“This challenge was just the right thing to get me moving with great support from Tom. Access to the gym was a big help too” Alumni share their Olympic Challenge Stories

Since the first lockdown I have not really had the motivation to exercise in any shape or form and I just started to go from all out working from home/couch patato to do some exercise classes. When I saw the article in the Alumni newsletter I though it would be exactly the type of thing to give my friend Sarah and myself a boost and a chance to meet up and do something fun (with a bit of healthy competition thrown in the mix).

This challenge was just the right thing to get me moving with great support from Tom. Access to the gym was a big help too. No idea what he thought of us, but trust me we did take the training session seriously despite laughing all the way through. 

I achieved most of the 40 miles by walking (nobody is going to make me run ever) and a bit of cycling, have thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and getting the mental uplift from going back to being active and energetic. I will certainly keep this up. We have already started our next challenge.

Wien
A student making use of the gym

This summer we invited alumni to take part in the University of Hull Olympic Challenge. Celebrating our partnership with Team GB, this virtual event asked alumni to do 40 miles (the length of the Humber) in whatever way they wanted, wherever they wanted.

With the aim of helping people start to get active, to make fitness and health a more prominent part of their lives, or to reach a fitness goal such as preparation for a marathon, we ran a series of online workshops to support the fitness and wellbeing goals of our graduates and participants, and offered participants free use of our gym facilities.

In the article below, we share the responses of some of those who participated – why they took part and what they got out of the challenge. We’re really proud of all of our participants and look forward to sending their very much deserved medals to them.


With it being an Olympic year and for Hull to be partnering with Team GB inspired me to get involved. I’m always looking for inspiration to be more active and this seemed like a great event to get involved with.  Living in North Wales I’m very lucky with some excellent hiking experiences on my doorstep so was also an excuse to explore more.  Was just shy of the 40 miles in 4 weeks but I’ve got more hikes planned in over the next few months so it’s been a motivating experience.

Hollie

I’m currently 3-4 miles left before I complete the Humber length this weekend. I’ve loved Hull since the first time I went to uni there and walking the length of the Humber seemed a great idea after walking across the Humber for the first time last year after lockdown restrictions were lifted. I’ve done a mix of walking and cycling to get to almost the finish line. Working 12hr shifts from home for the last year and it’s helped push me to get outside after my day shifts and get some exercise after sitting at a desk all day and it’s coincided nicely with the end being my birthday week as I turn 39 I’m finishing the 40 mile length of the Humber.

Kim

I took up the challenge to identify how I could improve on my efforts to keep fit. My regular runs were becoming much slower than could be totally accounted for by becoming older and I wanted to reverse, or at the very least slow, the trend. The challenge inspired me to identify and focus on targets, both short and medium term, to achieve this goal. 

Excellent presentations identified how I could help myself by improving diet, flexibility and strength. Particularly, my flexibility is very poor, so taking up Pilates is on the agenda.

I will use local parkrun events to measure and monitor my progress. Already I have achieved some faster daily runs.

Armas

I chose to take part for various reasons being proud to be a Hull University graduate, I am still in touch with two friends from those days . One of my grand daughters started at University 3 years ago and two others started at University two years ago  and I told them what I’d told previous grandchildren, make the most of your experience, keep on top of your work. Its a time like no other you will ever have. The eldest, who has just graduated, commented last September that ‘It certainly is like no other time!’ The other 2 agreed!

In the past various children and grandchildren have been involved in sponsorship activities to raise money for the Olympics, the first being in 1980. So this year I decided to make my year to do something. 

I do walk most days round about where I live often going up hills and have done more since Covid limited us so much, as I found it lifted my spirits. I got hold of a pedometer, decided I’d better not over stretch my self and went for the Half Humber. I was surprised at how much distance I was covering, helped by having to look after my sons dog for 5 days, and had walked the Humber by the beginning of August. On Saturday I made it one and a half.

