Woodbridge Shufflers Run Together, Apart During Lockdown

Since April 5th, the Woodbridge Shufflers have scaled the equivalent of the UK’s four highest peaks, completed 19 marathons and raised around £500 for charity – all thanks to the club’s Virtual Sunday Shuffle.

Mark Allen, club secretary, reports:

“For as long as most members can remember, Sundays are run days. Whether participating in a road or cross-country race or simply exploring countryside trails (followed by the obligatory coffee and cake) very little stops our intrepid club getting together.

So when lockdown was announced, we, like the rest of the world, took to Zoom to chat – not only about running, but pretty much everything that was impacting our work and our family life.

Before long, it became clear that many of us were missing running together. On one hand, we were pleased that we could still run – in line with governmental guidelines, of course. But on the other – we missed our camaraderie. So how could we recreate that feel of ‘running together’ while still being highly respectful of the unfolding coronavirus outbreak?

The answer came in the form of a series of ongoing challenges. Now in its fourth week, these online challenges allow us all to connect, to chat, and most importantly to gain the benefits of running while still being mindful of these challenging times.”

The format is simple. Each challenge opens on Saturday morning at 8.30am and ends 10.30pm the following evening. During that time, members are free to contribute to the task in their own time, at their own pace, while staying local.

Each week, club members are also treated to a comprehensive set of motivational training drills and running tips led by lead coach, Dave Alley.

Here’s the highlights of the journey so far!

Challenge 1 – Local Landmarks – 4 – 5th April

Things started simply enough. The task? Take three pictures: a church, a pub and a village sign, and post them in the club’s Facebook page. Within hours, our page was filled with lovely pictures from the inns of the local area; including Bealings, Newbourne and Uggeshall to name a few. Simple and fun, it was the start of something much bigger to come!

Challenge 2 – Bingo Easter Weekend – 11 – 12th April

Traditionally, the Shufflers run on Good Friday, leaving Sunday free to spend with our families. This year, Shufflers were set a challenge to “Eye Spy” as many items as possible all while in their recommended daily exercise window. By encouraging members to walk or cycle as an alternative to running, this was a great family task. By the end of the weekend, our winner had spotted 17/20 of the items, ranging from lambs to thatched cottages and pheasants! Many thanks to our friends at Stowmarket Striders for the idea.

Challenge 3 Virtual Elevation Challenge 18 – 19 April

This task brought out the adventurous streak in our members, some of whom are keen ultra-runners and enjoy gritty treks across some of the UK’s toughest terrain. This time, members needed to accumulate the elevation of the UK’s four highest peaks: that is, England (Scafell Pike), Ireland (Slieve Donard), Scotland (Ben Nevis) and Wales (Snowdon) – a total of 13972ft.

Using our Garmins and Fitbits, members were able to add the total climb gained over one run and add it to the score. By Sunday night, we’d hit 14276 ft – beating the target by 304 ft! Even members that usually ‘hate hills’ joined in with gusto, with every little bit contributing to the total. One member even took her son, a member of the Junior Shufflers, out on his scooter to tackle the hills of the Woodbridge 10k route – no mean feat!

Challenge 4 – 26.2 Marathon Challenge – 25 – 26 April

Sunday 26th marked what should’ve been the London Marathon, so what better date than to up the ante and run 262 miles as a club? The idea was not for a handful of members to run for hours on end, but to get as many people as possible to make shorter, individual contributions. If we reached 262 miles, the club would donate £262 to NHS Charities Together.  And that’s exactly what they did!

This challenge saw a whopping 50% of our club membership take part, including those who were returning from injury. As a result, the club smashed its target, running 503 miles (or just under 20 marathons) in a weekend. Lisa Squirrel, due to run this year’s London Marathon on behalf of the club, suggested the idea of donating to charities that would otherwise miss out as a result of the race being cancelled.

The idea gained momentum, and by the end of the weekend, members donated a generous £500 to charities of their choice.

As well as Lisa’s chosen charities, members dug deep for the Children’s Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support, a brain tumour charity, MIND and a local church. This was on top of the £262 given to NHS Charities Together.

So what next?

With our own 10k race cancelled, as well as other key races such as the Ekiden (a marathon distance relay run by Ipswich Jaffa), we have lots of ideas in the bag to keep everyone not only physically, but mentally fit for as long as we are able to run.