Where on earth to start….? Dawn I suppose, which on that bright-ish breezy 30 September day on Highbury Fields in London was 6.59am
Dawn Til Dusk is the brainchild of our Mini Mermaid and Young Tritons UK director, Hannah (Spanner) Corne. She first mentioned it to me, slipping it very causally into the conversation during our weekly (ish) phonecall at the beginning of September. Trial it in London she said, it’ll be great we agreed, I’ll come down for it she said, ok fab I said. Shortly after, I went on holiday to relax, with a head full of new ideas and knowing there was a lot to do and even more to learn about organising a fundraising campaign and event like this!
Fast forward a month or so and A LOT of lessons learned with a huge amount of help from our online fundraising partner, Podium Partners and a very late night (there were lots of these!) followed by an even earlier morning cutting out moon and sunshine sourdough bread shapes, it was time to run. All day!
Nine runners, seven Mini Mermaids and their families, three parkrun runners and a dog called Flora moved in a continuous relay style throughout the entire 11hrs and 43 minutes. We carried Mini Mermaid with us all the way in the form of one of our fabulous medals (we these give out at the end of the 5k challenges following our 6 or 8 week programmes), tied to a hair band to be sure we didn’t drop her (ahem!).
I’m glad to say the event was, well, uneventful. We achieved our goal, have so far raised over £800, ate wonderful pizza, gorgeous bread with lush peanut butter and nibbled on pieces of lovely granola and flapjack bars. All washed down with bottles of water; everything was donated by some very generous local businesses and really helped to keep us going. No one got injured, which is still a big surprise to me considering none of us had trained for this or been running for much more than 5k at a time for months, or ever!
We’ve been awarded some funding for the equipment required for our programmes in London like medals, certificates, t-shirts, journals, pens etc. from The VINCI Foundation and our sponsor Dave from Eurovia South, part of Eurovia UK came to the event to present us with a BIG CHEQUE, along with his colleague Bill and Bill’s daughter Katie who took some great photos, thank you. We’re fundraising to try to match the money from VINCI so we can offer free or heavily subsidised programmes in some of the most deprived areas of Hackney and Islington where after school and community programmes wouldn’t otherwise be able to take place. We’re so very grateful for the funding and to everyone who gave up some of their Saturday to come and support us.
We all enjoyed the running, even though things started to hurt towards the end every time another lap came around for each of us. I was glad of the challenge, asking people to give money isn’t always easy and I wanted to hurt a bit to justify their generosity as well as to feel extra good once it was over! I don’t know how to get across the atmosphere of the event, or the happy expressions on people’s faces or the excited giggles and general chit chat or even the slightly low point mid way through when the day already felt very long. What stays with me most about the day is the community spirit that shone through and I’d love to be able to translate that in some way for you.
Whenever a Mini Mermaid chooses to get involved in running or moving their body in any way, that’s always a positive thing for their physical and mental health and makes us all smile. Being able to take the time to chat a bit more to the parents who brought their girls along on the day was a real bonus and felt pretty special. Highbury Fields parkrun gave us a lovely shoutout as one of our runners carried Mini Mermaid during the whole event staying with the tail runner to be sure our relay didn’t interrupt anyone. So many people out and about in the park came over to chat with us and ask what we were up to. We even saw one group three times during the day out walking their dogs. At the start we were strangers, by the end we knew names and chatted freely. It does give me the warm fuzzies meeting new people, especially locals. Hannah and I had been chatting the night before about the benefit of starting Mini Mermaid Running Club at my most local primary school before starting to grow and offer it to new schools. I hadn’t appreciated how much difference keeping it local would make, and it’s during events like Dawn Til Dusk as well as parkrun that I really understand and feel the real active community connection we’ve made here and are continuing to develop. All the hellos and high fins when out and about in Newington Green really do make my day and I hope things continue to feel local enough as we start new programmes in Islington and neighbouring borough Hackney.
Local businesses also gave us some great gifts so we could hold a prize draw which brought smiles to many faces the following Monday when handing them out. There are many memories from the day that I hope will linger for a very long time.
It was kind of local councillor Jenny Kay and deputy mayor of Islington Dave Poyser to pay us a visit towards the end of the event.
Supporting friends, family, the community, local businesses, strangers and park users including those with four legs, THANK YOU from us all!
It truly was a tremendous day and for the runners out there here are some stats:
Over 120 miles run
Countless laps of Highbury Fields
11 hrs 43 minutes of non stop running
1 super supportive parkrun
A tribe of mini, mama and papa mermaids
A community full of positivity, connections and joy
1 deputy mayor striping off in the park to squeeze into our t-shirt
1 councillor commending our work
Plenty of smiles, giggles and high fins!
A cracking amount of money raised to help develop Mini Mermaids and Young Tritons in Hackney and Islington!
It really does take a community to do something like this and although our tired legs are now feeling fresher, the happy hearts we left with stay full of joy and hope that we can encourage more young people to lead a balanced life with higher levels of self esteem than the current stats confirm. If we can help them understand that strength isn’t only about your body, but your mind and what’s in your heart too, while really truly falling in love with movement, then we’ll be doing our job.
