Couch to 5K

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IannodaTruffe profile image


For those who don’t know me, I have been a follower of the HealthUnlocked Couch to 5k forum for eight and a half years and I have been on the forum admin team, initially as a mentor and then as an administrator, for approximately half that time.

Many do not fully understand the structures of these forums, but the C25k, Bridge to 10k, Marathon and Race support forums along with Strength and Flex and Active 10 forums are run by a volunteer admin team with some crossover between forums, providing familiar names and faces for those moving between them. The wonderful current team is ably led by roseabi, again, as a volunteer, despite the amount of time and organisation that it requires to run it all smoothly. All these forums, along with a huge range of other community forums based on specific issues, covering mental and physical health, are hosted and supported by the HealthUnlocked (HU) platform, who somehow manage to keep our pages free of advertising.

Just think, where else do you go on the internet that is ad free?

HealthUnlocked do a wonderful job enabling communities to set up their own forums and I have no beef with them as an organisation, but as community admins we have to enforce their terms, conditions and guidelines. These have recently changed, which leaves me with no option, in my mind, but to hand back my admin badge as I cannot, in all conscience, continue to carry out all the duties expected of me.

On September 2nd 2021 HU raised the lower age limit for membership of all its forums from sixteen to eighteen. We were informed of this by roseabi, on our admin forum. Having duly read the communication, I forgot all about it until I saw a post on the C25k forum from an admirable young man who had completed the programme, persuaded his father to start C25k, encouraged others to stick with it and then entered a race raising funds for a cancer charity. Thanks to the new biog box under each post, I could see that he was sixteen.

The C25k forum was an eye opener to me when I joined it, in being such an all inclusive, welcoming, supportive island of positivity for new runners, amongst the sea of venal and divisive social media on the internet and I have taken great joy in upholding this ethos over the years. While I reluctantly accepted the previous sixteen year old minimum age range, simply because it was in force when I joined, as a matter of principle I cannot enforce the new minimum age of eighteen…………….I cannot tell a young man who is doing his best for himself, his family and his community that he is not welcome on our forum and so reluctantly I have asked for my admin badge to be removed and am writing this post in an effort to apply some pressure to HU to reconsider their action and I need your help.

HU have have imposed this raised minimum age because of the new “Children's code" brought in by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has been designed to safeguard children against certain dangers posed by online services. They define children as those under the age of 18 and it seems that HU have simply decided it would be best to exclude the 16s to 18s from the site. There is a substantial fine involved if the rules of the code are breached.


HealthUnlocked have reacted quite understandably to this piece of legislation and I appreciate that it may be difficult for them to find the resources to investigate alternatives…….they are not Facebook or Youtube. However, both those mega businesses have adjusted their procedures and protocols enabling them to maintain their previous, much lower than HU, age limits. theguardian.com/technology/...

Over the last two months both roseabi and I have communicated directly with HU to find out whether they have any intention of reversing the increased age range for the forums. We have been told that discussions are taking place, but after several emails I have concluded that there is no imminent action on this front.

While the intentions of the new Children’s code are laudable, I am sure that in these times of an obesity crisis and rising levels of mental health issues amongst children and young adults, that the ICO did not intend to remove access to support networks, from the very sector of the population it is intending to protect.

My aim is that this post, and the other identical ones that I have posted on all the other sister forums of which I am a member, will act as a show of the strength of feelings of our communities, so I would ask you to LIKE this post only if you agree with the statement below

We ask HealthUnlocked to reconsider its recent raising of the minimum age limit for all its community forums and return it to sixteen, to enable ongoing support to young people who can get married, consent to sex and medical treatment, become parents and even vote in devolved elections, in these times when these self same young people have been exposed to very great stresses.

The number of LIKES we notch up will act in the same way as the names on a petition and you can do this wholly anonymously, or you can comment below and discuss the issues and possible strategies to resolve this. Or you can voice your disagreement. If HU feel unable to put things right, then I will use the numbers generated and arguments from these posts to lobby the ICO, on behalf of HU, to consider the unintended consequences of their new code.

This post is not intended to indicate any criticism of any of my former admin colleagues, nor indeed of HU as an organisation, but purely to highlight the new minimum age and its implications for forum admins and, more importantly, young people. For me this is a matter of principle to support our young people, our nation’s future, and I have far less to lose than these young citizens have at risk.

So it is over to you to tell me, by NOT clicking LIKE, that I am a crazy old man, or that you believe, as I do, in the rights of our young people, simply by clicking the LIKE button below.

Please contact all forum members you know who you believe would agree with the above statement. You can also help the cause by highlighting this issue in other HU community forums of which you may be a member.

