Green Heart Runners’ Winter Challenge #GHRB30

  • 40 participants
  • 25 marathons
  • 200 sponsors
  • £4,200 

Read on…

The Green Heart Runners has been operating as a virtual club since the first lockdown 8 months ago (8 months!), in March. Since then, save for one official get together over the summer, our members have been running individually and occasionally in very small groups, and have been supported by our running community over social media and other virtual platforms.

We have grown as a club over this time as running has increasingly appealed as a way of keeping fit and we now have 78 members.

Back in April, on the day we were supposed to have been entering our first physical race as a club, we continued to do a virtual race and raised a phenomenal £3,450 in the process.

Fast forward to late October and I began wondering whether we had another virtual running event in us this year. I had recently posted on the University of Birmingham Facebook group about the Green Heart Runners and the benefits of social running clubs.  This generated a positive response, new members, and a short comment from Sally Brooks “I feel another virtual race coming on..” which I think was the final push needed to get a new plan in place! After a few quick-fire messages with Jess and Hasan, who were instrumental in the organisation and success of April’s event, we came up with the Green Heart Runners’ Winter Challenge – 12 marathons for Christmas.

The idea to hold this event came about before we all knew that the new national restrictions would come in to force in early November, and by the time they had, we were well in to our planning and felt even more so that it might be something our members and supporters might get behind and be something positive to focus on during a fairly bleak and boring month.

We once again decided to raise funds to support the wonderful local charity, B30 Foodbank, which has seen demand for its services increase dramatically during the pandemic and whose own fundraising efforts have been hampered somewhat by the restrictions in place this year.

The idea of the 12 marathons was to chime with the 12 days of Christmas and the plan was for our club members collectively to run the equivalent distance of 12 marathons (314.4 miles) over a period of six days in late November, in order that any monies raised could be used to bring a little cheer and support to individuals and families over Christmas.

On 3rd November I let club members know that we were planning this challenge to test the water and see who might be up for it. The response was incredible. We asked everyone to pledge the miles they wanted to run and within two days we already had 7 marathons on our tracker. On 10th November we launched our challenge and our fundraising campaign officially and within 24 hours had already raised £500.

You get this tingly feeling of excitement when you can see and sense a plan is working out…which it was!

The following Sunday I found myself live on BBC WM, a local radio station, plugging the event, and members and supporters continued to pledge miles and money to the cause.

On the eve of the beginning of the challenge we already had £2,000 in the pot and 20 marathons pledged. Amazing!

All we had to do now, was run.

Day 1:

We set off like a rocket and knocked off four marathons by the time the light was fading.

Day one involved dogs, parks, treadmills, canals and a cheeky appearance by Old Joe.

Day 2:

Day two incorporated beautiful sunrises, Chrismassy photos, and Strava fails (we’ve all been there!)

At the end of day two we had clocked up seven marathons and crashed through the £3,000 barrier for B30 Foodbank.

Day 3:

This was a chilly one. Day three involved running hats, gloves, head torches and enviable sea-side pictures.

By the time we were all tucked up after another day of running, we had taken ourselves to the brink of ten marathons completed.

Day 4:

One of our members ran further than they had in eight years on this day! We were all very proud of her and it reinforced again the power of community and social running clubs. Street art, face-coverings, fog, and semi-naked running (not like that), were all features of Feel Good Friday!

As we headed into the weekend we had left our original 12 marathon target in the distance as we had clocked up 13.2 in just four days, and had £3,462 in the bank.


Day 5:

Many members completed their target distance on Day 5 on a miserable day weather-wise. There was only optimism pulsing through the veins of our runners though. I did my first mile of the day inside while I waited for the rain to subside a little. Others just launched themselves in without delay and as a result we achieved our highest daily mileage, shooting us up another six marathons to 19.5 and a sub-total of 511.5 miles for the challenge.

6th and Final Day:

Day six was the final day of our challenge. Many runners (including me) had miles to fit in to reach target and it was another misty, murky day. This didn’t stop some more fantastic achievements, including a cool PB-busting half marathon from one runner and plenty more contributing to the distance of a further five marathons bringing our vital statistics to 24.7 marathons, 646.6 miles and a staggering £3,800 raised.

At the end of the final day we held a celebratory virtual catch-up to share the final totals, and congratulate our runners on their individual, and our collective, achievements. There were also prizes for the best photographs, the furthest, fastest and highest runs, and two joint-winners of ‘Achiever of the challenge’, for two runners who had run further and faster, respectively, than they had ever thought was possible this week.

The Green Heart Runners has been on an exciting journey ever since I formed the club in June 2019. We’ve been a virtual club as long as we have been a physical club now, something which is hard for me to get my head around. We have no blueprint to work from, we’re just forging our path as an inclusive, friendly, social running community with members who are passionate about supporting others, having fun with running and introducing new ideas and dimensions to the club.

To have over 40 members taking part, to have run the distance of over 25 marathons, and to have been sponsored by more than 200 people to raise a total of over £4,200 is an achievement of which we can all be justly proud. It has been a huge team effort from every single person involved.

In addition to the impressive collective stats, we had members who this week have run further than they’ve run before, run faster than they’ve run before, and clocked up more miles in a week than they ever thought they were capable of doing. They too feel immense pride and satisfaction at what they have personally accomplished in addition to their contribution to the collective achievement. And quite rightly so.

So what next? 2021 will be upon us soon and we all hope that we will be able to return to physical group running very soon. As we have done to this point, the Green Heart Runners will adapt, develop, and grow. With this will come opportunities for members to help shape our future, and develop skills as Run Leaders. As for future running challenges I think our next aim has to be to do what we intended to do this year, but couldn’t, for obvious reasons. So in 2021 look out for Green Heart Runners at a local running event near you…!

Finally, thank you to all of our runners, everyone who has supported us on this #GHRB30 Winter Challenge, and a special thanks to Jess Harrington and Hasan Patel who gave up so much time and applied much skill, expertise and organisation to make this event as successful as it was, and whose enthusiasm and passion for Green Heart Runners we would all be lost without!

Until next time…


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