With some lockdown restrictions easing today, we wanted to take a moment to shine a light on our most dedicated group of community fundraisers, Plymouth Coastal Runners (PCR), who’ve proven they are as agile in responding to change as they are on the Trail! In this guest blog, their founder Luke Elliott tells us how they adapted their monthly Strava time-trial to keep virtually challenging their runners and raising money throughout lockdown in a covid-safe way, using the power of social media. Since 2016, PCR members have raised nearly £3,000 to support the South West Coast Path Association’s work protecting and championing the National Trail that they love, we are extremely grateful for their unwavering support.
Over to Luke:
As we (hopefully!) start to make our way out of Lockdown 3 it’s a good time to look back at the last year. Many things ground to a halt; but Plymouth Coastal Runners did everything within their power, and the rules, to keep people entertained. For some it was about the motivation to get exploring outside, for others it was about the sense of competition they lacked due to cancelled races. We’d gone from averaging around 15 Time Trial (TT) attempts a month (2016-2018) to 40 in 2019…there was no way we wanted to lose that energy or stop making a difference during the pandemic!
Just before Lockdown 1 hit, we pulled off one last ‘traditional’ TT event on the SWCP in March followed by a rest for three months to abide by the stay near home rules. However, we were determined it wasn’t all going to be doom and gloom during this period: instead we joined forces with other Plymouth running groups ‘Team H’ and ‘Running Hoes’ to create a series of ‘within the rules’ virtual challenges to get people exploring locally within the city. It started with running every day during lockdown and soon expanded to include virtual ‘running bingo’ and ‘scavenger hunts’! The ‘Trig Point Challenge’ – to reach a trig point on foot from your front door – was also born on social media, starting here in the South West, and eventually becoming a national challenge which raised a few hundred quid for NHS Charities Together.
Once Lockdown 1 was over, we wanted to sustain our growing momentum as we brought back the TT. They brought in the ‘Rule of Six’, “no problem” we thought, “we’ll operate a digital sign-up sheet, six slots every half-hour!” We stayed off the narrowest paths and made the TT as simple as possible. July 2020’s event saw 119 TT’s completed…a record! The rest of the year saw us adapt to ever-changing rules and finishing the year averaging 60 attempts a month, not including over 650 in October for our annual paid-for charity super-TT which fundraised £1,750 for various causes that we care about, including of course the South West Coast Path Association. In December we even ran a Christmas Challenge over two weekends: 141 people following directions around the city to create a Christmassy ‘shape’ from their tracking on Strava!
In early 2021, we found ourselves back in lockdown. Roll on the next wacky adapted challenge…how much of Plymouth could we collectively cover in a weekend?! Come February we were still in lockdown and so ‘Fill in the Gaps’ became the theme: over 150 took part over the two weekends, we collectively ticked off the majority of what was left of the city plus Plympton, Plymstock, Wembury and the surrounding areas, but also Torpoint, Saltash, Ivybridge, Tavistock, Launceston, Bristol, Exeter, Honiton, Liskeard and Axminster.
The end of Lockdown 3 is now in sight, and we are able to travel for exercise again so the TT series can resume in a covid-safe manner… finally we can get back to our roots, taking in the joys of the Coast Path and we can’t wait! If you are interested in who we are, what we’re about and how our event has been able to adapt to satisfy changing covid-rules please find us on Facebook by searching ‘Plymouth Coastal Runners’ or on our website: www.plymouthcoastalrunners.com. Come and join us, thanks Luke!
If you’ve been inspired by the tenacity and ingenuity of Luke and his fellow PCR members to take on your own SWCP challenge to support the National Trail, you can register your idea here to get a free fundraising pack and 1-2-1 support from our Fundraising Manager.