At the start of this year our Fit Factor finalists would have found it difficult to jog for a bus.
Yet now the team can run for miles, as they proved when they successfully completed the Bupa Great North 10K on Sunday.
For winning couple Gemma Robson and Carl Martin, of Gateshead, the 6.2 miles route was easier than they had expected, showing that all their dedication and combined 6st 2lbs weight loss has worked wonders to significantly improve their health and fitness levels.
Mother-of-two Gemma, 30, could never have imagined that she would have been able to complete the difficult challenge, especially the steep incline near the finishing line at Gateshead International Stadium.
The civil servant said: “I loved running the Great North 10k, it was hard work but our training paid off. I managed to run the whole way. I feel a real sense of achievement and it’s increased my confidence when looking at training for the Great North Run later this year.
“Carl and I trained together a lot for the 10K, joining other Fit Factor finalists a couple of times a week, since the competition ended. We’ve all missed being in the gym together but our runs along the coast have meant that we’ve stayed close as a group.”
Thousands took part in this year’s Bupa Great North 10K, not letting the wet weather dampen their spirits as they pounded the streets of Tyneside.
For Carl, a surveyor, it was the first long running event that he has done, and the 32-year-old is now enthused to keep up their training for the Fit Factor team’s next challenge of this year’s Great North Run in September.
He said: “Doing the 10K was really good. It’s the first event I have done like this. The energy at the start surrounded by all the other runners really made the event special. Due to the buzz, my first couple of miles were a lot faster than any of my training runs.
“As far as training went, Gemma and I ran six and four miles twice a week and have still been trying to attend boot camp on a regular basis. We also ran once a week with the others from Fit Factor, this was a six-mile run along Tynemouth.
“The 10K has made me look forward to the Great North Run. I will need to make sure I don’t get carried away with the occasion, start too fast and burn out. I can’t wait, though.”
Exercise was a big part of Ashley Cuniff’s life before a back injury while playing rugby brought an abrupt end to his competitive playing days. However, he has enjoyed getting back into the swing of doing intense exercise sessions.
The 30-year-old, of South Shields, lost more than four stone during Fit Factor and is looking forward to his wedding to partner Claire next month. Ashley’s fiancée supported him throughout Fit Factor, also losing a couple of stone in weight too.
Ashley said: “The Bupa Great North 10K was brilliant, the atmosphere was amazing. I got a new personal best of 1hr 3mins which I was over the moon with.
“The last mile on Sunday was a killer as it’s all uphill, but when you reach the top of the hill it’s only 800 metres to the finish line which makes you feel good and push that little harder to finish.
“Everyone who did the run did amazingly well.
We’ve all been running together on a Monday night, running from waves in Whitley Bay to Tynemouth Priory and back, which is exactly six miles.
“Next week we are going to up the distance in preparation for the Great North Run, but unfortunately I’m not doing the event as I’m in Mexico on my honeymoon, but I’ll keep doing the training to support the others.
“I’ve really missed Fit Factor since it finished as I’ve missed training and seeing everyone a couple of times a week, so the running training has been good for a catch up.
“Claire and I have joined the new gym at Haven Point in South Shields and it’s a really good gym.
“I’ve been doing insanity classes there which I really enjoy and doing loads of swimming, so hopefully Claire and I will be looking good for our wedding next month.” Throughout The Journal’s Fit Factor competition teamwork played a huge part in getting the finalists through the three-months challenge, and the Bupa Great North 10K was no different, as once again the group gelled together to complete the run.
Even last year’s Fit Factor winner John Thompson and finalist Kerry Robertson joined the group.
Bride-to-be Lisa Embleton, 35, of Kingston Park, Newcastle, is set to try her wedding dress on for the first time following her weight loss of just under four stone.
The NVQ assessor said: “What an amazing day Sunday was. When me and my fiancé John arrived at Gateshead Stadium I felt very nervous but we supported each other and were looking forward to the challenge ahead. Standing at the start line was great as the Fit Factor team were all there to support each other.
“I am over the moon that I managed to complete the challenge as I would never have manager to do anything like this before the Fit Factor.
“John also took part to show his support and we managed to complete together. The best bit was coming into the stadium and seeing the finish line and realising I had achieved the run. We have put a few pictures on Facebook and the support has been great, so many people wanting us all to achieve.
“I have been training very hard each day to ensure that I achieved the run.
“It was a bit daunting running in public, but once I’d done it a few times I didn’t really care what people thought. My dog Stella has joined me in the runs and she is also benefiting from the new, healthier me.
“John has been very supportive and ensured that I never gave up. I am enjoying continuing to go to bootcamp and also took part in the fitness test and could see the difference.
“I am going to try on my wedding dress for the first time since I ordered it, so I’m a little nervous, but cant wait to see the difference.”
Following the Fit Factor competition, which ended last month, the finalists were challenged to take part in the Great North Swim, which a number of them did, the Bupa Great North 10K and the Bupa Great North Run.
Fit Factor trainer and fitness guru David Fairlamb has been with the team the whole way and is delighted at what the team has achieved.
David said: “As I expected their level of fitness and continued focus meant they not only completed the Great North 10K but also managed to enjoy it.
“This is just the boost they needed in their preparation for the Great North Run, they are training with much more confidence and belief.
“Before they started the Fit Factor none of them believed they would ever complete a half marathon – only a few months later they now know it’s all within their grasp, exciting times for them all. Once again we have proved dramatic weight loss, fitness levels and lives can be transformed in a matter of weeks.”
The Fit Factor team are doing the swimming and running events to raise money for the Bubble Foundation, a charity which supports children with little or no immune system by raising funds for medical equipment, toys and educational aids, and helping ensure pioneering research is carried out in the region.