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Liz’s 42 day Great North Run challenge

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Published on 29 April 2020

Liz Gandy
Liz Gandy

Liz Gandy is a senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Technology, teaching BSc Computer Science and BSc Games Software Development and is studying for her PhD. Liz has cerebral palsy, walks on crutches and is a keen horse rider, so the lockdown has not only stopped her spending time with her horses, it has also impacted on her ability to keep fit and mobile.

"When I started working from home in isolation I spoke to my physio about what type of exercise I could do, as I was quite worried about keeping mobile. I ride horses, walk around at work, and do physio twice a week. To go from that to being at home alone was a real concern.

“I started just walking up my road, to the top of a hill and back, which I worked out was about half a kilometre. My initial challenge was just to make it to the top of the hill without stopping.

“The first few times I had to stop for a rest outside a house near the top of the hill. One day as I was coming back I heard someone banging on a window, and there was an elderly man waving and cheering me on as if I was in the Olympics.”

The support of her neighbour was a real boost to Liz – and she soon began to think that she should take on an even bigger challenge, not just for her, but to lift the mood of her entire street.

“Work has been really busy. Moving online has been a challenge for everyone, we’ve all had to work quite hard, but I think it has been very positive having the opportunity to learn some different systems and methods of working online with students. At the end of the day it is nice to get out, but when you are tired or there is still work to do it is sometimes tempting to skip the exercise. It helped me make the effort knowing that this elderly neighbour – Jack - was watching out for me to come past so he could wave me on out of his window.

“Within a few days Jack’s next door neighbour came out, and then another neighbour, and then I thought, well maybe I could turn this into some sort of a challenge to keep me going and raise some money for the key workers that are doing so much to protect and care for us all at this time.

“I’ve always thought that I’d love to do the Great North Run, but I knew it just wasn’t physically possible for me to do it. The Great North Run is a half marathon distance of 21 km, and to the end of my street and back is 0.5 km, so it would take me 42 days to “do” a Virtual Great North Run, and I have set myself a target of completing it before the end of June, allowing some time for missed days due to bad weather - wet and windy weather aren’t very safe for walking on crutches.”

Liz set up a Virgin Money Giving page in support of the NHS Coid-19 Urgent Appeal, with the aim of raising £250. So far the appeal ‘Virtual Great North Run on Crutches’ has raised over £800 – and Liz is still only half way to her goal of 21 km.

“Up until this happened I didn’t really know the people in my neighbourhood. I used to just get in the car and go to work and come back at night. Now, just by walking up and down the street I’ve met so many of my neighbours and they are all absolutely lovely. I’ve managed to get my groceries online so far, but now I know if I couldn’t I’d just have to ring any one of them and they would help me out.

“I’ve found that things really have changed since lockdown. Everyone says hello, when maybe they wouldn’t have before. Every night now my neighbours are waiting for me, and I really look forward to it.

“If lockdown is finished before then I would love to do the last half kilometre on South Shields seafront, finishing where the Great North Run would finish.

“When I do finish, and if we are still on lockdown, we’ll be holding a socially distanced celebration with my neighbours at the top of the hill.”

You can sponsor Liz’s ‘Virtual Great North Run on Crutches’ by going to her Virgin Money Giving page.