A RURAL running challenge – which kicked off on January 1 – has already raised over £30,000 for five different mental health charities and gained support from over 1000 participants.

Run1000 is the brainchild of South of Scotland chilli farmer Sheena Horner, who decided to put together a friendly competition between the four nations of the UK and the ‘rest of the world’ to get people running and walking this January, in a race to see which team could reach 1000 miles first.

The aim behind the challenge was to raise vital funds for rural mental health and to encourage participants to look after their own well-being by getting active during one of the most difficult months of the year – compounded further by the nationwide Lockdown's.

Members began signing up way ahead of the New Year’s Day start date and it soon became clear that the initial target would be smashed in the first week. The SF caught up with Sheena Horner of Team Scotland – raising funds for Scottish farming charity RSABI – to hear how the challenge has been going:

“When I first came up with this idea, I thought we might get a few people interested and raise a few pounds for charity. I never expected we would have over 1000 active participants and reach over £30,000 for the charities.

“But the best bit about Run1000 is the openness of people and why they are taking part, we've been sent videos, posts have been put on social media and it's just great to hear the difference it is making to those who are getting out there walking and running,” she continued.

“The enthusiasm has been fantastic, I believe at one-point Run1000 was actually trending on Twitter. Some of the Teams actually ran the initial target of 1,000 miles on the first day and we had to have an emergency meeting with the captains to decide how we would encourage people to continue getting out and putting the steps in the rest of the month and decided to introduce some new categories to the contest – so there is still time to sign up!”

There are now five categories up for grabs, which includes the original target of first team to reach 1000 miles, as well as the team to record the most mileage throughout the month of January, the team with the highest average amount of activities per group member, the team with the most Strava members and the team to raise the most money. The winners of each category will be announced at the beginning of February.

As the SF went to press on Wednesday, January 13, Team Scotland had raised £6228 for RSABI with 215 members on Strava racking up miles. Team England has raised £12,180 for the Farming Community Network and has 358 active members. Team Ireland is sitting at £4,187 for Embrace Farm with 112 Strava members. Team Wales has raised £9,740 for The DPJ Foundation with 447 Strava members, and ‘Rest of the World’ is on £170 for Do More Ag with seven Strava members.

Chief Executive of RSABI Nina Clancy, who has also been contributing miles to the competition, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to all the runners who are braving the weather to clock up miles for Team Scotland and raise vital funds for RSABI. The Run1000 challenge has raised a fantastic sum so far which will help us provide services to people in Scottish agriculture, including our helpline.

“We continue to live in uncertain times and lockdown increases the risk of loneliness and isolation. I’d encourage anyone who needs some support, or just wants a friendly chat, to give our helpline a call on 0300 111 4166. We can also arrange to call people regularly, which many found particularly helpful last year.

“Special thanks go to Sheena Horner and all the organisers for putting together the global event, highlighting the importance of mental wellbeing and encouraging so many runners to take part. We love seeing all the posts on social media with photos from people’s runs across the country and world.

“We have various staff members taking part too – and I even swapped a dram for a run at midnight this Hogmanay! Keep going #TeamScotland and hopefully we’ll race to victory!”