I have really enjoyed doing it, I would have done so anyway as I like walking and am lucky to live where there are so many walks on my doorstep, but the challenge gave a sense of purpose.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Sally

I was excited to take part in this event as it made me feel connected to my old home of Hull and gave me the motivation I needed to get moving again after staying inside during the pandemic. I live far away in Canada and don’t get a lot of opportunities to take part in the activities of the University of Hull’s Alumni initiatives, so this was a great way to feel a part of things again.

Alexandra

I wanted to take part in the Olympic challenge because I thought it was a great way to bring people together, especially after the last 18 months we have all had. I was also inspired by the Olympics and next year’s Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately I lost a week’s worth of steps due to an ear infection so I’m going to do them the week after the challenge ends. I’m really enjoying the challenge so thank you guys so much for that.

Laura

I am an active runner anyway and in fact am doing a 10k on the 5th September at Pennington Flash in Leigh. So these last few weeks have aided my training , slowly increasing my distance every week. I never actually do a 10k before the race – for me it’s a bad luck thing.!

So yes a great event , well organised and good to see how others are doing as well.   

Graham

I originally found out about the HU Olympic Challenge from my friend Wien. We are often looking for new things to try and so jumped at the chance (well, sort of jumped – that may have been a step too far at the time, maybe more like an enthusiastic lean). The last 18 months have been hard – as they have for everyone. I got married in August 2019 – our honeymoon has been postponed indefinitely, that was a real kick as we had been saving for 3 years for it and it sent me into a bit of a depression. I had to stay at home… and eat (I put on over a stone in 12 months). And then I caught covid.  Covid led to long covid, which led to me having absolutely no energy and my immune system decided to attack itself and I ended up with a major underactive thyroid… cue no energy and no way of processing the food I was eating – before I knew it there was another 2 stone added. Yikes!

I have tried to get back in to exercise – I recently started boxercise and circuit classes, but I needed a kickstart to really get things moving, as recently as 4 weeks ago I struggled to get up one flight of stairs. I am still very low on energy but I am also very competitive and so when Wien mentioned the challenge I knew I had to go for it. 2 weeks in and I have changed my diet and covered 21 miles- walk/running (I would love to say run but it is definitely more like a waddle-jog), swimming and cycling. I have also taken up the great offer from the uni about using their facilities and Tom has been excellent at keeping Wien and I focused – he even managed to stop me laughing long enough to hold a plank which is not something I have ever managed to do (I still hate the rope pull though).

I am actually really looking forward to the next two weeks and seeing how far I can get. I am no athlete, i’m not even fit (in fact I am classed as obese), but I do like to try and I am determined once I set my mind to something to see it through. For someone like me with a sit at a desk job and a very sedentary lifestyle this has definitely been a challenge but I’m really enjoying it… bring on the next gym session!

Sarah

I have tried running on and off for years, but could never stick to it and it would fizzle out pretty quickly. So this year I was determined to try and stick with it. I have been signing up to different challenges throughout this year to keep me motivated with my running and when I received the email for the Humber challenge I knew I had to take part. I have been doing mainly 5km, but this challenge has made me go out of that comfort zone and pushed me up to 8km so I could complete the required distance in the allotted time frame. I was very pleased with that and have enjoyed this challenge very much.

Cara

The Challenge has been a real motivator to get active, but also to re-connect with Hull University after so long. I think it has helped seeing others taking part in the challenge using Strava. I have been impressed by the fitness coaches’ weekly seminars. I have not been able to attend the seminars but have been watching them later on. 

I took on the Challenge to help Hull University, especially when linked to the talented sport scheme. It helps to see that there are links to GB the Olympics and the University. (Supporting athletes is the reason I do the National Lottery). The Challenge was a great combination of knowing about the Olympics, Hull and its efforts. I felt in some way I was actively supporting and contributing in some fashion with Alumni from different generations.

