I had lofty ambitions last year: I ran the L.A. Marathon in March (clocking a new personal-best time), registered for a series of trail races and started sketching out a training plan for my first triathlon. But 2020, of course, had other plans. COVID-19 hit, everything was canceled and we were told to stay inside our homes. People around the country lost their jobs and lost their loved ones.
With nothing to train for and the added stresses of the pandemic, I lost my motivation to run more than a few miles here and there. That’s when I linked up with the RED — Run Every Day — December. The goal is to run a minimum of a mile each day, more if you can. The concept isn’t new but it is gaining momentum as many seek motivation during the pandemic. For example, a RED January challenge on Instagram and Facebook has already signed up 45,000 people, and #redjanuary2021 already has more than 5,000 posts on Insta.
For me, in a year in which I haven’t seen most of my friends or family, except on video calls, and I certainly haven’t met any new people, the RED December group became a refuge, a way to feel connected to something bigger than myself at such a brutal time. I suddenly had a whole new group of running mates, working toward a common goal and cheering me to the virtual finish line.
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“We are real people with real-life problems, and we all use the RED group to give us a life escape,” said creator Tony Allen, 57, of Sunderland, England. “It challenges us physically and mentally, it’s always there, and many drift in and out over the months and years.”
Allen came up with the idea about seven years ago while training for an ultra-marathon in December. He found it difficult to stay motivated with few formal races and short, dark days and colder weather. He initially invited about 100 friends — a mix of experienced runners and novice friends, mostly in Britain — to a Facebook group, estimating it had about 30 participants in the first year. The group has now grown to almost 1,500 online members.
Every day in December
As 2020 came to a close (and we finally received encouraging news with regards to coronavirus vaccines), I decided to take up the challenge to run every day in December. Normally, this challenge helps to offset all the parties and feasting done during the holiday season. This year, it would help me reclaim my motivation and love of running.
The RED December challenge was on!
The first mile is always the hardest, but I’ve found once I’m up and running, I frequently feel like continuing beyond the requisite distance.
Allen said this is a common reaction. In fact, some members, inspired by their December accomplishments, carry the tradition into the new year, keeping up the daily mileage into January and beyond. Two members have a five-year running streak going. Allen himself is on year three of daily running.
“It’s amazing what you can do if you want to do it, even if you think you never could,” he said.
The final relay
On New Year’s Eve, the group celebrated the finale of a month of running in the form of a 24-hour relay, with participants clocking their final run at a designated time slot, passing a virtual baton and posting videos of the “handoff.”
Allen said the relay is “for runners to enjoy themselves, connect to and be part of something positive, something to be proud of and hopefully something that has helped them, and myself included, through some extraordinary difficult and tough life days we have all experienced” this year.