A team of nurses from the Freeman heart unit in Newcastle who needed motivation to get out about during lockdown have tested themselves with a series of virtual running challenges, which will culminate in the Virtual Great North Run.
 
Kaye Walsh, Lead Nurse in the Congenital Heart Disease Network at the Freeman hospital and 7 of her colleagues will take on the virtual GNR on Sunday 13th September, after the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
The virtual version of Britain's biggest run will see thousands of people taking on a half marathon distance anywhere in the world, with the team finishing their challenge at Blyth beach huts in Northumberland, with their family and friends cheering them on.
 
Kaye's colleague Claire McGraith, a ventricular assist device (VAD) nurse specialist, instigated a competition during lockdown for two teams of nurses and their friends and family to compete to run the most miles.  
 
Kaye said: “It started with a brilliant, inspiring, VAD nurse specialist who needed some motivation to get out and about during lockdown.
 
“She gathered her troops, some hesitant, some in denial and some just along for the ride!
 
“In two teams of 17, we competed to run the most miles throughout lockdown for some friendly competition. We were called Team 1 and Team 2!
 
“It worked; we ran a total of 2,514 glorious miles throughout June and the beginning of July.”
 
After the success of the team challenge, this led members of the group to sign up to Great North Run Solo to continue the motivation. The virtual running challenge encourages runners to complete 40 runs in 78 days, to celebrate the 40th year of the Great North Run.
 
Kaye continues: “We then started the Great Big Summer Run to see how far we could travel in the six weeks holidays, using the Great North Run as our motivation. Our children ran with us and we counted their miles also to motivate them.”
 
Throughout their various challenges, the nurses shared their progress on their group text chat, which gave them extra motivation during what has been an unprecedented time for NHS staff.
 
Kaye continued: “Covid-19 challenged us all professionally and personally; we had to adapt to a new way of working and support the patients and families to adjust to this new normal.
 
“We were used to working so closely together and this changed. The running group was a distraction from the isolation and enabled us to still share our daily progress and take the mick out of each other, which is the norm for us!
 
“Sharing our running stories helped us to stay connected and strong mentally and physically.  The challenges motivated us to keep going and achieve success together.  It has been pretty amazing. I'm not sure what we will do without it.”
 
‘Team Heartbeats' will complete the Virtual Great North Run on Sunday 13 September, with their children also completing their own Junior challenge.
 
Kaye continued: “We decided to try our best to raise money for our greatest supporters, the Children's Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), which supports our heart service at the Freeman and without them we could not go that extra mile to put smiles on faces.
 
“CHUF supported us 100% during the height of the pandemic, providing us with the means to support the families the best way we could.  They were incredible.”

Those running the Virtual Great North Run are Kaye Walsh, Claire McGraith, Louise Davidson, Stephanie Dunn, Katherine Barlow, Sarah Lane, Antonia Philp, Nicola Hall, Emma Hooker, Stacey Conroy and Cat Johnston.

Click here to enter the Virtual Great North Run