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OCA wellbeing: Running

This week we’re hearing from our online librarian Helen, who has inspiringly adapted training for a marathon to fit the lockdown. I hadn’t considered how running in my little garden could be an option while stuck at home, so read on to hear how Helen is making it work!

In September 2019, a close friend of mine lost her daughter to Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.  The family wanted to say thank you for the care and support that they and their daughter received by raising money for charity.  A group of us – friends and family pledged to support them.  We entered Beachy Head Marathon together to run on October 26th, 2020.  

Our group is spilt in to 3 distinct training groups – runners, run/walkers and walkers.  I started in the walking group, but bit by bit over a period of a few months I started jogging – a little at first, but eventually I moved to the run/walk group. I struggle to call myself a runner, but I get out 3/4 times a week.  I still take walk breaks on my longer runs, but I have run half marathon distances and I am well on my way to run/walk Beachy Head Marathon in October.    

Mel (a mum, friend of the family, and our coach) has helped the team cope throughout lockdown by giving us something other than Covid-19 to think about. Each week she sets us fitness challenges (running up and down stairs, timed planks, timed wall squats etc). This virtual support has been fantastic in keeping me motivated in my training and connected with my friends.  

One of the challenges set by Mel in April was to run a 5km distance in our gardens. This was during the period of lockdown where those of us living in the UK were allowed to leave our homes once a day for exercise.

The rules were simple – on 26th of April we were to start running at 10am and cover a 5km distance.  We could run around our gardens and up to 200m on the road (some people had small or no gardens). Evidence of distance needed to be recorded (pedometer, fitness watch or measure the garden and record the laps) to be shared with the group. Wearing of silly hats was encouraged!

How I could motivate myself to run 5km around our garden concerned me, but as the day approached, I worried less and less.  Our WhatsApp group was flooded with messages of support from the team. Silly photos were taken and shared. Competitive banter exchanged.  On April 26th, I may have run around my garden solo, but I felt far from alone. 

Sharing routes, running times and pictures on social media keeps the group engaged.  We use apps like Strava to record our runs and WhatsApp to exchange comments, banter, and support.  Surprisingly, lockdown has strengthened our group.  We are more connected now because we have had to try harder to be together.  We have become more than a group raising money for charity. We are now there for each other with other things.

From time to time some people drop back from the group – often due to family commitments, work commitments or injury.  No-one is judged for this; the group is there to support everyone who needs it, when they need it.  It is an unspoken understanding within the group that we all have good and bad days.  If we notice someone who has ordinarily been active on social media go quiet, we check in.  A simple “hello, how are things” just to reach out and be there if needed.  We are in this together.

I realise I am very fortunate to be in my running group.  It has opened my eyes to all the virtual experiences that people can now engage with.  Lockdown has resulted in the creation of so many activities to connect people – virtual running competitions, online courses, online counselling – the list goes on.  Being removed from family and friends is difficult, but having a great group of people online has kept me going.  I can’t wait until we can run together again.

Have you started or kept up some exercise or training during this time?

At the start of my run. I lost the hat quickly – it was very hot!
My garden 5k route.  Running around in circles really slows down your pace!
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Posted by author: Helen Barrett
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5 thoughts on “OCA wellbeing: Running

  • Loved the garden run!
    I live in Spain and my age group (70+) has been only a day allowed out for one hour a day to walk – in a 1k radius – between 10-12 – for 6 weeks now. Before that – not at all . It was my running I missed most. Going up and down the 16 stairs in our apartment just didn’t cut the mustard, nor did running backwards and forwards on the balcony (8 paces). But from Monday next, there are no time restrictions! Masks must be carried, in case of crowds.

    The difference will be that I will be giving thanks every day for my freedom, never wanting to make excuses to shirk it. Just let me get out there!

  • That’s an inspiring piece Helen and such group camaraderie. I usually do an outdoor boot camp with a friend three times a week (whatever the weather), and since it’s gone online via Zoom I find it helps me structure my working day. After a few hours work, I look forward to my lunchtime Abs and Legs, then an evening Total Warrior session and later Stretching .

  • Love that tangle in your garden Helen. Yes sports helped me to deal with the lockdown and its problems. As participant in a zoom pilates/yoga group I look forward to the daily lunchbreak session as a communicative change from lonely Home Office.

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