One of the things our team has in common is our relationship with running. We don’t always love running, but we know very well that the simple act of putting on your trainers, getting out the front door and then putting one foot in front of the other will make us feel significantly better.

While we definitely run to keep ourselves physically fit, we all agree that the real benefits of running (especially at the moment) are for our mental wellbeing. By starting the day with a run, we are able to stay positive, focussed and take whatever the day has to throw at us! I feel like a different person after I’ve run. The before-run person is often sluggish, negative and anxious, the after-run person is full of energy, fight and fresh ideas. This is the reason that over 20-years ago, whilst at Exeter University I did my dissertation on the effects of exercise on mental health. This topic came about because since my early teenage years, running had the power to turn my mood and mindset around beyond belief.

Since government guidelines are still allowing us an outing for solo exercise each day, it gives us the opportunity to get out for a run, which ticks so many boxes – a physical and mental workout, a big dose of Vitamin D, fresh air and also provides some structure to the day.

Last week we received an email from Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt (as did all fellow Parkrunners), announcing that Parkrun could not take place under current circumstances – for the first time in 15-years, there would be no Parkrun on a Saturday morning. It made me cry for many reasons. It once again brought home the magnitude of the current situation. Paul’s message was so sincerely delivered, you could sense his emotion. The whole being of Parkrun brings out the best in communities – it is a community. It gave me great hope that we will get through this together.

It lead me to get this post together, I shared his email with the team and simply asked, what does running mean to you?

Dean Karnazes summed it up for me so well in his original book, that I will happily share some his words (I have them printed out above my desk for the days I don’t feel like running!) –

“Running is a simple, primitive act. Yet in its subtleties lies tremendous power. For in running, the muscles work a little harder, the blood flows a little faster, the heart beats a little stronger. Life becomes more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that”.

“I like the solitude. It keeps me fresh, keeps me oddly from feeling isolated. I guess a lot of people find it in church, but I turn to the open road for renewal. Running is my way of finding peace”.

“I run because if I didn’t I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary”.

See below what running means to others in the Aspire team.

Becky is a recent Parkrun convert, but is benefiting from solo running in recent weeks…

As I’ve got older, exercise (particularly running) is often the first thing to be sacrificed, I’m very good at ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’m too tired’.

However, I know that once I have found time, or made the effort to take myself outside for a run I’m not only exercising my body, but my mind as well. Running for me equals freedom, fresh air and a time to think.

Previously I’ve always liked to run alone, but since participating in my first Parkrun last year, I realised that running with a group of likeminded people is actually something very special and motivating. The sense of being part of a community that made me fitter but also happier was a win-win for me.

Vikki uses running to prepare herself for whatever the day ahead might have in store!

It’s simple, running makes me happy and keeps me going when things are getting tough and on top of me. It is also my excuse to have that extra glass of wine or a slab of chocolate! What more could you ask for? Running keeps your body healthy and fit, clears your mind if you’re feeling anxious about anything and it gets you out in the open air. Some days I have to force myself to get to get out of the door, but after five minutes I feel like a different person. I love how after every run it always ends with that “Runners High” feeling and I am ready to go for whatever lies ahead of me that day!

We have Busy Park on our doorstep, so I’m so lucky to have this stunning green space to explore. I am slowly getting my daughter into it and looking forward to running with her when she’s a little older.

For Josh, the simplicity of running outside is a lifeline during these difficult times…

I’ve always loved the simplicity of running. Coming from a football background, where training and games require so much planning, it’s always been an easy and appealing way for me to exercise. All you need is a pair of trainers – no gym membership – and some understanding of where in your local area you can go, and you’re all set.

Now, with the situation we’re in, it’s even more attractive. While the government is allowing us to, getting out for a single run each day is so beneficial. Personally, it’s the only time I have to be outside, which really helps me get through the rest of the day. Both physically and mentally, there are so many reasons why it’s a hobby worth picking up – especially now!

It’s the ideal time to get out and run, whether you love it or hate it, now is the time to embrace running (or power walking) for some head space or quality time with a family member. All you need is shorts, a t-shirt and a comfy pair of running shoes, there’s no excuse and you never know, after the current situation passes, you might be left with a new healthy habit!