If any of you would like to be involved in strategies in this campaign, then please PM me.

Oh, and by the way, keep running, keep smiling.

51 Replies
BlueTheo profile image

Thanks for highlighting this. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

sTrongFuse profile image

Not sure that "Like" is appropriate term in the circumstances, but I wholeheartedly agree with you on this. Given the potential mental health timebomb arising from the last two years, these young adults need all the support they can get if the reach out to find it.

GoogleMe profile image

I am in my 10th year on Couch to 5K.

I have paid my dues administering other social media/online forums. Whether it is the effectiveness of the administrators (who at least in the past have been appointed to this voluntary work by HU by a somewhat arcane process - a good few years ago I was subject to a rather crass approach from HU, not for this particular forum) I can safely say that this is the healthiest forum it has ever been my privilege or misfortune to poke my nose into (and frankly the times it has wobbled (a little) as a safe space have been down to administrators acting entirely in accordance with what HU require rather than exercising what I am sure would be their own judgment)

I think there is a strong case for selective use of age limits on a forum by forum basis (I can certainly think of other HU forums for which an 18+ requirement has merits) and would suggest that Couch to 5K has proved itself competent to administer, ideally, a 13+ forum.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to GoogleMe

I will be directing HU to this post, so they can follow the comments.

Your point about forum by forum age limits seems so simple and will certainly be amongst suggestions I pass to HU.........thanks.........can it really be that difficult?

GoGo_JoJo profile image
GoGo_JoJoModerator in reply to GoogleMe

I absolutely agree, there are other boards that need age limits. Equally I've seen youngsters on boards that really need help but technically should be shown the door. C25k is a valuable resource and community which should be available to all, definitely 13+ 👍🏻

CBDB profile image

I agree. Together with HU we should be able to find solutions that support our communities. For the running forums, specifically C25k, it would be much more appropriate to have a lower age limit for all the reasons you outline.

nowster profile image

This is the best behaved forum I've ever been involved with, and that is mainly due to the atmosphere promoted by volunteer admin folks like yourself.

I sympathise with your frustration.

The biggest problem with heavy handed legislation is that of unintended consequences.

However, I can understand any extra measures may make a free service like this unsustainable, especially if some of the existing funding comes from government.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to nowster

I have never come across another online space that is as well ordered as this one.

HU's business model is a mystery to me, despite seeking out all the info I can find on its funding

Instructor57 profile image

In total agreement Tim !I sincerely hope that common sence can prevail .

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to Instructor57

Thanks, Ian.

Well said - thank you for your great efforts.

Absolutely agree. This programme and forum has changed my life for the better - forever. The admin team have created a wonderful place where we can share ideas, fears and support each other through both good times and challenging times. As such, forums such as these which are really well managed should be available to all. How else can we support our young people if they are prevented from accessing and learning from our life experiences?

Agree wholeheartedly. In my humble opinion, the age limit should be lowered not raised! Good luck IannodaTruffe and thank you.

What a shame that this may affect those youngsters who might not only receive sound advice through this forum on running as i jury free as possible but also encourage some in this age group to keep their bodies and minds in as best condition as they can, especially after the madness of the last nearly 2 years. I totally agree and hope the age is lowered again for membership

Birdlady64 profile image

Sometimes the law is an ass, and even when it isn't, the interpretation and/or implementation of the rules can have far reaching and unintended consequences.So our youngsters are prevented from accessing such a positive environment and benefiting from the information and unconditional support on here, to help improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Meanwhile the likes of Facebook (Meta), Insta etc do way too little to prevent the trolls, vitriol and hatred and violence espoused on so many other social media platforms. We see the sad consequences way too often in the news.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have said, Good luck with the Campaign and I hope we can persuade HU to change their minds

And finally, I understand your sentiment in giving up your admins badge, but these forums will be the poorer as a result. So many of us have benefitted from your words of support and wisdom, myself included, and I hope we will hear them again in the future.

It's always frustrating, and rarely the right approach, when a blanket decision is made in any walk of life, seemingly because it's easier to be seen to be adhering to guidelines when whilst the output of intelligent thought and consideration might raise a few hackles, but would very likely be a better decision.

I'm with you 100% that HU should review their decision and seriously consider reversing it.

