The first tranche of Running Mayors has been announced across the UK, with the aim of encouraging running at all levels, and ditching the car wherever possible.
Trail-obsessed ultra-runner Laura Briggs explains her role as one of these privileged postholders.
“Hello? Is that the Running Mayor of Somerset?”
As I consider my answer to this entirely unexpected question, the caller – Scott Cain, brains behind the RunSome campaign and the Running Mayors initiative – puts me out of my misery.
“Yes, it’s you Laura, congratulations!”
But hang on. Am I even qualified for this role? At the moment of the call, I’m filled with doubt.
Surely there’s a mistake. How can I possibly be the right person for this job? I am, after all, just an ordinary mum trying to fit running into a busy schedule, and I’m not even particularly good at it.
I just run because I enjoy it. But then, that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?
Applying to be one of the first Running Mayors in the UK came from a desire to show people that you don’t have to be elite, fast, or even particularly good at running to enjoy it.
It’s more about trying to get people to swap their car journeys for a bit of outside time, whenever and however they can, to help the environment, and their own physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s not all about racing or crazy challenges; it can be as simple as running to the post office, the hairdressers or even (taking it quite literally) on the school ‘run’.
I demonstrate how so-called regular people run by being one of the slowest runners I know. Sometimes I run with no shoes on. I regularly stop. I complain when I run up hills.
I look at other Instagram-ready runners and think maybe I should really work on my airbrushing skills, but I’m about reality. And running, especially where the trails are concerned, is not always easy, pretty or perfect.
When Scott called, I was already committed to my own personal challenge – a 31-day trail accumulator throughout March, with the number of miles correlating to the date.
I wanted to encourage people to join me for as little or as far as they liked across the Somerset countryside. Friends and family shared miles with me, and the support, both physically and mentally, was overwhelming.
I’m also lucky enough to work with the activewear company Flanci, whose owner, Nicky Chrascina, ran more than 130 miles with me on that challenge.
I clocked up 500.5 miles for March, with more than 30,000ft of ascent, and hopefully I inspired plenty of people to challenge themselves.
The role of the new Running Mayors is embedded in the RunSome campaign, to advocate running as an antidote for many issues.
Improving mental health and lessening air pollution are a couple of them but it’s down to each individual Mayor to decide what their goals are and how they can best encourage running as a form of active travel.
Since stepping into my role, I’ve joined forces with a new joint initiative from [Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP)](https://www.sasp.co.ukity & Sports Partnership - Somerset Activity ...https://www.sasp.co.uk), The Community Council for Somerset (CCS), and Spark Somerset, entitled ‘Get Outside in Somerset’.
The project is empowering and supporting people across the county to get outside and move in more ways that suit them. This could be anything from a short walk or a spot of gardening, to taking part in watersports on your local river or going for a run.
The project is bringing together organisations across the county to offer the people of Somerset the advice and tools they need to build their confidence and get outside. Their new website went live in June so you can find out more at getoutsideinsomerset.co.uk.
Why not get out there and try something different on the trails? Run somewhere new, run a bit slower, take more selfies, take your shoes off. However you do it, enjoy it!
You can follow Laura on Instagram at @briggsy1