Steamy Stepney Valentines: Hackney Tours Goes Guerilla Gardener to Lead Good Gym

It's getting hot out here!
I swap a Hackney Tours t-shirt for a Good Gym one.

There’s a cutting edge project in Tower Hamlets that’s been pairing runners with isolated people in the community for over a year now. Once a month – to publicise their innovative scheme – the Good Gym guys organise a group running session that incorporates a good deed somewhere in the borough, or sometimes neighbouring Hackney. Last night it was Hackney Tours’ very great pleasure to actually lead one of these runs. It wasn’t much different from a leading a running tour, except that it got a lot steamier!

Mark Herbert and Ivo Gormley are the founders of the Good Gym and 2012 looks like being a good year for the brilliantly simple concept that sees runners make a weekly visit to their ‘own’ person in need. Whether it’s taking a paper, or just being a friendly face over a cup of tea, you can’t slack off that run when it means a lot to someone waiting for you at the other end.

The Good Gym’s expanding into all of the Olympic host boroughs and when Hackney Tours led 11 runners from the York Hall start point to our ‘good deed rendezvous’ last night, there was a Guardian photographer waiting. It seems that the project is finally getting the publicity it deserves, so look out for shots in G2.

Typically, the runs involve some sort of litter-clearing or urban gardening project. Last night was the latter, but with a twist: we had two big piles of compost to turn over and supervisor Annie was waiting with a selection of pitchforks for our keen team of volunteers.

Surreal is an overused word, but standing under inner city streetlights amidst clouds of stinky steam from decaying vegetation – whilst being photographed from the top of the pile by the national press – made for an interesting tableau.

Compost heaps are deceptive from the outside because there are some major chemical reactions going on inside. As we turned it over, to air the core of the small hill we were all spread over, the heat and steam made for an outdoor sauna. The team was focused and nobody got a pitchfork in the face, or any muck in the mouth; after just 20 minutes or so the job was done and we were off.

Past sodium-lit masonettes and across the A-roads that stretch from the East End into Essex, we headed happily back to York Hall with the unique sense of satisfaction that comes from the Good Gym’s mix of altruism, esprit de corps and exercise-induced endorphins.

Good people; good work; good fun – the Good Gym.

Monthly runs take place the 2nd Mon of each month. Other runs are likely to be added as it expands in 2012. Check their website here for more information and some great pics of last night’s adventure!

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