Running into 2021 with alumna Emily Keens


Emily had always been a keen runner before the first national lockdown in March 2020 but has used running throughout the pandemic to find peaceShe is now training for her first marathon in memory of her grandmother who died of COVID-19 in May 2020. 


She says, ‘Before the pandemic I would spend hours in the gym doing weights or cardio on the treadmill or stepper. I would run about 20 miles a week. I saw the closure of the gyms as an opportunity to get outside and focus on my running goals. I now run between 40 and 50 miles a week!’ 


Emily does not run alone as her dog, Penny, joins her. ‘For me, running with Penny helped me work towards a goal, explore my local area and make new running friends. It’s been incredibly rewarding to feel us working as a team. When I’m having a bad day, or I feel anxious, it’s great motivation to have her jumping around in the morning raring to go! She reminds me to live in the now.”’ 


Running has lots of mental and physical benefits. When talking about the mental health benefits of running, Emily describes it as something which has always been constant both pre- and post-pandemic. She says, ‘I feel that a lot of things are so uncertain now, especially as we go into another national lockdown. It is important to remind ourselves of the constant things in our lives, like family, friends, pets, fresh air and the great outdoors. These things aren’t going anywhere.’ 


Emily explains that running allows her to clear her mind. ‘I find running, and being outside in general, really therapeutic. When I’m outside I only have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I can switch off from the world and, most importantly, from the news. I run early in the morning and it really sets me up to help me tackle the day ahead whatever it may bring. There is also nothing like a sunrise to start your day! 


Throughout the pandemic Emily has noticed lots of her friends, family and work colleagues take up running and becoming more active. She says, ‘It’s really rewarding to see other people take up the sport and reap the benefits! I love running and it’s great to see other people become addicted to it too!’  


If you’re looking at taking up running, Emily has the following advice: 

  • Do it for yourself and try and not compare your pace and distance other runners – everybody is different! 

  • Join a local running community – although we may not be able to run together now, the running community is extremely supportive and friendly to newcomers.


  • Set a goal - there are lots of virtual challenges you can work towards (with a medal at the end!) or download the Couch to 5K app.


  • Dress appropriately and be visible and aware of your surroundings – especially in dark and cold conditions.


  • If you want to run with your dog, seek advice from your vet beforehand and ensure your running pal has regular check-ups. 


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