A GROUP of determined Glasgow runners are hoping to go the extra mile to improve people’s mental and physical health for free.

The newly-formed Knightswood Harriers have been working tirelessly to restore the red-ash track at Knightswood Park back to its former glory.

The Harriers hope that by Summer 2024, the track will be a buzzing hub where local residents can work together to do something positive for the community.

Glasgow Times: Jay Cruz-Semple wearing one of the group's branded t-shirtsJay Cruz-Semple wearing one of the group's branded t-shirts (Image: Newsquest staff)Jay Cruz-Semple, one of the founding members of the group, told the Glasgow Times he is currently trying to get access to changing and toilet facilities at the nearby bowling green to make the club as accessible as possible.

Jay said: “We want as many people as possible to come and use the track. It would be great to get young people here and give them something constructive to do.

“It is also completely free which is very important to us as in a lot of places now you have to pay or only get a limited amount of time.

“We are creating a safe environment and we’re hopefully going to see if we can use the changing room facilities and toilets in the bowling green.

“Our members have a wealth of knowledge so there will also be free training. Steve Koepplinger who is one of the other founders is a coach, I’m a personal trainer and nutritionist and we have another member called Mark who is a coach.

“We just want to do something positive for the community.”

Glasgow Times: The group meet three times a week at the red ash track at Knightswood ParkThe group meet three times a week at the red ash track at Knightswood Park (Image: Newsquest staff)The Harriers meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10.30am and are now running monthly Monday mile sessions where they challenge attendees to try and run a mile in seven minutes.

The group explained that part of their goal is to encourage others to restore their local tracks and keep the momentum going across the city.

No one knows the track at Knightswood better than Steve Koepplinger, affectionately nicknamed ‘Ohio Steve’, who has spent the last four years maintaining it free of charge.

The former maths teacher however told of his frustration at the decline of Glasgow’s outdoor running tracks and why it is so important to keep them going.

Steve said: “We used to have 28 running tracks in the city and now we’re down to eight. There are three currently in use and five lying in disrepair and I honestly think that is wrong.

“When I started in 2019 I took 300 tonnes of stuff off of it and I had to dig out the first two lanes because it was all overgrown and hadn’t been getting used.

“The great thing about it though [the track] is that it is great at saying thank you. If you put in the effort you will see benefits.

“I love it here, for my 50th birthday I wanted to have my birthday party here and tidy up the track. I was actually given a stone in the park that now has my name engraved on it.

“We would encourage everyone to come down and take things one step at a time.”

As well as the physical benefits the group highlighted how each of their lives has been transformed thanks to the positive impact it has had on their mental health.

Frazer Johnstone took up running earlier this year after some encouragement from Steve who he met at a local Men Matter meeting.

The Knightswood resident told of his past struggles with addiction and how running allowed him to find his feet again.

Frazer said: “I was a heroin addict for many years and I didn’t use to like physical exercise or anything like that.

“No one is going to have good mental health whilst taking drugs, smoking, vaping, and being on the internet all day it’s just toxic stuff that you don’t need.

“I’ve been clean for 14 weeks now as a direct result of doing this. Stuff like running, coming out with friends, building relationships, and developing your own inner strength is so vitally important.

“The group is also very non-judgemental. I felt quite insecure and anxious about going to the gym whereas here I’m amongst friends, it’s a good atmosphere and we talk about our goals and where we want to go.”

Those interested in joining the Harriers are encouraged to head along to the track at Knightswood Park during the group’s meeting times.