Sport in times of Covid-19

Here in France our initial lock-down (which began in March 2020) lasted eight weeks. We were limited to just one hour of exercise per day, within a 1km radius of home. Needless to say I became very well acquainted with my neighbouring streets! The pressures of home-schooling made me relish my runs even more than usual. I remember one particular session when I ran around our block 15 times like an oversized hamster… luckily my neighbours know me well and weren’t at all surprised by this!

It was around this time that I heard from Guinness World Records that my application to set a new female “fastest 10km pushing a pram” record had been approved. I was surprised, as I had read elsewhere on their site that only half and full marathon distances were monitored, but there it was in black and white. The time to beat was 42:32.

Summer training

As soon as the lock-down started to ease in May, I wheeled my Thule Chariot Cross out of the basement and returned to buggy running, following as far as possible the plan set by my coach. In general I did the very short stuff (multiple reps of 30, 45 or 60 seconds, for example) solo, but tried to take DD on the longer efforts (6 x 1km was a classic) and easy runs.

It was a very long, hot summer and it was tough training in those conditions. When the heat takes hold down here it doesn’t really let up at any time of the day or night. One of the “worst” sessions I had to do was 3 x 3km in the early evening, with the mercury still well above 30 degrees. Ouch. I knew I had to maintain about 4:12/km with the buggy to beat the record, but the truth is I was struggling to do even a single kilometre at that pace!

But I stuck at it and started to feel ready for my attempt as the seasons changed. DD was also starting school so I would be losing my training partner, sob! The problem was, Covid-19 had forced the cancellation of every single race, everywhere.

I spent hours and hours trawling the internet, trying to find an event that met the GWR criteria and was within a day trip of home. I had all but given up hope when I came across Les Foulées du Saint Jean 10km, about an hour and a half’s drive away in the Aveyron (a very pretty part of France). I spoke to the organiser, borrowed a video camera from a friend and lined everything up ready for my attempt.

The big day

Sunday 3rd October 2020 is a day I will never forget. Everything just fell into place. DD stayed awake in the car on the way there, which meant that she was ready for a nap when the race started. As it was absolutely pouring with rain, she was as snug as a bug in a rug under the Chariot’s raincover and slept soundly. I literally didn’t hear a squeak from her!

The conditions were appalling – not just the rain (I have never been so drenched in all my life – and I grew up in Britain!), but a challenging course with a couple of uphill sections and a nasty patch of cobbles. Plus my passenger at almost three years old was a hefty 13kg! But I felt strong and just kept running. I crossed the line in 41:33… mission accomplished.

The cherry on the cake was finishing third female, so DD and I won a fancy trophy (which sadly I smashed on the floor while cleaning a couple of weeks later – oops!!) and an Intersport voucher. 

An anxious wait

The next challenge was gathering all the necessary documents and witness statements to have my new record officially approved by Guinness, a task complicated by the need to translate everything from French to English. I submitted all the documents a couple of days after the event and so began my long wait (12-16 weeks is typical) to see if it would be validated.

Almost immediately after that, France was plunged into its second national lock-down. Restaurants, bars and cafés would not re-open until May 2021. Thankfully schools remained open this time, but, once again, sporting events were firmly off the agenda. I was extremely thankful to have managed to squeeze in my buggy 10km. I didn’t know it then, but the next time a running race would be allowed to go ahead was the following June! That’s a long gap for a fully paid-up addict like me.

Good news

On December 18th I received the brilliant news that my new Guinness World Record was approved. The confirmation email saying “congratulations, you’re officially amazing” really tickled me. Hardly! But I was absolutely thrilled that all my hard work (training in the lead-up, the race itself and then the verification process) had paid off. I received a beautiful certificate and lots of very kind words of congratulations from my friends and family.

“Le Guinness book” as they call it is very popular in France, so it was fun to have my record picked up by various newspapers and online sites. My club were very supportive and happy to see the Blagnac vest getting so much air time.

There are roughly 40,000 different records monitored by GWR and only about 4,000 of these make it into the famous book. And guess what? I’m one of them! We’re only in the French version, in the “editor’s pick” of local interest records, but I was nevertheless very very surprised! It’s fun to have that as a souvenir for the future.


The time I ran on that wet day in the Aveyron was nothing spectacular and the record I set has since been broken (and I’m sure it will be again, many times). But that doesn’t change what this achievement means to me.

I have, at times, struggled with reconciling my role as mother to three kids with my dreams and ambitions for other aspects of my life. It has often felt like there are no other aspects of my life; that I am just a mum (house-wife, home-maker, call it what you will) and that my own path has been entirely swallowed up by the needs of the family. 

Running with the buggy enabled me to find myself again and pursuing the GWR gave me a goal and a sense of purpose that felt like a secret super power. On my toughest days at the parenting coalface my thoughts turned often to the record attempt to keep me going and boost my mood. And of course the training itself kept the endorphins flowing.

The beauty of the pushing-a-pram female running world records is that they are so much more than a simple sporting achievement: they are a wonderful celebration of motherhood – of how far your body has come since the gruelling changes of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding; of your mental strength as you look after your child’s best interests while all the time running your heart out – and a true team endeavour between you and your tiny buggy passenger.