A fledgling running club in the Wigan area is proving that the old maxim “it’s not the winning but the taking part” has never rung truer.
For what Kayleigh’s Fitness Run Club competitors might lack in medals, they more than make up for in guts and determination.
The “Yellow Army”, as the Parbold-based outfit has been dubbed, regularly features among the back markers while tackling some of the North West’s most fearsome fell races.
But club founder Kayleigh Ralphs knows her charges are slowly winning the hearts of some of the elite athletes they line up alongside week in, week out.
She said: “We have people coming in last who are getting the biggest cheers because they have been out there and tried their hardest.”
Last weekend a Kayleigh’s contingent tackled the Anglezarke Amble, a 24-mile slog through the West Pennines, which saw some trail in after nine hours.
Their ultimate goal however is the Lakeland 50, at the end of July, with around 20 runners already signed up for an epic trek around Coniston, in the Lake District.
Renowned as one of the greatest ultra running challenges in Europe, it will crown a remarkable couple of years for the club, which started life in Hilldale in September 2016.
Kayleigh, a personal trainer, established the team with the help of dad David and mum Margaret and have made it a real family affair.
Known as “Daddy David” to runners, and a keen runner in his own right, he helps out with preparing members for their next goal, while “Mummy Margaret” ensures they are all kitted out for what can be quite unforgiving terrain.
One of their members, Alex Connolly, said that Kayleigh and David had been “an inspiration” to the novice trail and fell runners, as their Lake District date looms ever closer.
She added: “We are determined to cross that finish line but it will take us a long time and may have to drag ourselves (and each other) around.
“All this would be absolutely unimaginable without the support of Kayleigh and each other.”
If anyone wants to join the club, which meets on Sundays from 9am at Hilldale Village Hall, they can visit www.kayleighsrunningclub.co.uk online or their Facebook page.