Man up to running
Women-only running groups are plentiful, but a male-only one is a rare thing. So what drove David Palmer to set up Oaks Blokes? ‘My wife told me to!’ jokes the 54-year-old from Sevenoaks, Kent. ‘Some of the women in her running group were asking if there was something their husbands could do to gain similar fitness and wellbeing benefits.’
David was a member of the local running club at the time, but felt something was missing. ‘There was little opportunity to socialise with other members unless they were the same speed as you, and the focus was on competition rather than enjoyment.’ So David set about offering something more fun and friendly. Six runners turned up for the first Oaks Blokes session in September 2009. Now there are more than 75 members. Many, says David, are from one of the hardest- to-reach demographic: middle-aged working men with kids ‘who have been so focused on work they have allowed their fitness to slip. On Saturday mornings, before dad-taxi duties begin, they come to run, chat with other blokes from all walks of life and, afterwards, put the world to rights over cappuccinos.’
While David admits there are some alpha males among his members they still run as a group, often with the fastest and slowest having a chat. ‘There’s usually an unofficial sprint over the last half a mile – you can’t take all the “man” away,’ he says. Introducing so many men to the joys of the sport has been immensely rewarding for long-time runner David and, he says, there’s always someone around who’s up for a curry or a beer.