Ambreen was born in Pakistan and moved to the United Kingdom in 2006. She experienced domestic abuse within her marriage for many years but chose to stay with her partner for the sake of their children. When the abuse became more violent and reached a serious physical assault, she decided to bring the relationship to an end.
Growing up, Ambreen had never tried running. She thought she wouldn’t feel comfortable as ‘it wasn’t expected culturally in Pakistan’. One day, she noticed one of our running groups at Trittiford Mill Park and decided that she wanted to join. She explained,
‘What pushed me was my background, my frustrations. I felt like I’d been given second chance at life. I wanted to run, run away from all the bad, I wanted to run from that, forget about it, start a new life. I felt like running would help me to take a positive form for what I was feeling.’
When Ambreen first started running with the group, she found that she couldn’t run very far. She explained, ‘30 seconds was my max’. The run leader, Taz, guided her through the Couch to 5k programme with the rest of the group and Ambreen gradually built up her stamina. She reflected that Taz was inspirational and there was so much support from friends and the other runners.
Ambreen started enjoying running and said that ‘it became part of life’. She explained that she really values the physical benefits, as well as the positive impact on her overall wellbeing.
‘Running really helped mentally coming out of a traumatic experience, physically I found myself being able to do 5k. I thought “wow I can achieve something.” I saw the benefits, started enjoying it. I thought “it’s so important, it’s something that gives me peace, comfort, satisfaction. Makes me calm, gives me patience and understanding.”’
As Ambreen enjoys helping other people and has always wanted to help the community through volunteering, Taz encouraged her to become a qualified run leader. She completed an online run leader course in October 2021 and now leads a ladies running group at Trittiford Mill Park. She explained that ‘at first I was a bit reluctant to be honest, I was a bit shy, but slowly and slowly I became more confident in delivering.’
‘As things progressed, I gained confidence and it also gave me immense pleasure. I started enjoying it, didn’t see it as a task or something I had to do as a job. I started enjoying the whole experience of being a run leader. It was different to being a participant because people were looking up to me for advice and listening, learning stretches, following exercises, which has helped my esteem and confidence.’
‘When my runners achieve their targets, it gives me the same fulfillment and pleasure as reaching my own achievements.’
Ambreen wants to be a role model, particularly for other Muslim women. She said that rather than talking about change, it helps if
‘you actually go out there and do it, and people see you, for example, a lady running in a hijab… a lot of people think Muslim ladies can’t take part in exercise or run. When they see these women running, this sort of breaks that stereotypical thinking. It helps change perceptions of other communities and also gives women in the community the message that it’s ok.’
She said that being visible as runners within the community is encouraging more women to take part. ‘Now I’m very happy, I can see lots of ladies from our background running & feeling confident & bringing their friends. It’s changing and it’s great to see.’
During Volunteers Week, we are sharing stories about the work of our incredible volunteers. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities, visit: https://theaws.co.uk/support/. Or to tell us about your experiences, go to: https://theaws.co.uk/tell-your-story/.