Runners challenge milers

Jeff Pyrah and Sam Murphy, founders of Rye Runners

Running is one of the few activities that people have been able to continue doing during lockdown. But there is running – the act of putting one foot in front of the other at a faster pace than walking – and there is Rye Runners – the act of getting together as a group to chat, laugh, encourage, support and compete as we clock up some miles before rewarding ourselves with tea and biscuits.

And, even though many of our members have been regularly lacing up their trainers during lockdown, it’s that ‘getting together’ that is so sorely missed.

With this in mind – and given that Wednesday May 6 happened to be the day Sir Roger Bannister made history with the world’s first-ever sub-four-minute mile in 1954, we came up with an idea – a way to bring back that sense of shared effort and experience, keep our runners fit and focused and abide by the social distancing rules. Enter the Your Best Mile Challenge.

Written instructions for all to see
Saturday Mile Training instructions

On March 28, we invited all Rye Runners to run a mile as fast as they could, from their front door. It didn’t matter if it was on tarmac or trail, flat ground or hilly – because a few weeks later, they would be asked to repeat the exact same route, to see if they’d improved. Forty-seven Rye Runners took up the challenge and posted a mile time, including one in social isolation who ran laps around her back garden.

Over the next six weeks, we sent out twice-weekly training sessions – specifically aimed at improving speed over the mile distance – via Facebook and email. Our Facebook page filled up with runners chatting about how the sessions went (a few green-faced vomiting emojis were used), praising each other’s efforts and motivating each other to keep going – all that was missing was the tea and biscuits.

The re-runners results

Runners had between Wednesday May 6 and Saturday May 9 to channel their inner Bannister and attempt to better their mile time. It was so exciting to see the results flooding in. Almost every runner got quicker – with improvements ranging from 0.5 per cent to a whopping 17 per cent. ‘Those last few seconds felt never-ending,’ Roger Bannister reflected on his Miracle Mile. Many Rye Runners felt the same: ‘The longest 9 minutes of my life,’ wrote one [Hilary Ingleton]. ‘Thank goodness that’s over,’ said another [Lyn Giles]. ‘I could not have gone further or faster today.’ [Helen Fox.]

Mel Irwin, off road running.

Despite the moans and groans, though, the Your Best Mile Challenge went down well. ‘It’s been really good to have something to focus on,’ says Rye Runner Dawn Crafer. ‘I know my running would have probably dwindled into walk/run, then walk, then nothing – so thank you for keeping us going, and improving.’

Laura-Jane Hatter agrees. ‘I never thought when I started this that I would ever post a 7.47 time for a mile,’ she says. ‘This past six weeks have definitely improved my mental and physical health, and given me the opportunity to really challenge myself, which I don’t do very often.’

We have another challenge up our sleeves, but we’re giving Rye Runners some time out first, in which to just enjoy their running, with no targets to meet or speeds to attain. Jon Jaros probably speaks for many Rye Runners when he says ‘Hopefully there will be another challenge soon. But not too soon!’

Most improved woman Kate Jenner: 10.08 to 8.22

Most improved man Martin Watts 6.26 to 5.49

For information on Rye Runners visit the website.

Image Credits: Sam Murphy .


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