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Keep calm and jog on: millions turn to running to relieve lockdown stresses


Leading cancer charity launches new research, as thousands find out if they have secured a place in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon. As the official Charity of the Year, the charitable organisation calls for runners to join #TeamMacmillan.


Our research

New research[i] published today by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals that an estimated 7 million people across the nation[ii] have turned to running or jogging to look after their mental health during the Covid-19 crisis.

One in seven people in the UK (14%) said going running or jogging had helped them to de-stress since the first lockdown in March 2020, with the activity proving more popular than meditation or yoga (12%).

Demonstrating the power of outdoor exercise, around one-third of people in the UK said that it helped them feel calmer (34%) and more positive (33%), whilst one in five (21%) said it helped them to feel mentally stronger.

The research has been released to mark the ballot announcement of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon. This is set to be the biggest marathon ever staged on Sunday 3rd October 2021, with 50,000 running from Blackheath to The Mall and another 50,000 running the virtual marathon from wherever they are in the world.

Macmillan is the Charity of the Year for Virgin Money and the official charity partner for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon. They are inviting lucky runners who bagged themselves a ballot spot to join and fundraise for #TeamMacmillan, while reminding those who missed out that there is still time to apply for a Macmillan charity place.

Funds raised through Macmillan places will help the charity provide vital support. This comes at a time when Macmillan is facing a devastating loss of income due to COVID-19, while continuing to do whatever it takes to be there for everyone, from day one of their cancer diagnosis.

Across the UK, one in 10 people says they have taken up running or jogging for the very first time since the pandemic started last year[iii]. The research shows that younger people are most likely to be ambitious new marathon runners, as almost a fifth of 18-34-year-olds (17%) have taken up running since March 2020, with one in 11 (9%) specifically focusing on long-distance running during lockdown.

Despite thousands of people lacing up their running shoes because of the pandemic, nearly a fifth of people in the UK (19%) said they were not taking time to prioritise their wellbeing during the current national lockdown. Just over a third (35%) said that they are finding it harder to exercise outside at this time of year due to the cold weather and shorter days. Meanwhile, others (13%) admitted that they were lacking the motivation to exercise without having an end goal or challenge booked.

Voices from the frontline

Chris Rose, #TeamMacmillan marathon runner

Chris Rose, whose wife Angela was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and sadly passed away in February 2019, ran the London Marathon in 2019. Chris is also running the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan. He said:

“Running the Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan was one of the craziest and most emotional things I’ve ever done. Angela had always said that she wanted to run the London Marathon but due to her illness, that became something that wasn’t going to be possible. I had started with the idea that I would run it for her and, in doing so, raise as much money as I could for Macmillan who had helped support her and who are still supporting myself and our 10-year-old son Jack.

“Sadly, Angela passed away before the marathon, but I made the decision that we would do it together. So, I ran with some of her ashes in a wristband to help grant her that last wish of getting over that finish line together.

“Being part of #TeamMacmillan and getting to wear that green top means a lot to so many people. You can’t help feeling like you’re all in it together. I honestly can’t recommend the experience enough, and I’m already raring to get training for this year’s marathon.”

Iwan Thomas MBE, British Olympian and Macmillan supporter

“It’s fantastic to hear that millions of people across the UK have taken up running during the pandemic. Getting outside and having a jog, no matter how far you go or the pace you run, is a fantastic way to help with your wellbeing.

“Lockdown is really tough. It’s so important to find time for ourselves and to be kind to ourselves. Getting outside for a run always makes me feel so much better.

“The Virgin Money London Marathon is such an exciting event to be a part of. Joining Team Macmillan and raising vital funds for the charity will not only help Macmillan continue to do whatever it takes to support people living with cancer, but it will also be a great motivator to get you out jogging!”

Claire Rowney, Executive Director Fundraising, Marketing and Innovation at Macmillan Cancer Support

“We’re thrilled to be the official Charity of the Year for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon. We can’t wait to cheer on our Team Macmillan runners in what is set to be the biggest marathon ever.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our income, at a time when people living with cancer need our support more than ever to help navigate through this anxious period. The vital funds raised through runners and supporters of this year’s event will help us continue to do whatever it takes to be there for everyone living with cancer.

“Whether you’re planning to run the 26.2 miles, cheer on our runners from the side-lines or make a donation as part of Team Macmillan, you will be helping us be there for everyone, from day one of their diagnosis.”

How to take part

Join #TeamMacmillan with your ballot spot, or apply for a Macmillan Cancer Support charity place in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon here.


[i] Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov survey of 2054 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 19th January 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

[ii] 14% figure from ref i applied to official population statistics. Source: Office for National Statistics. Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Adult population for the UK in mid-2019 was around 52,730,000.

[iii] The survey question specified that by ‘taken up’, we meant starting to do a form of exercise, either regularly or for the first time, that they had not previously been in the habit of doing.