Running to recovery

Sunday (1 August 2021) sees the official launch at Leeds Dock of a running club with an important social purpose.
Recovery Runners Running Club is the brainchild of Dean Smith, until recently the chairperson of South Leeds Lakers, and Jamie Heselden who runs with Rothwell Harriers.

The club grew out of their shared experiences of the benefits of running in maintaining their recovery from alcohol addiction. The inspirational pair have already been recognised winning the Community Champions category at Leeds Sport Awards in May.

After watching Skid Row Marathon, Dean had the idea of working with St George’s Crypt to set up a Couch to 5k (C25K) programme and was put in touch with Growing Rooms, a residential detox project.

At the same time Jamie had set up a C25K programme with Spcaious Places Day Treatment services so they joined forces, setting up a Facebook page with the aim of getting “Recovery based organisations around Leeds to join together to shine a light on Leeds and its Recovery and create a club and a community.”

From small beginnings the Recovery Runners Community has grown to include runners recovering from mental health problems, addictions, eating disorders, Covid-19, cancer and burnout. A call-out for donations of kit and trainers enables the group to give kit to people who don’t have it “so nothing should stop them getting started” and included recent donations to a group of asylum seekers temporarily housed in Leeds who were keen to keep fit by running.

Now Dean and Jamie have recruited sporting celebrities Dom Matteo (ex-LUFC), Leeds Rhino’s captain Luke Gale and up-and-coming Leeds boxer Jack Bateson as Ambassadors for the club. They’ve also won support from Active Leeds – the Council’s sports and leisure arm – Run Leeds, and sponsorship from the Hopewell Centre and local business Heselden Properties Ltd.

The launch event will be attended by members and supporters from Leeds and beyond, as well as the Ambassadors and sponsors. No running club launch would be complete without a run and this one includes a 10k run, and a 5k walk, along with a virtual run; all as fundraisers for Dean’s place running for the Prostate Cancer team in the Berlin Marathon.

Now the club has national ambitions: putting UK-based runners-in-recovery in touch with each other for local runs wherever they find themselves visiting for work or on holiday.

For more information email: or search for Recovery Runners on Facebook; Recovery Runners Running Club on Instagram.


This post was written by Sue Talbot

Photo: Jamie Heselden and Dean Smith founders of Recover Runners won the Community Champions award at Leeds Sports Awards this year

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