Fareham Crusaders celebrating ‘relay’ good event which has brought whole club together and raised cash for mental health charity

Fareham Crusaders Running Club are celebrating a ‘virtual relay’ which has raised over £2,000 for a mental health charity and brought their club members together during lockdown.

Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 6:38 pm
Peter Abrahams about to set out on his run

Over 100 members took part in a 56-hour relay in aid of Hampshire-based mental health charity Solent Mind - last week was Mental Health Awareness Week.

The idea was the brainchild of team captains Mike Gilmour and Fran Bennett, who were elected to their roles last October.

‘Normally the captains’ job is to motivate everyone, get people fired up for races etc,’ explained Gilmour.

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Neil Smith does his best Freddie Mercury impression prior to taking part in the relay.

‘We’ve obviously had no races so Fran and I have been keen to try and keep the club together, so everything has been done virtually.

‘Once the lockdown restrictions were eased, and running became a bit more socially acceptable in the eyes of the public, we had the idea of running a virtual relay.

‘It’s not an original idea, lots of clubs have done them.

‘When we mentioned it to the members we didn’t know how many hours we could fill - 12, 24, 36, we had no idea.

Geraldine Perrier with her lucky mascot

‘We had such amazing feedback that we set it at 48 hours, to start from 5pm last Friday.

‘We put a message out saying all the half-hour slots were ready on a first-come first-served basis, and by the morning they had all been filled.

‘We had people messaging us saying if anyone pulled out, could they take their place etc, and we kept on extending it and extending it until we reached 56 hours.

‘We pushed the start back to 1pm on Friday with the finish at 9pm on the Sunday.

Kerry Riches running with child and broom

‘In all, we had 112 members running for 30 minutes each.

‘We wanted to make sure everyone was involved - the mental health side is very important to us. We welcome people who just want to run for fun as well as those who have certain targets and goals.

‘We said it wasn’t a case of how fast you can run or how far you can travel in half an hour … you could walk for 30 minutes if you had an injury and couldn’t run.

‘We had people running in fancy dress - one person dressed up as Freddie Mercury, another ran with a unicorn, another ran with a washing line over his shoulder.

Men's captain Mike Gilmour

‘We had a bit of everything really.’

Gilmour added: ‘We’ve had amazing feedback. Normally our club runs are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we’ve had messages from people saying they feel just a part of the club as if they’d been out running for the last 10 weeks.

‘That was lovely to hear.’

Crusaders ending up easily beating their initial cash target.

‘We told people they could make a donation after they’d done their 30-minute run, but we know times are tough and they didn’t have to - but I think most people donated,’ Gilmour said.

‘When we started this we set ourselves what we thought was an ambitious target of raising £500. But we’ve now raised over £2,000, we’ve been blown away by it to be honest.

Relay runners. Top row (from left): Paul Turner, Mel Seddon, Phillip Prophett. Bottom: Kev Thorne, Bex Dimblebee, Becca Forbes. Pic: Fareham Crusaders

‘We’ve also had donations from people who know the club through events like the Fareham parkrun.’

Bennett enthused: ‘It’s just been incredible. Our club byline is #unstoppable and that says it all really.

‘For me, even though the club is apart because we can’t run together, in a way we’re more together now.

‘The relay created a real buzz, and gave us a sense of achievement and excitement.

‘And by raising over £2,000 we feel we have really contributed something. The running was all about us, but we have been able to raise a lot of money as well.’

Crusaders have also been recording regular podcasts during lockdown, featuring household names from the world of athletics like Roger Black and Kriss Akabussi.

‘We’ll carry on doing the podcasts - they’ve been well received’ Gilmour remarked. ‘We’ve talked about mental health, we’ve talked to Kriss and Black and to any of our members who have an interesting story to tell.

‘We’ll keep on doing those until we can all get back to running as a club again.’

The captains are also attempting to keep members engaged via daily postings on the club’s private Facebook page.

‘The question I wrote today was if you could play the lead role in any film, who would you be?’ Bennett said.

‘It’s just something people can comment on, we want to make sure that everyone carries on feeling part of the club.’

Unlike many sporting clubs who pay rent on pitches, clubhouses or pavilions, Crusaders have no such overheads.

As a result, lockdown is unlikely to result in any financial problems for them - or any other local running club.

‘We just meet at Fareham Leisure Centre twice a week,’ said Gilmour. ‘If you’re a member of the leisure centre that gives you free membership to our club.

‘All our roles are voluntary, so we’re lucky in that aspect.’

Membership fees are normally due in April, but the club have deferred those until members can start meeting up again.

Ladies captain Fran Bennett