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An Oxford Brookes student who set up a running club in her Oxfordshire village will carry the Olympic torch on a leg of its journey after being nominated by fellow club members.
Oxford Brookes student Julia Hayes will carry the Olympic torch on a leg of its journey.
Mother of two Julia Hayes set up the Benson Striders in June 2010. Starting off with just three founding members, the club has grown rapidly and now has a membership of 35.
Julia is now in the final year of a five-year part-time degree in nutrition and is thrilled her name was put forward by members of the club she created.
"I'm really touched that people in the group nominated me. They hadn't told me at first. We were at the Chiltern Chase 10K race [which takes place in June] and they said 'we've got something to tell you'.
"I feel very honoured to be carrying the torch. It's a once in a life time opportunity and I am very excited about it."
The popularity and team spirit of the club is down to Julia's commitment to create an environment which takes away the barriers people usually face when taking up sport for the first time or following a long lay-off.
"It's aimed at people who want to get fit and lose some weight. There are lots of people around who just want to exercise in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. They are often too self-conscious to go and run by themselves and they don't want to join a gym. This has filled a gap."
Julia decided to take a part-time degree at Oxford Brookes to pursue her ambition of helping people lead more healthy and active lives.
"Health promotion has become a real passion for me. I love working with groups of people and helping to motivate them to be healthier."
And the secret of her success is making the training social and fun: "The running is as serious as you want to make it. We have runners of all abilities but the reason most people comes is for the social side. I have made lots of good friends through it and that's partly why I did it. Running is so much easier when you run with others. It's a great reason to get up on Saturday morning!"
For people to start with healthy habits and stick to them, they have to enjoy them.
"We don't get a lot of drop-outs and that's because of the attitude of the club. It's not competitive, people don't feel intimidated and everyone is really friendly. Everyone has been there as a beginner and so whatever level people come in at, there's always someone of their ability. They can all find their own little niche in the group and we all have a good chat and you forget how far you have run. If you ask each member they have all been able to achieve their own personal goals, as a result of running together."
Once Julia completes her degree, her aim is to set up her own business in health promotion, exercise and lifestyle working at grass roots level to motivate people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Before that, though, for a few minutes in July, Julia will be the focus of attention when she helps carry the iconic Olympic torch through the county on its journey to London.