Helen

I was idly looking through the Hull Alumni bulletin when I saw the invitation to join the Olympic Challenge. I had been looking for a new way of motivating myself to walk every day. During the lockdown I had walked a lot, including undertaking a half-marathon distance as part of a different ‘race’. The humour had worn off since then. This challenge was ideal because it was within my capability, it would benefit some students at Hull and I would get a medal to commemorate my efforts! My original goal was a-Humber-and –a-half but I actually walked the two-Humber distance. Getting out the door is the hardest part for me and the Challenge helped me to do that

Philomena

I’d have loved to walk the real Humber but my husband, Bill, now uses a walker so we have had to content ourselves with walking our own formerly industrial waterway, the Kennet and Avon Canal in the lovely town of Devizes in Wiltshire where I now live.  The canal is famed for its flight of 16 locks just to the West of Devizes.  We are at 35.54 miles and have to do the last few miles today.  A picture of us below in lockdown.

Tina

I took up this challenge as part of a series that I have been doing over the summer initially to increase my exercise levels.  Having worked from home during the pandemic and with the restrictions I had got out of the habit of doing much.  I was feeling lethargic, sluggish and my sleep patterns were poor.  Through these combined challenges I have regained enthusiasm to get out and exercise more and have started running regularly for the first time in roughly 10 years.  But in addition I have learnt more about the importance of different categories of food and the benefits of weight training and stretches.  Even when I ran previously I would go for a run.  Not eat or stretch properly which when you are younger you can get away with more.  So I’ve gained appreciation for recovery periods.  Ultimately though for me it has become about making little changes, making better choices rather than being radical.  That way I know that the changes will stick with my for life and I will not fall back into old tired routines.  I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in delivery these challenges

Christopher

Achieving a Humber was an interesting target for me coming up to the age of 80. I’ve always kept fit – played in the University  hockey team 1959/60 – but taking part made me focus on my walking habits. I achieved my goal with  longish walks with the walking group I am in,  medium length walks on holiday in Scotland, and  short 2-mile walks I do regularly to my local village for shopping.

I enjoyed the opportunity to take stock of my walking habits. It made me realise the importance of building walking  into everyday life and, not least, acted as a reminder of happy days as an undergraduate  at Hull University.

Thank you for enabling me to do this.

Joan

I’ve enjoyed doing the challenge. It was an excellent way for me to get back into running or perhaps I should say jogging. I used to run and do charity 5ks and 10ks and the parkrun until I stopped in 2017 for no real reason. Since then I’ve kept thinking I should get back to it so this was the ideal opportunity. 

I do walk weekly (on a Wednesday)with Llanelli Ramblers and so counted my 4 x6mile rambles too !! This gave me 24 miles so I needed to cover at least 16 more in the Olympic Challenge period. I decided to run/jog on a Tuesday, Friday and Sunday and managed to do this. In week one I did 1 mile per session -3miles. In week two I increased it to 2 miles per session -6 miles and then in the third week 3 miles per session – 9 miles. I completed 42miles walking and jogging)  by 11th August.

I feel much better for it and now intend to return to the parkruns when they restart following the pandemic. I think  that is 21st August here in Wales. The Olympic Challenge gave me the push to get started again. Thankyou.

Jane

I had already committed to increasing my levels of fitness before the Humber Challenge came along, walking regularly throughout the week. Old age is creeping up on me, and, more recently, various medical issues have forced me to adjust my lifestyle and habits so, from a purely selfish point of view, the Challenge came along at a good time, allowing me to reinforce the work I had already put in place.

Obviously, if I can help others through my involvement, then that also has to be a good thing. I played a lot of sport in my earlier years and represented the University of Hull at football, back in the 1980s, so to be able to give a little back is important to me. TAP, from the bits that I have read, supports athletes, providing opportunities that they may otherwise not have. I have been in education for the last thirty years, and I would hope that my prime contribution to those I have taught is inspiration, a belief that, if you work hard enough, and commit, anything is possible. TAP, I would hope, aims for exactly that with the individuals that have been identified.

David

I wanted to take part because I love the sense of belonging to the alumni community and still being able to have a connection with the University. It played such a big part in both mine and my partner’s life (we met their) so I’m always keen to get involved in things like this.

Jack

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