The journey of three hundred miles begins with a single step…
January, the month of resolutions, goal setting and making wild and ambitious plans for the year ahead. But January can also be cold wet and dark, the promise of holidays and sunshine hiding away in the shadows. So how can January shine a little brighter? How can a typically blue month gain a little bit of colour?
RED Together is a community led initiative that was founded by Hannah Beecham back in 2016. After seeing how exercise helped her mum cope with depression, Hannah set about launching a campaign that used January, a month where lots of people struggle with their mental well-being, as a focus point to get people moving to combat these January blues and to kick start the year in a positive way. What started out as Run Every Day January has now become an all inclusive community of people committing to movement, exercise, and, at it’s heart, a support network. RED now works in partnership with MIND and goes far beyond just the first month of the year with a strong online community where REDer’s support one another year round. Because, good mental health doesn’t just come around merrily when February arrives, working on mental well-being needs to be given as much care and attention as physical health.
Hannah took up residence at House of Sport in May 2019 so this year called upon fellow residents here at the House to get involved in RED JANUARY 2020! Chris Anderson, Alex Zurita and Chris Scott from resident organisation London Sport got on board. Here is their tale of blood, sweat and tears.
What made you decide to get involved with RED January this year?
Chris S: Peer pressure! Or, more specifically, Alex Zurita’s well-targeted nudge at our Christmas Party in December. I’d actually signed up a few weeks prior to that but had assumed it would go the same way as most of my January plans – something that seemed a good idea in December, and a good idea to ignore come January. Sticking to it has been the best decision I’ve made this year!
Chris A: To be honest, it started as a slightly drunken conversation at our Christmas party with Alex, Chris and I saying we all wanted to do a challenge in the New Year. Alex suggested we should do a 5 km every day for RED January and we all agreed straight away, clearly not knowing what we were letting ourselves in for.
Alex: We are extremely lucky to have Hannah – founder of RED Together – within our current and 3rd Sport Tech Hub cohort. I always try to test the products within our Sport Tech Hub that are directly targeting an individual/consumer – if anything with the aim of providing direct feedback to the founder of the business or by having experienced the product being able to then confidently talk about this to partners. Doing RED January was a no-brainer, it is a great initiative, with huge traction to date, fundraising almost £2m for MIND and positively impacting a lot of people. I also wanted to lead from the front and get London Sport a lot more connected to RED January.
How did you find out about it?
Chris A: We are lucky that RED January are a fellow House of Sport resident, so we are fully aware of the fantastic work they do and the tremendous efforts of the REDer’s every January to raise money and awareness.
Chris S: Again, this is one that can be laid firmly at Alex Zurita’s feet. With RED January coming on board as part of our third cohort of Sport Tech Hub organisations, Alex and colleagues made a really concerted effort to make London Sport aware of their work. It obviously sunk in somewhere down the line – what surprised me most is the sheer number of people I know who’ve got involved in previous years. They’ve built an amazing footprint, and it’s amazing to see them going from strength-to-strength.
Alex: Directly through Hannah. I immediately wanted to do more for and with RED January, pretty much since the first time I met Hannah in early 2019.
And you’ve committed to achieving 5 km every day? What made you decide on running this distance as a challenge?
Chris S: At the risk of sounding like a broken record here…this one’s down to Alex as well. Of course, when he first suggested it, it sounded easy. It’s only 5 k, right? I reckon it took about a week for the implications of the ‘every day’ component to really sink in.
Chris A: Alex Zurita, Xmas party and a little bit of alcohol.
Alex: Well, this is a typical ‘I want to challenge myself’ type commitment with not much thinking behind it. At first it sounded totally doable but considering I am not a runner and the last time I ‘properly’ ran – apart from rushing for the train – was in March 2019 – I certainly underestimated this. Once the realisation set in, I kind of knew it was going to be tough, so I set out to get peer support and buy-in, knowing that if I committed to the challenge out loud, I would not be able to pull out. Super lucky that Chris S and Chris A got involved as the peer-to-peer support has definitely helped.
Did you do anything to prepare for the challenge or did you just launch into it come New Year’s Day with a full out 5 km dash?
Chris A: I prepared by resting my body completely for a couple of weeks ensuring that it had enough fuel for the month of running ahead. Pretty sure turkey, roast potatoes, chocolate, cheese and red wine is how all the Olympic athletes fuel their bodies. New Year’s Day was a bit of a shock!
Chris S: Towards the end of December, I realised I’d not actually tried to run 5 km in almost a year. Cue a slightly frantic attempt to put some kilometres in the legs.
Alex: Nope! I ran the London Landmarks for The Running Charity – which was my first ever half marathon at the end of March 2019. I had not run since so the #5kEveryDay challenge was a commitment without much (zero) thinking!
