HUNDREDS of mums have been putting on their trainers and combining exercise with helping out people in need during lockdown. The scheme, organised by This Mum Runs (TMR) founder Mel Bound from Bristol, sees mums from the city pick up and deliver prescriptions to the elderly and vulnerable, while keeping fit at the same time.
‘We have seen so many beautiful acts of kindness during this difficult time,’ says Mel. ‘We have a brilliant community of more than 100,000 mums across the country, and as soon as this began, people wanted to help.’
This Mum Runs began in 2015, when Mel posted on a Bristol Facebook group, bemoaning her lack of fitness and pledging to go for a run at a local park. To her surprise, 75 mums joined her, and the movement has flourished. ‘I got cold feet and almost didn’t turn up that night myself,’ she recalls. ‘It was cold and dark, in mid-November and I thought I’d be on my own. But 75 strangers turned up to meet me, and I quickly realised that lots of other women felt the same. We were all desperate for time to ourselves, and This Mum Runs gave us that.’
Now, the huge running community empowers mums of all ages, backgrounds and fitness abilities.
‘Most of us haven’t run before, and the last time many exercised was PE class at school. We organise free group runs with the help of volunteers, across the country, every Wednesday night and Sunday morning.
‘It’s a bit of a lifeline for our members, and we get lots of feedback about how it helps their mental health. When lockdown came, we had to stop, and a lot of us were feeling quite hopeless about that.
‘When I went into my local community pharmacy in Bristol, the staff were desperately worried about how many older and vulnerable people were still having to come in to pick up their medicines. They should have been shielding, but there was no way of delivering the volume of orders that were coming in each day.’
Mel posted the beginnings of an idea in the TMR’s Bristol Facebook group. ‘It was like that first run all over again,’ she laughs. ‘We were inundated with offers, and within 48 hours we were up and running.
‘We’d get a request from a pharmacy, and match it to a mum in that postcode. She’d pick up the medicine, put it in a backpack and run to the patient’s house, dropping it off while social distancing.
‘She’d check the person was OK and sometimes stop for a quick chat, because often they were the only friendly face they’d see that week. In the first three weeks our mums ran 1,000km, almost from Bristol to Inverness.
‘It’s helped members, because they’ve had motivation to keep their fitness up, and it’s helped the shielded. It’s something we hope to continue, even once this is over.’ There are limitations on what can be delivered, and sometimes big orders are split into smaller runs. Obviously, patients must consent for addresses to be disclosed, and the runner isn’t told what the medicine is or the condition.
Mel adds: ‘We’ve had more runners than requests, so we’ve also started thinking about other ways we can help. One idea has been letters of love. Some of our shielded community have said they feel quite lonely, so we have been pairing shielded people up and they’ve been writing letters to each other.
‘Our runners pick them up and drop them off, and that’s been really lovely. Some of our runners have also been making up care packages for people who are shielding, dropping off little things to raise a smile. It’s amazing how much a bar of chocolate or a little bottle of bath salts can raise spirits.’
It’s a project Mel hopes will spread across This Mum Runs groups in the country. ‘We have 60 locations now, with more being added all the time,’ she explains. ‘The prescriptions are more complicated because they need a relationship with the community pharmacists, but the letters and care packs we can do anywhere. We’re getting a lot of requests from people looking to volunteer, and think it is so important for our mental health to carry on being active.’