We all need something to look forward to or aim for, particularly in these dark lockdown days, and for many people that will be the London Marathon, which is set to be the biggest ever in 2021.
But although 50,000 people will run this year’s 26.2 miles round London’s landmarks, and another 50,000 who weren’t lucky enough to win a place in the marathon ballot will be able to run it virtually on their own route on the day of the marathon in October, many more will be disappointed.
And as a new survey by Macmillan has found more than one in 10 people (13%) say they lack motivation without aiming for an event or challenge, it might be worth aiming for a different goal – though perhaps one not quite as taxing as that completed by grandfather Frank Rothwell, 70, who has just become the oldest person to row 3,000 miles unassisted across the Atlantic.
Back on dry land and has encouraged older people to “keep active and challenge yourself”.
So why not listen to Frank and sign up for one of these sporting challenges – all of them virtual because of the pandemic restrictions, and achievable whatever your age…
As well as improving your physical fitness, the aim of these challenges is to give your mental health a boost too, by either cycling 100 miles, running a marathon distance over a month, or cycling the 874 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats as a team.
You can do it anywhere – cycle on a real bike, a static bike at home, or run on the pavements or even around your garden. It’s free to enter, with no minimum sponsorship, and the idea is to clock up miles every day to reach whichever distance you’re aiming for – or do it all at once if you like.
Whichever distance you choose, it’s bound to make you feel better mentally and physically, and could raise money to help other people’s mental health too.
In this physical and mental wellbeing challenge, you can do whatever activity you want, from walking your dog to an online gym class – and even mindfulness or mental wellbeing activities count. You don’t even have to be fit to take part, as the idea is to just get your body and mind active.
Simply sign up for the challenge, log your activity, earn medals and raise money for The Children’s Trust, which cares for children with severe brain injury. The challenge is taking place throughout February.
Alternatively, jump out of a plane for the Trust instead. Although you need to sign up by March, you can take the plunge any time this year.
Based around the unsettling fact that a person goes missing every 90 seconds in the UK, in the Missing People 90-90-90 Virtual Challenge you can do whatever activity you fancy, be it running, dancing, star jumps or sit-ups.
You set an appropriate goal – it might be a distance, steps, a certain time, or all at once, it’s up to you – and aim to raise £90, which is enough to launch a publicity campaign to find a missing person. You can sign up free, and create a personal fundraising page on JustGiving .
WaterAid is working to make access to clean water the norm throughout the world, and it’s asking people to challenge themselves to walk either 4km, 8km or 12km a day, wherever they can, throughout March.
The idea is that the walking marks the walks of millions of women and children who walk long distances every day to get water to survive.
Just sign up on the website, choose your distance and how much you aim to raise, get sponsors and start walking in March (it’s World Water Day on March 22), tracking your distance on Strava or through manual tracking on your fundraising page.
Complete 2,970km – that’s the equivalent of covering England’s coast – at your own pace, walking, running, cycling, either individually or as a team. Just keep updating the entry page with your latest distance and time, and as you reach each major milestone around the country, you’ll get an email giving you encouragement.
If you join as a team, you’ll be able to monitor how your friends and family are doing too. Entry is £5, or £10 if you want a wooden eco-friendly medal too. The deadline for completing your mammoth trek is 31 December 2021.