Regular runners will remember the waves of new footfall on their usual routes at the start of the first lockdown last spring. Although there might have been some bitterness about having to share the roads and trails, it was cause for optimism to see so many people being active.
The early days of the pandemic came with so much uncertainty that people needed a way to let off steam in the face of severe restrictions, and new research published by Macmillan Cancer Research shows running or jogging was one of the most popular methods.
It reveals a staggering 7 million people across the UK took up the activity to manage their mental health, with 14 per cent of the country’s population saying they used it to help them distress since March 2020, making it more popular than yoga or meditation (12 per cent).
And it appears to have worked for many. A third of those who took up running report feeling calmer and more positive, with 21 per cent saying they feel mentally stronger because of their new hobby.
Interestingly, a large proportion of those to reap the benefits are young people. Nearly a fifth of 18-34-year-olds have taken up running. One in 11 of those specifically focus on long distances, giving hope to Macmillan that there will be boosted interest in this year’s London Marathon - at which they are set to be the Charity of the Year.
The research did find that people are finding it more difficult to get out the door in the latest lockdown, though. Over a third said that they are finding it harder to exercise outside at this time of year due to the cold weather and shorter days and 13 per cent admitted they are lacking the motivation to exercise without having an end goal or challenge to focus on.
But once the weather turns, there’s a strong chance many lockdown runners will draw inspiration from their past enjoyment and lace up their new trainers. Getting started is the hardest part, and the record sales of sports clothes and downloads of the Couch to 5k app reflect that many people have gotten over that first step.