On a warm sunny May morning College Green in Bristol began to fill up with red. It trickled at first, but then suddenly, out of nowhere, hundreds of bleary-eyed people began congregating, wearing their ‘uniform', and many beginning the sudden realisation of exactly what they had sign up for.
Launch day in February seemed a long time ago - as did the Monday night running club, created to prepare. The promises of, “I'll be able to run by then” coupled with, “it's ages away, I've got loads of time”, suddenly seemed futile. But that wasn't what mattered - everyone had come together for a common goal, to raise money for the most vulnerable parts of our society in Bristol, and Syrian children who had made refugee camps home.
Love Running was started in 2009 by a group of Bristol churches, and is about seeing love in action - in this case, literally running across the city we call home - and it did not disappoint. Just under 300 runners - including multiple Spidermen, a dinosaur and a bus - congregated at the start line. Runners of all abilities, backgrounds and ages determined to do their best to show love, to show support, and to help those who need it the most.
The shirts caused a stir in the starting pen, with many asking what they were, where the money raised went, and why we were doing it. It gave runners a chance to show God outside of church, to show love to everyone, and for one tearful Syrian refugee who now lives in Bristol - a chance to know her family and friends had not been forgotten.
Screams, cheers, smiles. You name it, when the start gun sounded, we had it all. But we kept going. We kept pushing. Knowing that the discomfort we were experiencing was only fleeting, compared to what many have to face on a daily basis. The atmosphere on the course was something which can't be matched. The hundreds of runners suddenly had hundreds more supporters, each time a shirt was spotted the cheers and encouragement spurred us on to keep going. But the elation at the finish line, that was something else. 10k doesn't sound a lot to many - but to our team of 300 it was something incredible. When we crossed the line it meant all the money we had raised was worth it, all the effort we had put in to ensure we could give as much as we could to those who need it the most was complete.
And the result? 300 runners. £70,000 and counting. (Coupled with a good number of blisters, sunburn and multiple promises to never do that again!)
The money has been halved, with £35,000 headed to World Vision, to help Syrian child refugees at the Azraq camp in Jordan - and the other half headed directly into Bristol, to aid homelessness, vulnerable woman, community projects, asylum seekers, food poverty and single parent families, and prisoners and ex-offenders.
Philip Jinadu, founder of Love Running, said: “This is the sixth time we've done Love Running in Bristol and it's amazing to see that people are still up for it. When we had the idea to start this ten years ago we never imagined the impact it would have. In total we've raised nearly £700,000 so far and it feels like we really are living up to our slogan: Get fit, Get friends, Change the World!”