It began with a question posed in a Facebook group of local runners: "Who's up for a challenge?" The name of the group was '42.2km in 42 hours' and the challenge was exactly that: complete the marathon distance in as many runs as you want, in the 42 hours from 6pm Friday May 1st. The challenge was posed by two well-known Hills District local runners, Joanne & Shannon Lum of Hills Tri Club, looking to stay occupied during lockdown. It quickly took the world by storm, with the simple idea of covering the distance of a marathon over one weekend.
We caught up with Jo and Shannon to hear their reflections on the tidal wave of marathon running that they started.
Where did the idea for the event come from, and what was the purpose behind it?
Shannon: Joanne and myself have always been extremely active in our community, both Athletics Australia Recreational Run coaches, with over 100 juniors and seniors each week (outside isolation rules). We are also volunteer committee members with Hills Tri Club. When Covid-19 hit our juniors and seniors had no sessions to attend so we provided weekly challenges via messenger groups. This weekly solo challenge was keeping us all connected. We wanted to provide a challenge that tested our members yet remained achievable to a broad athletic ability - we wanted it to be inclusive. The challenge was simple and flexible; a set amount of kms in a specified timeframe. Why not make it the marathon distance; 42.2km in 42hrs. It's your challenge run any way you like. We also provided an option for teams of 3 and a family (or one household) option too.
The event started off as an open Facebook group on April 17. There are now 11,000 members in the group and nearly 3,000 are from overseas. How quickly did it take off and did you expect it to become so big?
When we created the Facebook group; it was with the simple intention to create a space for our run groups and family to connect and share in the same challenge together. We never expected it to reach more than a few hundred. We think it was just at a time of "perfect storm" where people's lack of connection with their usual social/sporting networks, collided with a lack of events to train for, as well as falling at a time we were all getting pretty sick of isolation (the timing of this weekend being on or around some major events like Ironman Oz, London Marathon, Ultra Trail Australia were all imminent) and need to have something positive to talk about and DO, all collided. People are at home, not socialising, not going out, not juggling sporting and weekly routines. We first discussed the idea only the day before the Facebook group was set up.
What were some of the best entries you saw on the page?
Gosh where do we start and so many to mention. Randy from Nashville, carrying the 5" by 8" American flag and in his full firefighting uniform, completing the full distance in one go. We had two ladies completing the challenge by 1km every hour on the hour for 42hours. We had so many comment that they would never attempt this distance yet achieved it and gained so much self belief and confidence that they are now going to consider training for a marathon event. We had Nick from Malaysia where lockdown did not allow him to get out and about, so he completed the challenge running 1,477 laps around his carport, complete with his cat sitting on a fence watching him and high fiving him as he went past (video footage posted with this!). There was a real buzz all weekend as the page went "live" and the event virtual timer was sounded at 6pm (your local time). The other big highlight was the DIY race bibs that the group kicked off without it being thought or planned by us. There is an album in the group page that we tried to capture as many as we could, but there over 300 creative artworks in there.
You’re both very active and accomplished athletes. How did this event compare to the hundreds of others you’ve completed in your lifetime?
This was such a unique 'event' and we just can't compare it. Neither of us anticipated the huge response; and the way it unfolded just cannot compare to anything we have done before. We both managed to complete the physical challenge in our own way (Shannon chose 12km Fri night, 30km Sat, Joanne completed 6x 7km runs, 1 Friday night, and 5km on Sat), and we both talked about the fact we felt a tangible atmosphere out there running, despite running most of it alone other than our Fri evening. We both felt an inner energy knowing so many thousands were all doing the same thing all weekend. We saw so many posts of people experiencing that same euphoria - being one mass collective joy in coming together all with the positive energy of achieving the same thing.
How important do you think it is to stay healthy & connected with friends and to keep training during COVID-19?
We both realised during COVID-19 and isolation, that our connection through our friends and in particular our sporting activities was such an integral part of our wellbeing. We think the thousands that joined us also were craving this feeling of positive connection.
Any plans for future events like this?
YES! We have one in the pipeline, weekend of 5th-7th June; we have announced it on the Facebook group and people have a sign-up portal through an Active site; which we are really excited about as it will enable us to track the numbers. The theme is 1942; 19 for Covid-19, 42 as we remain attached to the 42.2 distance as a challenge. We expect a lot of ultra interest; but we are keeping the inclusivity at the heart of our free events. Teams, families, or individuals can come up with their race formats, as they wish; during the time frame of 6pm their local time Friday evening; finishing by midday Sunday.
What races are you looking forward to after lockdown?
ANY and all of them! We are looking forward to our structured routine returning; especially the one where all the kids are at school!
Thank you Jo & Shannon for sharing your time with us, and thank you for starting this awesome running movement in NSW and the world.
To join the Facebook group, click here.
Follow Jo and Shannon on Instagram: @jorunlum @runlumrun