In April 2014 over 30 runners from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) took part in the Sheffield half marathon. The team consisted of researchers and family members (one of which had even travelled all the way from Australia to take part!). Association-funded researcher, Dr Emily Goodall, blogs about the Streaking Meerkats running team’s half marathon challenge.
A unique running team
I took up running for the usual reasons, to increase fitness, lose a bit of weight and boost energy levels. Running was the ideal exercise for a hectic lifestyle, just grab a pair of trainers and get going! I joined a very friendly running group where I met Tracy, a motivational fitness instructor with a ‘can do’ attitude. So far, so normal.
Then a crazy idea began to germinate, why not set myself a real challenge – running a half marathon with less than a years’ worth of training. This developed into – why do this alone, a team has greater power to raise money and awareness. Add a catchy team name to attract attention and the Streaking Meerkats were born!
With the invaluable help of team coach Tracy we rallied around to sign up runners for the Sheffield half marathon challenge. Having announced my intensions to bemused family, friends and colleagues I was overwhelmed by support. Many decided to join the team, including my sister Helen, who based in Australia, was willing to fly half way around the world to run with me.
We set up our team fundraising page with an ambiguous target of £10,000 for the South Yorkshire MND Association branch and SITraN’s research into MND. Cake sales and Tracy’s regular boot camp sessions got our donations off to a flying start.
The half marathon
On Sunday the 6 April 2014 over 30 Streaking Meerkats, many with their own meerkat mascots, lined up on the start line ready to go. Where we waited, and waited, then waited some more. Myself and Helen stood with hundreds of others wondering what was going on when, after about an hour the crowd started moving, then running, so we ran with them and the half marathon challenge was on.
The first couple of miles felt fantastic, at one point we spotted 6 MND shirts running ahead of us, fantastic awareness for MND. It was only after about mile 5 that another runner pointed out that announcements on national radio were stating the Sheffield half marathon we were currently running in had officially been cancelled due to a shortage of drinking water!
We had been tagged as rebel runners on social media, and twitter was buzzing with stories of us defying the police by deciding to run the race anyway. Having got so far in without any police barricades we decided to keep going and the people of Sheffield did not let us go thirsty. Many local residents came out of their homes with jugs and containers of water for us and there was a great community spirit.
Then came the highlight of the race. For those who know Sheffield, Eccy (Ecclesall) Road is the place to be on race day and hundreds of people turned out to cheer us on, many of them buying bottled water from the shops to hand out to us. The atmosphere was fantastic with the meerkat mascots doing furry high fives to the spectators and “go meerkat” chants to keep us going.
After the high of Eccy road and running through town came the last few miles, I think it was around mile 10 that I hit the wall. Those miles through industrial Sheffield were the hardest and I was very pleased to have my sister with me to get us to the finish line.
Now for the big question, did the meerkats streak the line? Of course they did, myself and Helen finished the half marathon with two naked meerkats and a fundraising total close to our £10,000 target. A massive well done and thank you to all members of the team and our amazing supporters, with more events planned in 2014 we are all determined smash our target.