It was the announcement of the third national lockdown and the prospect of more months juggling a busy job and homeschooling two primary schoolchildren that prompted Kate Henderson to take up running for the first time in years.
“In the previous lockdowns, there were just days on end when I didn’t leave my flat. So when they announced lockdown three, I thought I need to do something positive, something that gets me out of the flat,” said the 40-year-old, who works as the chief executive of the National Housing Association.
“I was quite unfit coming into it and to begin with, it was quite tough,” she said. “But the mental health benefits are massive. What surprised me is when my alarm goes off at 6.30am, I actually get up and just put my running gear on and go straight out the door before the children are awake.
“Even though it’s dark, and today when I went out it was snowing and really windy, it’s just really invigorating. It definitely makes you feel better.”
Research published on Monday by Macmillan Cancer Support shows an estimated 7 million people across the country have turned to running or jogging during the Covid-19 crisis to boost their mental health.
One in seven people in the UK (14%) said running had helped them deal with stress since the first lockdown in March, with the activity proving more popular than meditation or yoga (12%). About a third said running helped them feel calmer and more positive, while one in five said it helped them to feel mentally stronger.
The charity is hoping this will result in record interest for the 2021 London Marathon – after 2020’s event was first postponed to October and then cut back to just an elite event – with runners finding out on Monday if they have been successful in the ballot for places, following a year that has been devastating for charities owing to the lack of fundraising.
Kieran Smith started running group the Kilometre Club in Chester just before lockdown last year, but found that interest, particularly from beginners, soared during the pandemic.
“There’s been an influx in beginner runners, as well as people who used to play football or go to the gym who have come over to running during lockdown. I’ve been asked lots of questions about how to start and what to wear.