Every year, thousands of fundraisers don their trainers and running gear to take part in the Bupa Great North Run for causes close to their hearts.
The build-up to the big event is often a great opportunity for people who don’t normally engage in physical exercise to get out jogging around their local streets and parks.
This time of the year is a crucial point for participants as they tend to start increasing the intensity of their training and it is good to see so many people enjoying getting fit.
Already those who are preparing to pound the roads in this year’s 13.1-mile race have lost staggering amounts of weight in a relatively short space of time.
Among them are sisters Amanda Russell and Angela Robinson, who have collectively shed 18 stone in just 11 months after significantly changing their eating habits and exercising more.
Mother-of-two Amanda, 48, has dropped from 20st 5lbs to 11st 5lbs, going from a clothes size 24 to a svelte 10 to 12.
The self-employed single mum is doing the Great North Run in September, but her sister does not feel she is ready to take on the challenge this time.
Amanda, of Amble, Northumberland, said: “I started training for the Great North Run on September 1 last year, on the third anniversary of my dad’s death from cancer.
“My weight started to go on following the birth of my daughter and as I didn’t drink or smoke, food was my crutch.
“I was never unhappy as a fat person and, at the time, I did not realise how sluggish and unfit I was.
“But now I feel much healthier and the fact I know I have to be ready for the Great North Run has kept me going as I don’t want to let anybody down.”
Before Amanda started exercising, she consulted her GP for advice and help in losing weight.
She also joined a gym and has been assisted by a trainer who set up an exercise programme for her.
“I had to give myself a goal to lose the weight and that is why I signed up for the run,” explained Amanda.
“I am very lucky that I have never suffered any health problems, other than migraines and a bad back. But since I’ve lost the weight, I don’t have these problems any more.
“I used to eat junk food all the time as I would eat lots of carbs, cakes and biscuits. Now I eat much better as I have cut out fat groups, and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
“I am not on a diet because I let myself have what I want to eat. I don’t deprive myself of anything.
“I have always had confidence but I feel completely different now in that I know I look good. My friends have been gob-smacked at how different I look, sometimes people don’t recognise me.”
Amanda now describes herself as an athlete who goes to the gym three times a week and runs up to five times as week.
But she could not have lost the weight without the help and support of her younger sister Angela, 46, who has lost more than nine stones.
The mother-of-three, from Amble, Northumberland, has dropped from 23st 5lbs to 14s 5lbs, going from clothes size 32 to a size 16.
Angela, a store manager, had sought to get gastric surgery on the NHS, but when she was refused the procedure, she decided to work hard at shedding the pounds the conventional way.
She said: “I have yo-yo dieted all my life, but I think the key this time has been having my sister by my side as it’s someone honest to keep me going.
“It has been competition between the two of us as well and, although we were both close before, it has brought us even closer together.
“I am so proud of my sister for doing the Great North Run this year as she has been training hard.
“Through our weight loss, we have added 10 years to our lives and I will never, ever go back to how I was before.”
The Journal joined forces with Nova International two years ago to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution.
The Great North Fitness Revolution is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.
From training for the Great North Run, to something as simple as increasing the number of steps you walk each day – everyone can get involved.
The Great North Fitness Revolution received the backing of a host of famous faces, including TV presenter Ben Shephard, Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries, athlete Steve Cram and former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn.
Janet Reveley, managing director for Newcastle-based Fit Training Ltd said: “Exercise is for everyone and just because you can’t run a marathon yet, doesn’t mean you can’t start making small steps towards increasing your exercise regime and living a healthier lifestyle.
“Just by changing your routine slightly you’ll start to make a difference, such as walking to work or climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
“Also nutrition is just as important as exercise, so swapping your usual sugary afternoon snack for a healthier piece of fruit, will help your overall.
“I would recommend putting a fitness plan together so you have something to aim for.
“Start with 10 minutes walks and building up your stamina slowly by jogging at your own pace, to build up fitness levels gradually.
“Mentally you will become much more positive too and an active lifestyle will soon be part of your daily routine, very like a hobby.
“The Great North Run is a perfect example, as every year people who have done very little exercise are motivated to make changes to their lifestyle in order to raise money for charity or just cross the finish line for that amazing sense of achievement.
“And if they can do it, so can you!”.