Fionamags profile image

I completely agree with you that the lower age limit should stand, if not be reduced further to 13 years old. During my time on c25k and Bridge to 10k I have never come across any negative comments, 'trolling' or content that would be deemed unsuitable for children and young adults. It is probably a combination of a fantastic (and vigilant) admin team combined with the most supportive and positive online community that I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. The sheer volume of supportive people who regularly post on these fora are enough to convince me that any inappropriate postings would be immediately brought to the attention of admin - although I have never yet seen the need for this. In fact the reverse is true as I once tagged an administrator (you, in fact) because I was worried about what appeared to be a younger member who I thought might be putting themselves at risk through over-exercising. I share this just as an example of how this forum is a supportive safety net for everyone who uses it. Please, Health Unlocked, at a time when children and adolescent mental health services are stretched to the maximum with waiting lists of 6months to a year (depending on where you live) - let us not shut the door on young people accessing a positive online space such as ours, where we support increasing physical activity that is linked to good mental health outcomes.

Indielass00 profile image

I throughly agree with what you have said in this post and I hope that the age limit can be amended ASAP.

Young adults need our support just as much, if not more than they did before! Thank you for taking a stand and making us all aware of this matter!

Jericho2332 profile image

Agree 100%, young adults on this forum could benefit so much from the most friendly, helpful and well behaved forum I've ever been on! I have two daughters of 16/17 and would be happy to see them on here. When my 9yr old gets a bit older I'd be proud to see her on here too, if she felt she needed the help/advice provided here.

Oldfloss profile image

The phrase, " ... a world gone mad", springs to mind. The future of our young people, their physical and mental well being, how difficult is that to comprehend?When, at this current time, we have our élite athletes calling on the Government for funding to support and nurture , the health and fitness of our nation...then there should be no argument.

I hope that commonsense may, in time, overcome the constraints of red tape.

I am not running or smiling right now... but, tomorrow is a new day x

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to Oldfloss

Thanks Oldfloss All these arguments and statements will be here for both HU and the ICO to consider.

MarkyD profile image

Hi Tim, it would take any competent Assessor about 20 seconds to recognise that our forum has its house in order. We are supportive, kind, decent folks and quite removed from what most folks think of as an online forum. We don’t ever see foul language, politics or religion here (perhaps you filter it out) and this would be a fantastic place for a teenager to learn compassionate behaviour & forum etiquette. HU can trust us: let anyone 13+ join us & we’ll keep them safe.Mark

Runningroni profile image

I absolutely agree, with you and the comments of all above. There is a crisis in the services available to our young folk who are struggling with their emotional health. This community is jam packed with lovely, helpful , friendly folk with a common interest, it's madness to exclude the young , who might value what we have to offer.

JoP61 profile image

Totally agree with you. C25K and this forum has been instrumental in enabling me to become a fitter and healthier person. And as the mother of a person who had continuing mental health issues throughout teenagehood and beyond, I would hate to see this inclusive and supportive forum being denied to any young people. Good luck with your campaign. I shall miss your excellent admin contributions.

Lonmayloon profile image

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Somewhat ironically the ICO website is not functioning completely this morning when I tried to follow their links. However I could see that one of their objectives was to have children involved in the development of the site. Surely banning them completely will have the opposite effect. It must be possible for HU and ICO to find a solution, not only for this site but for many others that benefit young adults. If this is the only way to comply with the legislation then there is no getting away from the fact that it is bad legislation and needs to be looked at again and amended.On a personal note, thank you for all the wonderful support and advice you’ve provided to me on my journey. It is no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t have done it without you. All the best.

Just want to say a huge thank you for all your help and hard work. You have responded usefully to my concerns and provided great support. I am sorry to see you go but understand your frustration. Thank you 🙏

MJCAld profile image

As someone who has come off all mainstream forms of social media, a secondary teacher and a parent of a sixteen year old, I could not support your action more wholeheartedly. This forum is ‘healthy’ in every sense of the word and exactly what most sixteen and seventeen year olds living in this crazy world need. The last thing we need is them being forced to turn to the (largely unregulated) social media giants for their advice. Good luck with your campaign.

Frenc profile image

If I were 16 or younger, I would be over the moon to find this forum. I think youngsters have such a hard time with social media today that a space that is safe, kind, and welcoming, that encourages health in an increasingly unhealthy world should be lauded. I am very sorry to see you go, your advice has always been spot on and your wry sense of humour is brill. Had it not been for you, I would never have slowed down all that time ago! So thank you. 😊😊😊

njd967 profile image

I applaud the stance you are making and fully agree with you. If the aims of the changes are to ensure young adults are protected and supported, then the change is totally counter-productive in this instance. Bravo for highlighting.

GoldenGirly profile image

This saddens me so much! Your help and advice got me through the plan and I was so proud the day you congratulated me on completing it!I have a 15 year old son who regularly runs to keep his fitness up. He studies PE at school and takes it very seriously and they are encouraged by school to run and indeed were asked to run, over lockdown especially, by their teachers.

