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From the physical to the virtual

All over the country social running clubs have become virtual social running clubs. Just like that. It happened literally overnight. For the Green Heart Runners, that night was Tuesday 17th March. That was the point when England Athletics informed all affiliated running clubs that they should stop group runs with immediate effect.

I felt absolutely sick at this news, even though I knew it was the right thing to do, of course. I was in touch with friends and Group Leaders of other running clubs and they were equally as disappointed. I felt very emotional as I contacted all runners that morning to let them know we could no longer meet as a group.

Everyone was understanding, but disappointed. Since then of course, the rules have become more strict and we’re now unable to exercise with anyone other than people with whom we live.

You know when you’re in a social running club because you see other people, catch-up with each other, support and encourage one another, and don’t worry about personal bests or training really seriously.

But you really know when you’re in a social running club when you suddenly can’t see those people anymore.  For me, that’s when you need the social more than ever.

Soon after the UK social and movement restrictions came in to force and we were forced to stay at home, we initiated a photo competition for the Green Heart Runners, as a means of keeping in touch and keeping the interest up during this period of solo running. This led to an explosion of messages on our WhatsApp group, along with all the other WhatsApp groups that were sprouting out of nowhere! So I created a private Facebook group for the photo sharing, which has proved a great way to keep in touch and has saved our phones from exploding.

We’ve had our first photo competition winners. The categories were “most intriguing selfie” and “muddiest trainers” and I was delighted and most grateful that Alistair Jones (aka Mr Running Jones) adjudicated and picked out our winners. We now move on to the new categories of “Springtime selfie” and “most inspiring run route view”. My next job is to find a judge for this round. Any takers?

As well as our photo competition we now have more members on our dedicated Strava group, which is another great way of seeing where we’ve been running and of supporting each other and celebrating our successes.

My friends and colleagues are this minute coming up with new ideas as to how we can sustain the fun and interest across our group. I look forward to sharing these when they happen, and would be very keen to receive any ideas from other running clubs.

It still feels like we’re in the early days of this. It’ll be weeks, probably months, before we’re able to run together in a group again, and when we are able to, who knows what the new rules and social norms will be around group exercise.

But let’s not speculate. Let’s continue doing what we’re good at – running, sharing our stories, supporting each other and celebrating our successes, in whatever form they come.


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