Gentle accountability with real life rewards – Catherine Foster, Director at the Great Run Company, tells us why virtual running challenges are so brilliant
Words by Catherine Foster at the Great Run Company
In a normal January many of us would be focused on our New Year goals, or eagerly marking up our calendars with the must-do races of the year. We’d be getting back to our running clubs or run commutes and embracing the return of our regular routines after the festive season.
It needn’t be said that in 2021 lots of those things just won’t happen, and for many of us, our biggest achievement will be getting through the week. If we even get out for a run while juggling working from home, home schooling, looking after older relatives or just trying to keep our mental health in check after almost twelve months of living through a global pandemic, then frankly, we all deserve a medal.
If you’re lacking motivation, you’re not alone. We know many of our Great Run customers rely on our events to keep them training and during the first lockdown we understood we needed to step up and support them, so Great Run Solo, our first ever virtual event series was born.
The response was overwhelming – over 80,000 people have signed up to take on one of our virtual running challenges so far, and the biggest surprise for us? Two thirds of them were women.
It’s been reported that the pandemic has specifically impacted women in a number of ways, from taking on the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities at home or within the wider family, to the higher number of women in frontline jobs like teaching and healthcare. We’re so pleased so many of our female customers are using our virtual events to carve out some time for themselves and hopefully to help them manage some of the physical and mental challenges we’re all facing.
So, if you’re struggling to get yourself out of the door in January, signing up to a virtual event could be just what you need to make that first step.
Why virtual running challenges work
A gentle sense of accountability: You can choose to set a goal distance or a number of running sessions to complete, whatever you think is best. These targets keep you accountable and give you a realistic goal to aim for.
A celebration of small wins: None of our challenges are about speed, or completing a certain distance in just one session, so every run counts. If you’re not feeling it one day, and let’s face it, we all had a few more of those days last year, a slow one-mile plod is still a tangible step towards your goal.
Some decent bling: Time and time again our runners tell us it’s all about the medal, so why should a virtual run be any different? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, sign up to our February challenge for a heart-shaped beauty and proclaim your one true love (running, of course!) to the world. There’s nothing nicer than getting a little pick me up in the post, and it means you can still share your medal selfies for those all-important social media bragging rights!
A lasting impact: Runners in our 2020 virtual challenges reported a significant increase in their overall activity levels and they also facilitated some pretty significant fundraising – with over £2.3m raised for good causes. So, if there’s a cause you know needs a little extra help right now, some fundraising might just be the extra push you need.
Above all be kind to yourself, running should be the thing that keeps you going right now, not another impossible job on the to do list. Keep your focus on how it makes you feel, rather than your performance. We’re hoping our physical events will be back by the autumn – we can talk PB’s then.
The #GreatRunSolo February Accumulator challenge is to complete 14 runs (or more) of any distance in February – your reward is a special medal, the best Valentine’s gift a runner could ask for!
The challenge starts on 1 February and ends on 28 February, and you can join the challenge anytime from now up to Monday 8 February at 10am, when entries close. Find out more and sign up here.