I cannot understand this decision at all. I work in schools where for a long time, the daily mile, was part and parcel of their day. We would go out as a school and pupils could walk or run the course around the playground and it brought such joy!

I wholeheartedly support your decision to fight this and really hope this rule is reversed. The sooner we involve our children in things like running/walking for fun/exercise, the sooner we get them out their rooms and off the Xbox.

Sending much love and support to you. Golden Girly xxxx

I completely agree young people need forums like these to support them emotionally or physically. If I was 16 years old and wantedto run, this forum would be very helpful so I cannot understand why this would be banned . Perhaps each forum should be assessed individually whether its useful or not rather than banning them all.

Thank you for standing up to this issue as health problems like obesity are set to continue to rise.

Sewnotfit profile image

Absolutely agree, the irony being this has to be the safest, most supportive, encouraging and caring site on the whole internet. It makes me so cross that others profit from advertising and allow all sorts of nastiness and worse, but the sledgehammer to crack a nut mentality means the responsible and decent sites are penalised. All this change does is prevent many young people from accessing a safe, supportive space which will improve their physical and mental health, and thereby their self esteem so much more than the vast majority of other sites. I shall miss your wise counsel Iannoda Truffe (even if it took me over a year not to read ‘Truffe’ as ‘Truffle’ 🙈) - you will be a huge loss for this community.

MoorFit44 profile image

It is such a shame that they feel the need to increase the age from 16 to 18 - 16 year old deserve all the help and support too and it's an especially hard time for teenagers. I support your views and hope that HU reconsider this amendment to their rules.

DellBoy8100 profile image

So sorry to hear you have felt the need to take this step.

Firstly, may I thank you for the information and support you have provided on this forum. I am sure, like me, many have benefited from it.

I wholeheartedly support your position on this. It seems to me that regulators, no doubt with the best of intentions, sometimes fail to encompass the needs of, often significant, minorities who may actually benefit from services such as Health Unlocked. There will be many in the, now excluded, age range who may well find it harder to access such valuable information from trusted providers.

Providers, too, bear some responsibility insomuch that, with changing regulatory environments, they seem to take the easy option to just rewrite terms of use rather than investigate how they might, working with regulators as necessary, keep a valuable and needed service accessible for their users. There could be many reasons why this happens, but it should be incumbent on both regulators and providers to ensure that users can access services safely and securely. In this case that should include 16-18 year olds.

I hope you are successful in your campaign.

Again, many thanks.

johnm12 profile image

It seems to me that the intention is to provide a safe place for all which is exactly what this forum does today. Its an oasis of positive behavior which seems to me to be very sympathetically administered. Young people have suffered dreadfully in this pandemic. At an age when they should be getting out and doing stuff, they have largely been prevented from socialising and woorking and playing with others. Running provides a safe form of exercise with ENORMOUS mental health benefits. Anything which encourages that is only good. The forum is a safe place and 16 to 18's are very welcome. I support your proposal.

I often wonder if PE is taught in schools any better now than it was in my schooldays (1970s-80s).

This site has everything that my PE lessons should have had: support and encouragement to exercise (rather than compulsion and intimidation), advice on how to do it safely and effectively (rather than constant push to maximum intensity at all times) and some good sound factual information (all we ever got was this season's rule changes from the rugby governing body!). Teenagers definitely deserve access to this site.

Another advantage - I think we'd all benefit from more diversity here and some more younger folks' perspective. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

Hi there, it seems somewhat bizarre that a measure introduced to protect young people, applied across the board, ends up discriminating against them. Would ask HU to look at this again and work towards a more inclusive solution. Thanks for raising this issue, that I was totally unaware of.

Oldgirlruns profile image

I’ve always found your posts enlightening and enjoyable Iannoda Truffe, and I read this one with particular interest. While I understand HU want to comply with legislation, in my view they are wrong on this occasion. As a society we allow 16 year olds to drive tractors and mopeds on the highways, they can get married and have a family and they can join the armed forces. But when a young person decides to take control of their health and wants to join a carefully managed and hugely supportive forum, all of a sudden they’re not capable of independent thought? This blanket ban on 16 year olds makes no sense and I would urge HU to rethink it; there may some forums which aren’t suitable for 16 year olds but it ought to be possible to differentiate between them. So I’m definitely going to like your post and am very sorry that you’re handing in your Admin Badge . C’mon HU, it’s time for a rethink.

