The nationwide campaign RunSome has today launched a major petition in a bid to lobby the UK government into increasing funding around running and, in turn, support the millions of people in the country who have clung to the sport as a mental health saviour during Covid-19.

Research has shown that 95% of people who have run during the Covid-19 lockdowns claim it has played a role in managing their mental health*, however at present, the government does not include running within its £2bn Active Travel budget, which sees investment into facilities and access for both walking and cycling. The RunSome campaign, which encourages people of all backgrounds to run more everyday short journeys for their physical and mental wellbeing, has made its petition available now on: runsome.org/campaigns/sign-our-petition.

The campaign – which is co-founded by Active Things and the UK’s biggest running media brand,
Runner’s World UK – is calling on the UK government to properly recognise the value of running to the nation’s wellbeing. Proposed funding to Sport England, the Royal College of General Practitioners – which already partners with parkrun on its parkrun practice referral scheme – and other associated bodies will aim to help make running more accessible and convenient for the UK population. Much needed investment would be earmarked for the likes of run-to-work schemes, engagement programmes for community groups and schools, appropriate shower and changing facilities at mobility hubs and employers, and additional investment in pavement widening for all journeys on foot – all to encourage more run-commuting and local run-journeys once lockdown restrictions fully lift.

In what could be a revolutionary policy change in positively affecting the health of the UK population, the RunSome petition is also asking government to consider prescribing running on the NHS as a possible additional mental health aid. Specifically, it calls for a ten-fold increase in the social prescribing of running, via GPs and other prescribers – recognising the importance of complementary solutions for a country that has among the highest antidepressant use in Europe. The campaign is acting on the worrying prediction made by the Centre for Mental Health at the end of 2020 that an extra 10 million people in England will need extra mental health support.

Kerry McCarthy, co-founder of the RunSome campaign, said: “The benefits of running and mental health have long been proven, but the last 14 months have unquestionably accelerated the awareness around that link – and now we’re asking government to recognise that and fund running appropriately. We’ve seen how the government’s Active Travel funding has helped attract more people to cycling and walking with the likes of dedicated routes and new facilities, but to date, running has been completely excluded from those cash injections. That’s why we’re asking as many people as possible to sign our petition, and we’d urge everyone who’s looking to keep active and enjoy the life-changing experiences of running to do just that.”

One high-profile name who has already pledged her support behind the RunSome petition to government is broadcaster and mental health campaigner, Charlie Webster. “Running has helped my mental health from a young age, as a teenager I would literally run out overwhelming feelings –anger, anxiety, frustration – and go from being pent up, and at times flat, to feeling a little lighter and for that moment at peace,” said Webster. “I’m delighted to be joining forces with RunSome, a grassroots movement accessible to all, and help promote the benefits of running and mental health, but also to highlight the need for the government to include running in their Active Travel funding. Running can and does improve mental health.”

With 23% of all UK car journeys registering under one mile in distance, the RunSome campaign pledges to increase the number of people running everyday short journeys – such as to the shops, visiting a friend or doing the school run. Currently around 240,000 people in the UK embrace these types of journeys by running, however the campaign seeks to more than double that, with a target of half a million set for the next year. In helping to do that, RunSome has recently welcomed more than 50 ‘Running Mayor’ volunteers across the country, who are working with their local communities and councils to make running more accessible in the area.

For more information on the RunSome campaign, to make a pledge to run some everyday journeys and to sign the petition to government to up its investment into running as a mental health tool, visit www.runsome.org

* Research findings from Runner’s World poll in May 2021