Couch to 5K graduates tell how they teamed up online to take on the mighty 5x50 challenge.
Sue Grant was looking for something to stay motivated for exercise after she completed the Couch to 5K (C25K) running plan.
That something was the 5x50 challenge – a keep fit initiative to spur people to walk, run or cycle 5km every day for 50 days.
Participants can take up the challenge on their own or as a team and log their distances on the 5x50 website.
Sue, 51, who was an active blogger on the NHS Choices C25K online forum, noticed other bloggers talking about signing up for 5x50.
More than 71 forum members answered the call to take part in the challenge, making the NHS C25K team the biggest 5x50 team.
As a team, they clocked more than 20,000km in 50 days, or as Sue gleefully puts it, "half the Earth's circumference".
Inspired by 2012
Sue says she got into running after being inspired to get active by the London 2012 Olympics.
"I've never been a big fitness fan, but I wanted to keep active as I got older and running appealed to me," she says.
Since taking up running, Sue has found the forum to be a constant source of "support, encouragement and advice".
"Never critical or negative, never condescending or sarcastic, no rivalry or competitiveness, just positive, upbeat and friendly help," she says.
She says the highs and the lows of getting into running have created a strong community spirit in the C25K forum.
"Many of us have become friends as we share our running journeys together from all parts of the globe," she says.
When the idea of the 5x50 challenge was mentioned on the forum, it didn't take long for members to get excited and form their own team.
"It started with just a handful of members and as we approached the final week before the challenge started, we had 26," says Sue. "After a big recruitment drive on the forum, we grew within that week to 71 members – the biggest 5x50 team to date."
Runners of all ages
The NHS C25K team consisted of runners of all levels and ages, both from the UK and further afield, including Italy, Belgium and the US.
Team members would walk, run or cycle individually in their own time and record their individual distances on the 5x50 website.
"You didn't have to run 5km every day," says Sue. "You just needed to make sure your day's activity adds up to over 30 minutes.
"The challenge really inspired people. To top up on their running activity, some members were getting back into exercises they hadn't done for years."
Sue was averaging 9km a day through a combination of running, walking and the occasional 30-minute home exercise DVD.
By the end of their 50-day challenge, which began on March 31 and finished on May 19, Sue had clocked 426km.
"We were aiming for 20,000km as a team," she says. "During the last few days of the challenge, we really pushed ourselves.
"When someone was struggling, we were there to help pick them up. When they were feeling negative, we offered the positive.
"Our daily postings on the forum of what we were doing, the laughter and the tears, were a constant source of inspiration to us all.
"Without this team spirit and the unwavering support of those of the community, many of us would have by now fallen by the wayside."
The team achieved a combined total of 20,470km, which was the highest total achieved by any team doing 5x50.
"The 5x50 challenge was a great way for us to keep going after graduating from the C25K programme."
Sue, from Bromley, Kent, is still a regular blogger on the C25K forum, where she goes by the username SBG356.
"Blogging on the forum has definitely helped to keep me active after graduating from C25K," she says.
"I'm on it every day reading other people's posts. When you read a post about someone's struggle to get out there, that inspires me to get my trainers on.
"It was especially helpful during the winter. I found myself running in the cold, the rain and even snow, which I never imagined doing.
"If they can do it, I can do it."