GRITTY Laura Stewart shed eight stone to run every step of the Hoylake 10K run and become a national inspiration for overweight people.

Weighing 23-and-a-half stone Laura's running ability was limited to the shortest of dashes.

But after joining the Wirral group of the Run in England enterprise she progressed rapidly and her endeavours in the Hoylake 10K was recognised by her inclusion on the national body's website.

Laura, 29, from Bromborough, said: "On the last couples of Ks I really started to feel it. I thought I would never make it.

"But then Zoe, one of the leaders, finished the race and came back to help me and it really spurred me on."

Wirral Council's active families development officer Fiona Hanik, who started the local project, accompanied Laura, from Bebington, on the Hoylake run.

She said: "Laura ran every step of the way - it was a fabulous achievement.

"At 7K Laura said she felt like taking a short break from running, but I pursuaded her to try another kilometre. Then at 8K I told her she had got this far and she should press on to the finish."

Fiona went on: "Laura has really dedicated herself to the training and she looks great of it. She looks a completely different person. When she first came to us in May she could run for no more than 30 seconds."

Laura's lack of fitness made day-to-day experiences very difficult. She explained: "Things like going up stairs or going out shopping left me tired.

"I felt so unhealthy; my confidence wasn't very good amdI felt self-conscious. Today I look a different person and I have much more confidence.

"My original goal was to lose 10 stone by the time I was 30. I am now 29 and so far I have lost eight stone."

The success of the local authority running initiative has gained recognition as the Northern region winner in the Run in England awards scheme.

The council now hosts 10 sessions a week at various locations across the borough. So far 150 members are running for fitness with more joining every week.

Fiona said: "Our members enjoy getting fit while having fun and making new friends. Our Run for England sessions make running accessible for people of every shape size and ability.

"We support the project because it brings running and fun to the heart of our communities at times of day and venues to suit everyone."

Cllr David Elderton, Wirral Council cabinet members for culture, tourism and leisure, said: "It is essential that we all maintain an active and healthy lifestyle within the limits our bodies will allow.

Projects like Run in England demonstrate the benefits of getting involved in activities of this type - along with the clear social benefits resulting from making new frinds with like-minded individuals."