Gary & Wendy Edwards

Gary Edwards is the volunteer behind the Great Run Local at Alton Water, which would ordinarily take place every Sunday morning, inviting local people to run 2 or 5km. Due to lockdown and the social distancing rules, this weekly event has not been able to go ahead, however that has not stopped Gary and his wife Wendy from supporting their community to be active!

Instead of coordinating the Sunday run, Gary and Wendy took to Facebook and Strava where they connected with local people through the online world. Throughout lockdown the duo organised three fun, innovative and creative monthly challenges which became known as the 'April Fools Ultra Marathon', 'May'don Voyage' and the 'N'Olympics Olympics'.

The three events were inclusive of all, inviting families and individuals to take part! Everyone involved in the monthly challenges donated money to charity and participants were awarded with medals for recognition of their efforts to remain active.

"The monthly challenges helped me and my sons stay motivated to be as active as possible during lockdown. By including people of all abilities and ages, everyone could take part and this helped me so much during a time of uncertainty. At a time where contact with others was so limited, this helped us keep in touch, be part of something active and encourage each other."

The online community which was set up by the couple alongside the monthly challenges allowed people to connect, motivate and inspire one another which really supported many people to become even more active then they were before lockdown. One member of the group said:

"As a direct result of Gary's motivation, I increased my running from an average of 13km per week before lockdown, to 45km per week every week in July!"

Another member of the new community set up by the couple said:

"I completed a walking marathon for the first time in my life at 60 years old. I also have managed my first ever 5K run"

One member even claimed that it was the lockdown challenges that actually go them back into running and another explained that it was the support from Gary and Wendy during lockdown that got them active for the first time in two years:

"I haven't done any form of exercise for various reasons for over 2 years. I was encouraged by my daughter to join the first of these challenges and that was it - I was back regularly walking and even a little running and signed up for the following two challenges. By the end of the June challenge I was walk/running at least 5 km most days and am still doing this though the challenges are no more. The Facebook group is still available for getting that motivation from others in the group. It is thanks to Gary and Wendy that I am moving again. True heroes who thoroughly deserve recognition."

Not only did the couple help to inspire people to do more activity, but the online group created a brand new community where by participants engaged with one another and shared photo's, progress and tips. The challenges also got people out for their hour of daily activity where they were able to get some fresh air and explore new, beautiful parts of the county.

One couple said:

"We have lived in our house for 24 years and never knew there was so much interesting countryside right on our doorstep. We have found lots of new running trials thanks to these challenges"

The benefits to everyone involved were countless. On top of being physically active, many stated that if it had not been for these challenges and the support of Gary and Wendy their mental health would ave really suffered. One participant said:

"I had just been furloughed from a role that I loved, my confidence was very low and I had become quite anxious about leaving my house. My daughters had not been in school since March and they had received no real interaction from school. The "N'Olympics Olympics" challenge made us get out every day and try new things...it helped us remain action and mentally more positive. The impact on the "N'Olympics Olympics" challenge for us was enormous and really did play an important part in our lockdown journey! The medals were fab as well! The online community enabled us to cheer each other on and was run with positivity and warmth"

It is quite clear that the efforts, dedication and selfless acts of Gary and Wendy have not only supported local people during lockdown but have truly changed their lives! The couple undoubtedly deserve to be recognised as Lockdown Activity Heroes and should be incredibly proud of everything they have supported people to achieve during such unprecedented times!