Welcome to what we hope will be a lively and passionate sustainability blog from all sections of the staff and student community at Sussex.
Racing for the planet and my health
Posted on behalf of: Sam Waugh
Last updated: Tuesday, 3 May 2022
As University Sustainability Manager, you would expect me to be passionate about engaging our community in helping to save the planet. So perhaps my most difficult engagement challenge at Sussex to date has been persuading staff, students’ and alumni to join me in running the Brighton Marathon, 10K and/or Brighton Bike Ride this weekend to raise money for biodiversity projects in and around campus.
To be more specific, my biggest challenge has been persuading myself to run the Brighton 10K this weekend. For many of my friends and co-workers, the pandemic provided an opportunity to make radical lifestyle improvements. For example, my friend Wairimu turned the challenge of being furloughed (and all the stress that it entailed) into an opportunity to become a vegan, lose several stone and become a marathon runner.
I on the other hand saw the pandemic as an opportunity to drink more wine than ever and consume far too much unhealthy comfort food to ease my existential angst. The scales told my sorry journey into the calorific abyss. My exercise regime largely centred on working long hours in Zoom meetings from my bedroom, with the occasional visit to the en suite bathroom or ice cream section of the freezer to punctuate the ground hog day monotony of lockdown.
On some days my Fitbit exercise tracker boasted an all-time personal underachievement record of 200 steps in total as my couch-potato bad habits ballooned to epic proportions.
Fast tracking to December 2021, not only had I created a marathon fundraiser for the University in relation to supporting biodiversity, I had also committed to running the 10K element of it myself. Unable to run for more than 5 minutes at this point, a familiar sense of deadline panic set in. This wasn’t just a race I could defer or flake out of. I had to show leadership.
Slowly, with the aid of the couch to 5k app, I started running again for the first time in years. I won’t lie, it was agony at first. Every part of my brain and body screamed “no” and told me that what I really needed was to relax in front of Netflix. Yet, I worked through the internal resistance and, aided by peer support from colleagues, I started running on campus every Tuesday and Thursday.
Returning to the office red faced after my runs, some colleagues started taking pity on me and sponsored me. Sensing I was on to something, I also posted the least flattering post-run photos on Facebook imaginable to get people to donate to my Justgiving page. The resulting donations helped motivate me to keep going, until something amazing happened around ten days ago. I started to feel good as I ran and am now up to 9km of my 10km target.
Running has been amazing for improving both my energy levels and my mental health. I find running at lunch time during the working day particularly useful as I often get some of my best ideas and solve difficult work problems as a distraction from the pain in my lungs and chaffing thighs.
So, if my little blog has done anything today, I hope it has maybe inspired another unfit colleague to get out there and run. If I can go from 0k to 10k in around three months’ then I am sure many of you can too, and will start enjoying the mental and physical benefits that running can offer.
And if reading this article has helped motivate you to learn more about our big biodiversity conversation and/or to donate to our fundraiser to help stop the sixth mass extinction and destruction of our habitat, then I will be a very happy woman indeed. Much happier than if I were still sitting at home eating ice cream.