I’d always been an active person, doing three runs per week, strength and conditioning sessions and weight lifting. Slowly with pressures of work and baking (did I mention I was a self-taught caker at night and a Biomedical Scientist by day?!), these active parts of my life slowly ebbed away. But luckily I focussed my efforts on another side of running events, Marshalling!
I first came across Tough Runner UK when they advertised on Facebook running groups looking for marshalls to help out with their first local race at Sudeley Castle, the Cotswold Half Marathon in September 2019. Jason and I stepped up to help out at one of several water stations.
We got to know different members of the Tough Runner family and the guys behind the company, Adam, Ben and Dan. Everyone was so welcoming and funny and it wasn’t just because of their Welsh charm. The entire family were genuinely amazing!
Since then we had volunteered for many of their events, even as far afield as Falkirk. Everything was organised by their core team and we even got treated out for dinner the night before the Falkirk 10K. This was when I truly got to see how much of a family they were and I felt safe and secure with them, even with their paramedic team too.
Tough Runner events are tough by nature but also fun. I got a taste of it when Jason and I took part in the Swansea Christmas Party 5K at Penllergere Valley Woods. Prior to the 5K run, we volunteered for the children’s 1K run. Both of us wore fancy dress, and normally that’s our animal onesies! Although it was only a 5K run, the route was tough but beautiful. That’s the amazing thing about Tough Runner races; they take in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding area.
This year was supposed to be more of the same, with many events organised, but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic happened in March 2020.
My entire work/life balance changed, with work taking over every aspect of my life, including the ability to sleep and exercise. Not only was this a turbulent time for everyone around me being in lockdown, but lockdown wasn’t an option for me as I still had to work different shifts throughout the 22 weeks (as of now).
In June the Tough Runner team announced that they would be organising a July challenge which would encompass an Altitude Peak challenge, a Beast Mile challenge and a virtual 10K run. Each challenge would have its own medal, with a fourth one if you completed all three. Oh I forgot mention that the medals were all magnetic and attached to each other to make a triangle! Tough Runner have the best medals by far!
Aside from myself and Jason doing this challenge, I also signed up my sister Nadia for the Beast Mile challenge in secret. Originally I sold it to her by saying that only Jason and I were doing the challenge and that I would need extra help. She said she would feel pressured to do it for a medal and was going to make it her own personal challenge for the month. She had also been gifted a bike for her birthday too, so was hoping to get some bike miles in that way. So started a surreptitious task of making her do long walks or runs with me, making sure she had her Strava account sorted and had her phone with her all times during the activities we did.
During the challenge month, all three of us were doing great, with Jason creating a spreadsheet to record the progress with fun graphics, all of which were my doing! He worked out how many days we would have to do an activity to stay ahead and when we could afford to have rest days and not be behind in our distances and altitude.
Nadia and I even managed to get our mum out for some walks, so this challenge was doing us all some good. Considering we reside in the Cotswold Basin (Gloucestershire), we had lots of hills (not mountains) to conquer to get our altitude for the challenge.
Throughout the challenge we were encouraged to share our activities onto the challenge group page on Facebook and it exemplified the community spirit you get being a part of Tough Runner. Everyone in the group was supportive and applauded each members’ triumphs.
The last week was slightly stressful as Garmin reported a ransomware issue and it scuppered my chances of uploading any of my activities to the website. I had to resort to using the old fashioned USB connected access! Oh how much we rely on our wearable technologies to record our activities. I was in tears some days, as my watch stopped completely and had to factory reset and lost data for a whole week!
As July came to an end, Jason and I were both 13th in the Beast Mile and Altitude challenge in our age categories, despite finishing in very different places in the full results and not doing many activities together. The 10K virtual race was a disaster for me. I asked Jason to come up with a flat route and even though he primed me on where to go and finish, I managed to get lost! Only I would ever get lost!
Tough Runner have already started another challenge for August, but unfortunately I won’t be able to take part, because no matter how much I enjoyed July and being active again, I was in agony most days. This month is all about applauding everyone else doing Augusts challenge and supporting them through their journeys, because that is what the running community is all about!