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Woman Who Created £5 For 5K Challenge Says Dream Is To Reach £5 Million

by : Julia Banim on : 20 Apr 2020 15:43

One of my lovely pals at UNILAD has just tagged me in the Run for Heroes challenge, a viral trend where participants use their daily exercise time to run, walk or cycle 5km before donating £5 to those NHS workers on the frontlines.

Participants – who can get involved from home should this be more suitable – then nominate five friends to follow in their footsteps. All proceeds go to NHS Charities Together, a nationwide appeal to protect the welfare of NHS staff, assisting them in the current health crisis.

I’m admittedly a little out of shape and so will absolutely be pacing myself with this one. However, I’m thoroughly determined to see it through, especially after having a chat with the inspirational Run for Heroes founder, Olivia Strong.

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At this difficult time, we are thankfully seeing many good people come forward to show support for our precious NHS, while raising a little morale amongst the Great British public. Olivia is one such person.

The 27-year-old freelance documentary producer is originally from Edinburgh, but moved to London six years ago to pursue a career in television after graduating from Leeds University.

Olivia has run all her life, from competitions during her school days to running in the 2019 London marathon. She has described running as being her ‘yoga’ and a way to ‘de-stress, switch off and think up ideas or make my plan for my day ahead’.

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Just before the UK entered full lockdown, Olivia had returned to Edinburgh to catch up with family. Her job had been put down to two days a week so she had some extra time to fill and was looking to help out in some way in the fight against the coronavirus.

Although she’d signed up to volunteer with the NHS, applications wouldn’t be processed for at least another week, leaving Olivia at somewhat of a loose end. It was while Olivia ran around the city’s majestic Arthur’s Seat, spotting many other runners along the way, that inspiration struck – why don’t they run for the NHS on the frontlines?

Olivia told UNILAD:

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I’ve always felt 5k is a good distance to run and feel a sense of achievement, and £5 isn’t a huge ask. If people could share it on their social media post run it could encourage other people to do the same.

I ran home and told the idea to my family & brainstormed ideas with my friends over WhatsApp. That evening ‘Run For Heroes’ was born, with the tagline: ‘Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5’.

I created an Instagram account and spammed everyone I knew to start their own thread of people. On Saturday morning, my family and some of the friends I’d spammed went on their 5k, and nominated others to do the same.

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The first few participants began sending in photos of themselves holding up five fingers to symbolise the 5K, something Olivia has described as ‘a genius idea’. She opted to only post those photos to social media, and before long the trend gathered some serious pace.

Just four days in, and Olivia’s initial target of £5,000 had been reached. Donations have since soared past the £3 million mark, with a new – and by no means impossible – target goal set at a staggering £5 million.

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The number of donations and total raised is said to have far surpassed existing Virgin Money Giving records for one individual volunteer page, with more than 600,000 people worldwide having taken part since the campaign began on March 28.

Olivia told UNILAD its success wouldn’t have been possible without those who got involved early on:

If it wasn’t for those initial runners kick-starting it, we wouldn’t have been able to get where we are now. We’ve seen runners from Sydney, to Tokyo, to Dubai participate and it’s incredible and very rewarding to watch it grow and gain momentum.

[…] We’ve seen people like Ellie Goulding, Mo Farah, John Terry, Jessica Ennis, Princess Eugenie, Adwoa Aboah and Laura Whitmore get involved (to name a few). It really shows no matter who you are, everyone is in this together. We all want the same thing and that’s to help those people helping us.

NHS workers have sent heartfelt messages. We’ve seen them not only take part but also thank everyone in the Run For Heroes community coming together to raise money. A video was also shared across our social platforms of NHS staff thanking everyone!

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Like all the very best endeavours, the Run for Heroes challenge has been a feat of teamwork, with two of Olivia’s talented friends helping to shape her idea into a globally influential campaign.

Her artistic friend India Pappalardo-Strachan took care of the branding design and artwork, while PR expert Alice Roberta Taylor used her magic to get the campaign some much-deserved press time. And the team have big plans as they move forward together.

They have also launched a fundraising page for care workers too, and to engage with a wider audience, they have also started doing live yoga and HITT classes.

Offering advice to those struggling to get motivated enough to pull on those battered trainers right now, Olivia said:

Taking part will not only raise more money but also encourage other people to do so! It’s also important to note you don’t need to run 5k, you can walk, cycle, or even do a 25-minute yoga class – do what’s right for you.

You’re likely to feel better after getting some exercise and fresh air, providing a bit of light relief from lockdown.

The only thing keeping myself and the team sane right now has been watching Run For Heroes grow into a global movement. We’ve seen every picture that has been sent in by the runners, as old as 90 and as young as nine.

Olivia has also had messages from people across the world who plan to set up the same initiative in their own countries, which she says is incredible. What really makes it all worthwhile, however, is knowing they have encouraged more than 700,000 people worldwide to put on their trainers and exercise for a worthwhile cause.

If you’re looking for a way to show your support for NHS heroes, whilst making your own much-needed contribution, this is an excellent place to start.

We can’t all be Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis, but we can all make a little difference in our own way.

You can donate to Run for Heroes here.

It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Featured, 5k, NHS, Olivia Strong, Run for Heroes