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A LEICESTERSHIRE running legend has shared empowering advice on International Women’s Day for those looking to take up the sport, which she had recently “fallen out of love with.”

Gemma Steel, spoke out ahead of today’s event (March 8), sharing her passion for running and her successful athletics career, which has seen many highlights, including being named European Cross Country Champion back in 2014.

However, after what she labels a “very difficult few years” the 36-year-old had fallen out of love with the sport which has been so good to her, she told Pukaar News.

She has recently been taking on Birstall’s ‘Watermead Country Parkrun’, a free-weekly 5k, which has helped her to rekindle the flame, following a nine month running hiatus.

“I just love the fact that there’s no pressure, everyone’s really welcoming, the spirit of the event’s just the perfect tonic from the last three years to just enjoy running for what it is and get the love back for the sport, which had been lost a little bit a long the way,” she said of the event.

“Everyone’s friendly, there’s no judgement, even though I’m not as fast as I used to be, and that’s just what I love about it.”

At Saturday’s Parkrun, a special ‘This Girl Can’ theme was seen to mark ‘International Women’s Day’, with many turning out in t-shirts bearing the slogan.

A total of 350 runners attended, including those with dogs and pushchairs.

Miss Steel, who is currently living in Birstall, broke the course record on the day, for the second week in a row.

Although her time of 17:51 is down significantly from her personal best of 15:47.21, Gemma says that simply “getting out there” and putting one foot in front of the other is the most important thing right now, and a springboard to future success.

“I think everyone would like to see me back where I was, but no one’s judging me for not being as fast as I used to be,” she said.

“At Parkrun, everybody’s rooting for one another, which is what I needed.

“Everyone’s got the respect for each other no matter how slow you are, how fast you are, everyone’s in it together and we’re all doing it for different reasons,” she added.

Picture: Pukaar News

“After being professional, coming back down to grassroots level has made me realise what it’s all about really.

“It’s just bought it all back to me; that enthusiasm for the sport and that love for running again.”

Sharing her pearls of wisdom and empowering advice on ‘International Women’s Day’, Steel said: “Anyone can run. All you need is a good heart and a good mind. It’s something that we’re built to do – a human instinct, which isn’t limited to elite athletes.

“Anyone is winning just by getting off the couch and getting out the door.”

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