FRIENDS who lost more than 16 stone between them are now coaching dozens of people from around the North West how to go from couch potato to running the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon next year.

Rick Wilson, co-founder of Be Strong, has predicted that more than 30 people from the group who have never run a marathon before will be challenging at the event on April 8.

An initial class of 75 would-be long distance runners joined up to Be Strong’s Couch to Marathon Challenge programme in June. With five months to go, Rick says there are 45 in the group running distances of more than 10 miles, with one participant losing 10st since starting her fitness challenge with the Accrington-based venture.

Rick said: “The vast majority of people in the Couch to Marathon Challenge were non-runners, and it is amazing how they are doing now. It’s an ambitious target and they are really excited about the chance to run in the marathon.”

Rick and business partner Rachel Wilcock started Be Strong in 2015. Both had lost significant amounts of weight following sensible healthy eating and fitness routines, but when the work colleagues were looking to join a fitness activity group in the area they couldn’t find one. So they started Be Strong.

Gus Karagiannis, business development manager for marathon organisers Xtra Mile Events, said: “We are thrilled that Rick and his team at Be Strong are inspiring people to do their first marathon and they have chosen Manchester to do it.

“The marathon is well known for being the fastest, flattest and friendliest course in the UK which makes it perfect for beginners as well as elite athletes.”

The ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon is organised by Xtra Mile Events in partnership with Trafford Council. For more information and to sign up for 2018 visit