runher. Enter online at www.run her.co.uk