Yes, I totally agree that this forum is a healthy place for young people. It's a real shame that they will be denied access. And a big thank you to the admin team


Coddfish profile image

I am sorry to see you hand in your admin badge IannodaTruffe. You have been on this forum all the time I have been running and have been an enormous help to me. I have mixed feelings about HU’s decision. From an IT background I am well aware of the penalties if the site is open to younger people and harm occurs, so I can well understand their decision. Whilst it may feel wrong, I feel if I was in charge, the pressures of this day and age would probably lead me to take the same decision. Also, as a user of the site, I had always assumed the audience was wholly adult, and suspect many others assume the same. If HU rethink the decision that’s great, so long as it doesn’t overload the team with extra responsibilities or worse. I think it’s a bit more nuanced than just adding up the ‘likes’.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to Coddfish

I have replied to your other response.

Facebook, YouTube etc do not have a minimum age of 18. They have the resource to get around it which HU may not, so I will try to enlist the ICO to assist HU in finding a way through this absurdly ill thought out regulation.

I am under no illusion that a few hundred likes will change anything, but it does show both HU and the ICO that many people on these sites do not agree with removing rights from "children" under the guise of protecting them.

I don't know your age, but older folk do tend to be very vulnerable to internet based fraud. Should we ban over 65s from certain websites to protect them?

Coddfish profile image
CoddfishGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

No, unless it’s necessary to protect the admins from prosecution. Whatever the actual risk, we live in a different world these days.

IannodaTruffe profile image
IannodaTruffeMentor in reply to Coddfish

Unfortunately we live in a society that will mindlessly sit back and allow liberties to be eroded left, right and centre (to be unpolitical) We don't have to say it is too hard, so let's not bother trying to restore rights and improve the world. It doesn't have to be like this and it doesn't have to proceed in an inevitable decline, if, the big IF, the public would make the effort to understand the world and protest against inequality and injustice..................but so many just won't bother themselves.

I thank you for your support in my effort to improve the world for the next generation.

Folkylass profile image

Again this is a brilliant post by you. However it is really sad that you have handed your Admin badge back. I have already posted on the bridge to 10k forum so you will know what I’ve written so I won’t repeat myself.

Just to add that I fully support you and your decision and your reason behind it.

Thanks again IannodaTruffe for everything you have given us all and look forward to many more of your posts.

Keep running ! Keep smiling! 👏👏👏😀


Argh. Like Coddfish, I don't think I'd thought about the lower age limit of the site - most people I see here are over 18. Some of us are well over! But I certainly don't see why 16-18 yr-olds should be excluded. This is the kindest, best regulated site I have ever encountered, and the 16-18 age group is generally badly served in this country. Many children's services stop at 16, then adult services don't kick in until 18. I think this site should continue to be available to them. Doesn't seem like a lot to ask.

DC25K profile image

Thank you for highlighting this. What an absolutely tragic loss for this wonderful forum. You have been absolutely integral to my taking part in the C25k programme, from the guidance, to setting the tone, and Health Unlocked need to look into this matter and take urgent action. At a time when obesity levels amongst young people are rising, its not the right move.

Wawacito profile image

I absolulety agree with you. The HU forums I am a member of are a safe haven full of positivity, facts, help and respect on an internet that gets more and more rude and full of mis/disinformation each day.

Teenagers have indeed had to carry a heavy burden over the past nearly two years, and, yes, they can very much profit from HU.

I liked this post.

Dear IDT,

Sorry just noticed this.Been very busy with stuff.

I agree with you and it is a great shame that our forum may lose your talent and the service you have given.

As to the solution, a way above my pay grade.

Nevertheless HealthUnlocked and indeed any other organisation are completely at odds with the mood of our devolved nations that make up the UK.

Running is for everyone of all ages and we were born to run.

This is a nonsense.

Think the Forum should consider setting up its own social media forum, seriously.It is a very easy and uncomplicated thing to do.The set up system caters for multiple options and allows you to arrive at the optimum levels of control versus freedoms while allowing everyone to express and address “ What’s on your Mind.”

Yours sincerely

Kind regards


Thank you for all your work as admin and for taking a stand over the minimum age issue. I agree entirely with your statement.

Very well said , the world has gone mad . Keep up the good work and best wishes 👍🏻

It seems to me that the 16-18 year bracket should be a buffer zone between exclusion and inclusion. It's artificial to suggest that suddenly at 18 years of age everything changes. Perhaps the rule change might have allowed the current 'under age' participants to continue while disallowing new participants in that age bracket.

Facebook disallows children under 13 years of age. They therefore have a 5 year buffer zone where teenagers are seen to have increased agency.

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