Green Heart Runners’ Virtual Race – 19/04/2020

25 club members, 2 children, 1 Police Community Supporter Officer and 4 dogs achieved something quite special on 19th April!

Many of our members were due to run at an event in Sutton Coldfield on 19th April. It would’ve been the first time we had entered runners into a race as a running club. Like many thousands of races up and down the country, it was obviously cancelled.

During this lockdown period we have switched our online social interactions from WhatsApp to Facebook and have been keeping touch, supporting each other, celebrating each other’s running efforts, and even adding in a running photo competition! This has been a joy to be a part of.

Earlier in the month, Hasan Patel, one of the early members of the Green Heart Runners, suggested that we revive our plan of running a race on 19th April, but do it virtually, and in a safe, solo and socially distancing way. A few zoom meetings later between myself, Jess Harrington (run leader) and Hasan, and we had a plan.

In order to encourage people to stick to the socially acceptable hour of exercise we decided to restrict the distance options to 5k and 10k.

Next we had to decide on a charity to raise money for. Hasan came up with the idea of the B30 Foodbank, which is not far from the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus where the majority of our members work or study. B30 have seen demand for their services and provision rise dramatically lately; it just seemed the perfect fit and they were delighted.

With a date, a cause and an event, we set about promoting it both within the club and amongst friends, families and supporters just one week ahead of race-day. Many people sponsored us in the build up to the event, on the day itself, and in the days afterwards, and we have so many people to thank for supporting us in this endeavour.

There was that same sense of anticipation in the build up to the day as there is for any normal race and I felt the butterflies as I went to bed the night before, knowing that the next day was going to be special.

I woke up early on Sunday and did my 10k at the crack of dawn to ensure I could be back, showered, and ready to enjoy watching all the runners post their finish-line selfies on social media and get a wonderful reaction reaction from friends, family and followers. It was just glorious to watch it all unfold and wonderful to see the money keep on coming in. Overall, 25 club members, 2 children, 1 Police Community Supporter Officer and 4 dogs took part (Green Heart Woofers anyone?!)

In the afternoon we held an online celebration via the world’s new favourite video conferencing platform (I’ll let you work that one out!), which was just joyful and quite emotional, for me anyway. Emotional for different reasons – because I hadn’t seen all my fellow runners for over a month, and because we had (at that point) raised £2,500, which was well beyond even our most optimistic hopes, and made us all realise we had achieved something quite special.

Jess made a wonderful video montage in record quick time that we were able to show at our online celebration, and we have since shared that on the University’s Facebook group, on the Green Heart Runners social media platforms, and on our own personal accounts as well. We were also very grateful to the University’s internal communications team for giving us a mention in the staff-wide email two days later, following which more donations came pouring in, pushing us beyond £3,000.

I established the Green Heart Runners just over 9 months ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. In Jess we have another run leader and huge club supporter and organiser extraordinaire, and will soon have more run leaders (Hasan, Charlotte and Rebecca) which will enable us to expand further.

I look forward to the day we can return to campus and meet up again as a club. I know it will be emotional. But for now, I couldn’t more proud of my club members and more grateful to the many many people who got behind this event and supported us all.

Thank you

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