Michelle’s virtual US challenge
A Radcliffe Athletic Club member has described how running helped her mental wellbeing after she ran the length of a US state during lockdown.
Michelle Hincks completed the 1,000km Virtual Great Run Across Tennessee after the Covid-19 restrictions put paid to her planned ultra races at home and abroad.
She had to complete the equivalent of the distance from the most south-westerly point of the state to its north-western tip – which despite its name was actually closer to 1,021km – in four months.
The 36-year-old from Ainsworth, Radcliffe is no stranger to ultra running and completed a 156-mile race across the Namib Desert in southern Africa in 2018.
After recovering from a painful rib injury, Michelle had planned to complete a multi-day race in Kenya this summer, as well as a 50-mile ultra in the Lake District.
She said: “I was really struggling with my mental health over the latter part of last year and the beginning of this year.
“I was dealing with a lot of work stress so I was already in a pretty low place when Covid hit.
“An injury at the end of last year had also affected my ability to train. I had a bad viral chest infection and popped a rib and tore muscles when I was coughing. It was horrendous – I had never been in pain like that before and I couldn’t even walk as it sent shockwaves up my ribcage.
“With my races being cancelled, I had completely lost my motivation; then two friends I did the desert ultra with said they had signed up for the race across Tennessee.
“I thought it would give me a kick to get out and do some training; it would give me something to aim for and get me outside in the fresh air.”
Michelle ran an average of five miles every day to complete the challenge and added: “The organisers thought a couple of hundred people might sign up, but 19,000 people did!
“There was great support on the event’s Facebook page and it was so good to be part of a community of runners from around the world.”
Michelle has also paid tribute to Radcliffe AC which continued to hold virtual training sessions during the coronavirus lockdown and introduced financial support for members.
“This has been a really tough time for me and I’m definitely not alone – a lot of people have been struggling with their mental health due to coronavirus.
“Running really has helped me to get back on track and the club has been fantastic. It is so supportive.”