Do you have any ‘rules’ around your challenge or any personal goals you are hoping to achieve over the course of the month?
Chris S: In theory, I keep telling myself it’s just about doing it – not doing it fast. In practice, I’ve found I get incredibly annoyed with myself if I’m not making a decent effort to up the pace week-on-week. I guess the only thing I was really hoping to achieve (completion aside) was to remember why I used to enjoy running – on that metric alone, RED January 2020 has proven quite successful personally.
Chris A: I’ve been challenged by my brother Ian to run a 5 km in under 25 minutes before the end of January and if I achieve it he will double his sponsorship. It’s day 24 and the closest I’ve got is 25:23 – fingers crossed I can make it in the last few days.
Alex: The only rule for the #5kEveryMonth challenge is that there are no rules! Well technically, there is one, Chris A, Chris S and I have to run a 5k every day. But for me, it is just about completing the run each day, thinking that the whole month is a marathon and not a sprint. Goals wise, inspired by the Chris’s, I wanted to go under 25 minutes once or twice. We also wanted to raise £100 through friends and colleagues and are at £470 and counting .
How are you fitting it in every day around work and other commitments?
Chris S: Just before Christmas, I joined a gym for the first time in years. Having a reason to go and jump on a treadmill every day has actually been a really good way of avoiding the ‘lapsed enthusiasm trap’ on my gym membership, so it’s actually been a bit easier than expected.
Chris A: It’s great working for London Sport as they give you the flexibility to go to the gym or go for a run during your working day so I’ve managed to fit in a lot of runs at work which means I’ve been able to go out running with colleagues and other House of Sport residents which has been a massive help – thanks all. The hard runs have been the ones I’ve had to do as soon as I get home in the evening – cold, dark and hungry are not a great combination to get you to go for a run.
What has been the biggest challenge that you have found so far?
Chris A: Getting under 25 minutes!
Chris S: Running has an incredible way of reminding you of your own limitations, I’ve found. The last time I ran regularly – back in my mid 20s – there were far fewer sore knees, aching joints and general stiffness. Whether that counts as a challenge, or just a slightly alarming reminder of the ageing process, is open to interpretation…
Alex: Weekdays is all about fitting the run at work. I have found that this is a great break from my workload and constantly thinking about work. While also benefiting from encouragement from colleagues. Weekends is a bit tougher, I have a young family and weekends are all about family time. On most Sundays I find myself running to my mother in law’s as a way of squeezing in the run as part of the ‘norm‘.
And what has been the biggest benefit that you’ve found from taking part in RED January so far?
Chris A: I feel so much better and have a lot more energy. I’ve managed to lose a fair bit of weight which has been great so I’m generally feeling much better in myself. Plus I’m learning to love running again – I recommend it to everyone just maybe not 5 km everyday.
Chris S: All of it! The whole thing has been an amazing experience. One of the biggest things I’ve found is that ‘storing up’ my run until the end of each day has been an amazing way to put a break between the working day and my home life. From a mental health perspective, that’s been an enormous benefit.
Alex: Lots! Supporting RED January and Hannah, raising awareness of this through our network, fundraising for MIND, sense of belonging to something, feeling physically better (apart from knees) and using the challenge as a break from work and clearing my head.
And finally, are you tempted to continue this running streak on into another month, the rest of the year…
Chris S: Not just tempted – I’ll be disappointed if I don’t. The every day thing’s going to have to go, not least because I’m off on holiday from the beginning of February, but there’s no way I’m letting regular running fall away from my life again. It’s been a brilliant thing to get involved with, and for anyone that hasn’t had a go this year, I’d just say: set a reminder now for RED January 2021. You won’t regret it.
Chris A: I will be taking a much needed rest for a few days but then aim to keep the running up and joining the House of Sport run club and Thursday Intervals whenever I get the chance.
Alex: In typical fashion, without much thinking, I have agreed to run the London Marathon this year, my first ever, in support of the Ron Pickering Fund.
Alex, Chris and Chris all managed to make it to the end of their RED January challenge, 31 days of running 5 km every, single, day. For the final day, along with some fresh-legged colleagues from House of Sport, they took on the infamous Serpentine last Friday of the month 5 km race taking place in Hyde Park.
And yes, Chris Anderson smashed his sub 25 minute goal, seems running for 30 days in a row is the perfect warm up for a personal best…
Interested in supporting this growing movement? Email Hannah, Founder of RED January, at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can further support the work of RED and the endeavours of the three amigos by donating HERE.
If you’d like to support Alex in his first marathon attempt, you can do so HERE.
If you think your organisation would benefit from being at House of Sport, get in touch HERE.