Sidmouth Running Club get behind the 26 Challenge - why not join in?

The Sidmouth Running Club April 26 challenge. Picture ARCHANT

The Sidmouth Running Club April 26 challenge. Picture ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

For the last 40 years one event has united our country every spring like no other; a sporting spectacle that transcends the physical, brings the strongest to their knees, allows winners and the final finishers in their thousands, to be counted in the same results and proudly wear the same medal, writes Jo Earlam and Kerry Boyle.

Originally an athletic aim, this event is more a phenomenon now, than a race; a test of endurance that’s inspired millions, from young to old, from the fittest to the not so fit but determined, the less physically able and disabled, from celebrities to too many bobbing heads to name individually.

Thousands more have volunteered, spectated, supported through charity donations, watched live on television – all in some way a part of the incredible magic that is the London Marathon.

What an awesome and moving vision it is – the nation’s collective challenge of 26.2 miles, played out before a backdrop of the landmarks of our capital city, Greenwich, Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Big Ben…who doesn’t cry when tired feet falter in the final 200 metres from Buckingham Palace to the finish line, triumph and agony written on every face.

More than 400,000 were inspired enough to sign up for the ballot for this year’s 40th anniversary event, 40,000 were successful, the date set for Sunday, April 26.

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But this spring of 2020 is like no other has been – the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed whatever concept we had of how we use our time, participate in group activity or support things we enjoy, including those that are meaningful, important, our expectations crushed.

Still, the grass roots passion which running inspires remains strong, the green and beautiful countryside in which many are fortunate to run is blossoming right now.

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It was a run through the East Devon hills that sowed the seeds for this Sidmouth Running Club (SRC) Mighty Green idea. An exchange of emails later, and this is the proposal…

We might be at home isolated, socially distant, but internet, social media, mobile phone, radio and TV shows how we can still come together, in a virtual but live way, meet on a massed start line, from the comfort of our armchair even, be a part of something bigger, something that unites.

That’s the idea of the 26.2 challenge – choose something to do 26 times, fitting within 26.2 minutes.

It could be physical/sporting: a series of exercises, lunges, squats, press-ups, HIT workouts, home spin-biking, treadmill, rowing, even walking up and down stairs 26 times.

Have a garden and a football net, try scoring 26 goals, if you’re a ballet dancer 26 pirouettes, yoga or Pilates work through a 26-move sequence. All sports could have their own take.

Practical: one for the bakers, make 26 of something, scones can be made from scratch to being lifted fresh from the oven inside 26 minutes, sew on 26 buttons, iron 26 items of laundry, wash 26 dishes, do 26 strokes of paint or fit screws for a DIY project.

Educational and creative: learn 26 words of a new language, write the first 26 sentences of a novel, play 26 instruments, sing a line of 26 different songs, listen online and identify the songs of 26 birds.

Have pets: throw a ball 26 times for your dog, get it to do 26 agility moves or tricks, encourage a talking parrot to say 26 words.

Indulgent: what else but eat 26 pieces of chocolate (small ones!).

Random: come up with your own crazy, wonderful, thoughtful 26 choices.

These things can be done on your own, or in a shared collective way through use of live video link ups with like-minded friends, family, club members, among charity supporters.

Like the marathon fancy dress optional but go for it if you want to!

The unifying moment of this 26.2 challenge, is to time your start from what would have been the mass start time of 9.30am for the 2020 London Marathon.

That countdown moment when thousands would be standing nervously on the start line, the atmosphere tangible through TV sets for the thousands more watching at home.

You’ll be in a virtual link up with like-minded people, creating a spirit that will unify for those 26.2 minutes, everyone crossing this finish line together – all winners.

With the loss of income for many charities in these challenging times, and no sponsored organised mass events – including running marathons able to take place – making a donation to your own favourite charity, or seeking support from friends, family would be a wonderful part of your 26.2 Challenge.

Even giving a small amount, multiplied many times sums will add up, you choose the charity you want to benefit. It could be based on 26.2, many of us could spare £2.62…if all 457,861 ballot place entrants gave that much, it would add up to nearly £1.2 million, increase it to £26.20 - still less than the average price for taking part in a marathon - there’s £12 million, even without non-ballot applicants.

To quote a famous supermarket, very little really would help charities at this hard-pressed time. Celebrity, or more well-off, runners might even go the extra decimal point to £262, or more!

Selfies, videos, how much you’ve donated, sharing on social media all to be encouraged under the hashtag #26point2.

The point to (.2) respond to a crisis that’s disrupting our lives on the scale of Covid-19, not just with high hopes, but with marathon hopes of better future springs for all. In this toughest test of endurance of our generation, by uniting in sport and support we will help each other endure.

That is the spirit of the marathon and especially of the London Marathon. Hoping the Sidmouth Mighty Greens will get behind this idea and other running clubs, non-runners too, anyone and everyone who can.

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