#TeamLucy tackle a virtual half marathon as a team

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Although we still can’t meet in person for fundraising events, Sarah and her friends found a virtual way to run together as a team. Over the Easter weekend, over 70 runners across the UK (and internationally!) took on a half marathon to raise money for Lucy, Sarah’s 17-month-old daughter who has cystic fibrosis (CF). Here, Sarah reflects on organising an event during lockdown, her highs and lows, and her tips for training during a pandemic. 

Sarah wearing a CF Trust yellow running vest for Running Festival

Last Christmas, I took part in a small virtual half marathon with some friends. We enjoyed the sense of togetherness and the fitness so much that we agreed to do another one in the spring. As my 17-month-old daughter has CF, I asked everyone to run for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. A friend of mine suggested that we get as many runners as we could and try to raise £10,000 – and so, with a group of over 50 from all across the country (including Paris), we decided to run a virtual half marathon over the Easter weekend.

Staying connected

It was interesting organising an event during lockdown! Although it came with its own challenges, as well as the disappointment that we couldn’t run together, it gave people a real focus during what has been a challenging time. We created a WhatsApp group to share our running successes and our excitement at receiving the Trust’s running vests and fundraising milestones, which gave everyone a real boost as well as a new virtual community to be part of.

There was a mix of new and experienced runners taking part; I know of at least three who started the NHS ‘Couch to 5km’ during the first lockdown and have now run their first half marathon – which is brilliant! As well as the WhatsApp group, we also linked up through Strava, commenting on each other’s runs, spurring each other on when we were recovering from an injury, or simply congratulating each other for putting on our trainers and stepping out the door. It was great to have this sense of community and a shared goal, and was a really incredible and important way to look after each other’s mental health during this difficult time. Knowing someone will be virtually ‘there’ at the end of your run, giving you a Strava ‘kudos’ or support on WhatsApp, has certainly motivated me through many a windy winter run. 

Fundraising in a pandemic

This isn’t the first fundraiser I’ve done for the Trust, but it’s the first one where I’ve really tried to spread the word as far and wide as I possibly can. One of the hardest things was relying on social media and messaging to drum up fundraising. There’s a lot of people currently fundraising on social media for their own causes, owing to the effect the pandemic is having on charity events not being able to take place. It can feel quite awkward, because you don’t want to flood people’s feeds with yet another request for money, but  it’s the only way right now. 

Having said that, people have been incredibly generous with their donating, sharing of posts, and promoting the event, so those awkward feelings are probably nonsense! And, as the event approached, no one felt awkward anymore. Our £10,000 target was just in reach, and there was an increased sense of excitement and collective pride in what we were achieving that gave us the momentum to give the fundraising a final push. My mum even started making marmalade to sell to friends, adding even more to our total.

So, if anyone is thinking of organising an event – go for it! People want and need a focus right now, and what a brilliant cause to be working towards. Be prepared to be humbled by the love, goodwill, and generosity of others. It’s so rewarding, and I’ve found that events like these bring out the very best in people.

On the day

It was the first time I have ever looked forward to running a half marathon, mainly because, by the actual day, we’d raised just over £14,000! Everyone in the group felt so overjoyed and it meant going into the event on a mental positive high. We'd also gradually recruited more and more runners in the lead up to the run, with around around 75 people taking part over the course of the weekend, including a few children taking part in 5km runs and some older grandparents walking 5km. My cousin in Paris got an injury just before the run and so completed his event by walking 30km around Paris and spelling out my daughters name for his route. It was amazing!

Sarah wearing a CF Trust yellow running vest for Running Festival holding her daughter

I really enjoyed the run itself, it just felt amazing knowing that there were people all over the country running for the CF trust and running for my daughter. It was extremely emotional, in a positive way. The laws regarding the number of people you could exercise with had just changed that week, meaning that friends could run the half marathon together. Friends and family also came out along the route to support, adding yet another layer of enjoyment to the run. 

Collage of Sarah's friends running for the CF Trust, wearing CF Trust running vests

A message of motivation

Even though we were all spread out across the country, knowing that so many of my friends, or friends of friends, were out there running in my daughter’s name was amazing. So many times I have found myself running and crying, thinking of what the success of our small event could mean in terms of contributing towards the future of those with cystic fibrosis. My daughter is my focus for my running and fundraising, as is the possibility of a life for her, and others like her, without the challenges of cystic fibrosis. 

On Saturday, it will be three weeks since the event, and the current fundraising total lies at £19,624! A staggering amount and a wonderful team achievement. 

So, if anyone is thinking of organising an event – go for it! People want and need a focus right now, and what a brilliant cause to be working towards. Be prepared to be humbled by the love, goodwill, and generosity of others. It’s so rewarding, and I’ve found that events like these bring out the very best in people.

Sarah’s training tips

  • Do what you can, when you can. I tried to do one run a week, usually at the weekend, and tried to fit in a Zoom gym glass during the week as well to maintain fitness and stamina. However, I also didn’t mentally beat myself up if I didn’t achieve it, as lockdown life can be unpredictable.
  • Establish a group on WhatsApp, or through some form of messaging or social media, as it’s so motivating.
  • Go for that aspirational JustGiving target. What’s the worst that could happen? Even if you don’t make it, you’ll still be raising money for charity. 

If you’re inspired by Sarah’s story, there’s still time to sign up to the Team CF Running Festival and run before the end of April. You can also check out our other upcoming events.

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