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From ex-con to community champion – how one man found a purpose through running

A reformed criminal has credited one thing for turning his life around: the power of running.
Made Running

Hermen Dange, once entangled in a life of crime, has found his redemption through the rhythmic beats of running.

His newfound passion led him to establish Made Running, an inclusive running club, which has now grown into a community group dedicated to supporting one another through life’s challenges.

From humble beginnings with just seven members, Made Running has blossomed into a close-knit family of more than 1000. 

It was the peace and focus that first drew Hermen to the sport.

But the passion then grew with the awesome camaraderie and bonds formed with fellow runners, all part of an incredible community dedicated to helping each other and those who once walked in his shoes.

Made Running, Manchester

Made Running
Runners at the Manchester Marathon

Running gave Hermen a powerful outlet that became instrumental in turning his life around.

He said: “Temptation started kicking in when I got released because I was bored, with nothing to occupy my time. 

“I needed to stay occupied, to create a hobby, and fortunately, I found running.”

His journey with running began during his time in prison when he took part in Parkrun sessions, where volunteers would help inmates engage in fitness activities as a means to momentarily escape the weight of their sentences.

He realised pretty early on that he was a solid runner, posting excellent times on the Parkruns, fuelling enthusiasm for the sport. 

“I never had much interest in running, but once I started, I felt enveloped by the sense of community. Everyone was so supportive of each other,  encouraging and egging each other on to push ourselves. 

“It was an incredible feeling, and I knew I had to be part of it.”

As Hermen got more and more into running, he and his friend bounced around the idea of establishing a running club.

“I wasn’t sure to begin with, but maybe it was just a natural progression. We had already built up a bit of a following on social media. 

“After witnessing the transformative impact it had on my own life, I felt compelled to share that with others facing similar challenges.”

Upon his release from prison, Hermen maintained a consistent running routine, especially amidst work shortages during the pandemic. 

“It was difficult to get a job after prison and covid, so I focussed on getting really fit and taking care of myself.”

Running as escapism

Running became his solace, his escape, as he pounded the paths of Queen’s Park. 

“I gradually started attracting friends to join me for runs, taking advantage of the opportunities to exercise outdoors during the pandemic,” he recounted.

“Before long, I had around 20 people running alongside me, spurred on by the community feel we’d created.

“Although we started small, word began to spread through social media, drawing in more participants. 

“As the club grew, I realised it was about more than just achieving personal fitness goals; it was about welcoming newcomers to the sport, each with their aspirations and reasons for running. 

“Some sought to shed weight, while others, like me, sought refuge from life’s challenges. 

“What began as a desire to break free from the confines of my past evolved into a journey of empowerment and community. 

“It became about building a community, a family. It’s not just about me anymore; it’s about helping others.

“It’s incredible how we’ve evolved into a tight-knit family. It feels like god’s plan in action.”

How many members does Made Running have?

Made Running started with just seven members, but five weeks in they were averaging about 50 people a session.

Two months later, between 200 and 300 people were showing up for Made’s weekly run. 

They are now home to an online community of thousands. 

It’s not just running that Made helps its members with.

“We also help outside of running too; focussing on helping people with their careers, life problems, re-connecting after coming out of prison, said Hermen. 

“For me, it’s like a coping mechanism whenever I’m facing challenges.

“It’s become a routine for me now, almost like a job, even though I’m not being paid for it. I make it a point to go for a run every morning before starting my day; it helps to clear my mind.

“When I’m running, I can forget about the stresses of life. Back when I was in prison, it helped me forget about my sentence, and being around others also made a difference.”

It looks like Made isn’t going to stop in Manchester.

They are looking to expand across the UK and if that goes well, they want to take things worldwide.

Nobody gets left behind

Enjoying the run!

Made Runnings Motto is ‘nobody gets left behind’, and if Hermen has his way, nobody will.

The phrase holds huge significance for Made Running, reflecting their commitment to unity and support.

Hermen recalls feeling the embrace of solidarity even during his time in prison, as fellow inmates joined him for runs.

He said: “No one should ever feel abandoned, and the group stands ready to offer support whenever and wherever it’s needed.”

Reflecting on the journey

Nobody gets left behind!

Reflecting on the journey of creating Made Running, Hermen expresses a sense of gratitude and fulfilment.

Seeing the group grow from averaging 30 to 50 people to over a hundred was a source of huge joy, particularly as it attracted individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Initially overwhelmed by the responsibility, Hermen now views it as a testament to ‘God’s plan’, recognising the platform it has afforded him—a career centred around his passion for running and supporting others.

What began as an idea shared with a friend has blossomed into a community-driven endeavour, for which Hermen is deeply thankful.

As he continues to run alongside fellow members, he embraces the role of mentor, offering insights on life choices and building a huge community.  

In the end, Hermen’s gratitude extends not only to those who supported the idea but also to the individuals who have made Made Running a thriving community of support and encouragement.

With the Great Manchester Run just around the corner, and bookings open for next year’s Manchester Marathon now, isn’t it time to dust off the ol’ running shoes?

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