In conversation with the amazing Alison Jones, in her run up to K-Day!

28 Jan 2021
3ab98fd4-94b1-493c-bd73-5380b51e6b78.jpg

© George Aitchison

Alison Jones, Director at Practical Inspiration Publishing, set herself a mighty challenge of 1,000 consecutive days of running to raise money for the National Literacy Trust.

Alison’s began this running ‘streak’ on her 49th birthday and her thousandth run is coming up on 24 February 2021, a day she calls K-Day. She has already smashed through her fundraising target of £1,000, so far raising well over double this amount! We are so grateful to Alison for her amazing fundraising efforts, Please visit her Just Giving page and donate if you can, every little helps.

We caught up with Alison on the inspiration behind this challenge and why this means so much to her:

What inspired you to take on this incredible challenge?

I’ve ‘streaked’ - the technical term for running every day - several times in the past, once for a month, and once for a year. Each time I noticed that there was a nice simplicity to it: you don’t have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to go for a run today?’ (to which the answer is all too often, ‘Nah’), you just have to ask, ‘WHEN am I going to do my run today.’ That’s a much simpler question to answer, and doesn’t require much in the way of willpower or motivation.

Each time I finished streaking I found I missed it, and I struggled to motivate myself to exercise regularly. When I started this streak on my 49th birthday I decided it should be open-ended: if I’d stopped enjoying it I’d finish on my 50th birthday, or if I got sick or injured I’d stop it immediately. But the big birthday came and went, and I didn’t feel like stopping. And then as I started approaching 900 days I thought, ‘This feels quite significant. It seems a shame to waste it.’ So I decided to make the 100 days up to Day 1000, the K-Day Countdown, a fundraising opportunity for a worthy cause.

How did you get into running? Do you have any top tips for anyone wanting to get into running (or walking) this year?

For years I thought I ‘couldn’t’ run. Then at the age of 40 with two young children a friend and I started a women’s running group in our village for women like us who needed some support, companionship and motivation to get fit. We called it ‘Iron Mum’ and started training in spring, and organised a very tongue-in-cheek triathlon in early September as our goal (the final ‘event’ was a sprint carrying weighted wine crates!). It became a phenomenon in the village: there were four of us at the first training session, walking and running very, very slowly for 20 minutes, but by the time we finished 5 years later there were 160 women involved, with walking, beginner, intermediate and advanced groups. And somewhere along the way I’d turned into a runner!

If you’re thinking of starting, take it slow and steady, and ideally get some support. The Couch to 5K programme is fantastic, and you won’t believe how quickly your fitness improves. If you can find someone to do it at the same time so you can encourage each other (and perhaps go for a socially distanced run/walk together) even better.

Have a think about what works for you when it comes to making a new habit stick. For me it was accountability: I post a picture of my run on Facebook every day, and that public accountability means I’m never tempted to skip a day because I know people are watching (occasionally when I’ve left my run until late at night I’ve had worried direct messages checking I haven’t forgotten….)

I guess the only other thing I’d say is that there are MANY days when I don’t feel like going for a run, but there hasn’t been a single day when I haven’t come back feeling better than when I went out. Remembering that makes it easier to get over the ‘I don’t wanna’s next time…

What are some of the best moments and some of the hardest challenges you’ve experienced while taking on this challenge?

Perhaps the most wonderful run so far was on my 50th birthday, 1 June 2019, when lots of friends joined me for a sociable, shaded run on a gloriously hot day and we sat in the park and had a picnic together afterwards. I also really enjoy runs when I’m away from home, like the glorious windswept cliff-top runs in Lewis where my husband’s family live or the early-morning October runs through Frankfurt centre ahead of a busy day at the Book Fair.

Over the course of this streak we’ve acquired a puppy (now my constant running buddy), been through two lockdowns, home-schooling, and a house move, but somehow I’ve always managed to carve out enough time for at least 2km!

How have your friends, family and the public supported you along the way?

It’s lovely when members of my family run with me (though it doesn’t happen very often!). They’re very supportive but also a bit mean: on a really cold, dark, miserably wet night my son will often say something like, ‘Not run yet Mum? Off you go… I’m just going to make myself a hot chocolate and snuggle down with this lovely blanket in our nice warm house…..’

I’ve been blown away by the support from family, friends and colleagues to my fundraising. I’d hoped to raise £1000, which seemed quite ambitious, but we’re currently at over £2,500 with a month left to go, and there are still some days waiting for a sponsor….

I think one reason why it worked so well as a fundraising effort is that it’s allowed people to co-create the challenge. They can choose what I have to do on ’their’ day which is much more engaging/rewarding than simply giving money to a good cause (and it's also made it more fun for me!). So far I’ve learned several new dance moves - the floss the Highland Fling and some Mr Tumble moves(!), slid down a muddy bank on my backside, swigged a hip flask of Chilean red wine mid run, done several star jumps and a cartwheel, and more!

Why did you choose to support the National Literacy Trust with your fundraising?

As a publisher and life-long book lover, literacy is obviously a cause very close to my heart. I spent some time as an Adult Basic Education tutor when I was working in Edinburgh and was staggered to discover so many bright, capable adults who’d simply missed out on learning as children, often because they hadn’t had support at home, and whose life chances had been so massively limited as a result. Learning to read and write, together with basic numeracy skills, was literally life-changing for them, and gave them self-respect as well as new opportunities.

The work that the National Literacy Trust does with disadvantaged children and young adults will be perhaps the most significant intervention they will ever receive, giving them the chance of a happy, economically productive life.

Kofi Annan put it this way: ‘Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development…. [it is] the means through which every man, woman and child can realise his or her full potential.’ I can’t put it better than that.