The parkrun runners:
Special guest runner:
Flora the dog
The local businesses that supported us:
Oi Vita - pizza and more
Shine Holistic - hair, health, beauty
Newington Green Fruit & Veg
Mother Earth - cafe & shop
Shaun - maker of Shaun’s Nuts Bar
Gallo Nero - Italian deli
Dandy - restaurant, cafe, bakery
Belle Epoque Patisserie
It was the end of European Week of Sport and we were most certainly part of the #beactive campaign.
You can still support our campaign if you’d like to here. Brittany is hoping to start volunteering with us in the near future and is running the New York Marathon on 5th November. She's generously raising money for our campaign, so please help her motivation on the day by making a donation if you can.
So where to finish…? Dusk of course, 6.42pm. Swiftly followed by a very long train journey back home to Leeds for Hannah and fish n chips with mushy peas & champagne for the rest of us!
Mini Mermaids at Nightingale Academy was a really positive experience for all the girls involved. We picked a mixture of girls who had a range of needs which we thought Mini Mermaids could help with. For example there were some girls who were new to school and spoke little English, so each training session provided them with an opportunity to chat in a small group and socialise with other girls that they might not play with/be in class with. A lot of the girls benefitted from this and this was helped by Aurora who was able to translate key vocab for the girls.* It was lovely for them to have Aurora to translate if they needed, I think it made them feel included and gave them more confidence to ask questions.
There was also a marked improvement in the behaviour of two of the girls in particular. It was great to see them open up a bit more each week and become more confident in their abilities. The sessions also allowed me and the other teacher involved to build relationships with girls that we don't normally teach which is hugely important especially in a small school. I found it easier to understand the girls behaviour out on the playground because I had got to know them through our sessions. One girls began to speak to me at lunchtimes and break times about stuff going on at home which is a huge step for her :)
Parental engagement was good and there was lots of positive feedback from the parents. A dad of one of the girls said that he had noticed a change in her confidence and positivity since she had started running. All the parents were so proud of the girls each week and were all very happy for the girls to be part of such a great opportunity!
Coach Caroline was super enthusiastic and the girls loved her. She was really friendly and approachable and we enjoyed getting to know her.
We were so lucky to have Mini Mermaids at our school and the girls were so proud of their achievements. We had a special assembly where they showed of their medals and some of them even wore their tops to our sports day the following week. Thank you so much for the amazing experience and I hope that Nightingale will now be a regular school for Mini Mermaids.
*One of our coaches was Romanian and helped translated the curriculum for the girls.
I’ve never written a blog before, let alone a guest one! This all came about because I thought guest blogs and other interesting or useful links might be a good addition to the Mini Mermaid Running Club UK website. Then this happened...
Great idea about blog. I've never written one but would you like to be one of the first guest bloggers?
Ha, omg, now you’ve got me! Nor have I, I’ll think about it though and maybe I can try to write a bit about my London Sport ambassador thingamy!
So, you can find out about my involvement in the London Sport #LDNMovesMe campaign here. I’m enjoying trying to encourage more people to get active and I hope I’m a good role model.
Maybe it would be good to blog about some of the things I’m passionate about; running, Mini Mermaid Running Club, food, running, volunteering with GoodGym, parkrun and junior parkrun, running, pilates and more recently yoga, running and more running. They don't all sound that interesting now I’ve written them down and if you’re reading this you probably know about MMRC UK any way! Here’s a link about GoodGym and I might blog about that another time if Hannah will have me back!
I generally have plenty to say, which is why I agreed to write this. I’ll talk to almost anyone even if it’s just saying hi when I’m out running. I’m also sure to make eye contact with people when I’m out and about in general, simply because if they need to ask for help for any reason, they at least know I will have seen their efforts to communicate. Mobile phones have a lot to answer for regarding lack of actual person to person communication these days and that’s just within families or groups of friends, let alone the wider general public. Look up every now and again, someone might need you.
Something I’ve noticed over the last few years is that a lot of what I have to ‘say’ stays inside my own head. I talk through stuff with myself all the time, sometimes it’s a full on debate, sometimes it’s about managing my Chimp; mostly it’s me actually talking to myself as if I’m trying to say it to someone else. I think most of the these conversations would be useful for other people or at least interesting, be that advice about being more active or what to eat (I work in nutrition with fitnaturally) or even how over the years I’ve worked towards a more balanced life and how this is so important for body and mind health. But something holds me back from ‘putting it down on paper’, or speaking with people, and certainly from going into very much detail. I worry that I’ll sound smug, that I’ll offend, that it will fall on deaf ears or not be anywhere near as interesting as it all sounds in my own head! I wonder if I feel the pressure, that there just isn’t enough time these days to have the longer ‘proper’ conversations, and if fitting stuff into 140 characters on Twitter is all people want...
I started coaching the Mini Mermaid programme in November 2016 at Newington Green Primary School. My biggest revelation has been how it helps ME! Ha, I know, I volunteer to help others and that is what I do, but by taking girls through the amazing thoughtful evidence-based curriculum and introducing them to the feel good factor involved in being more active, I’ve realised that this is the most effective way to truly make a difference and ‘be heard', and there aren’t many things that make you feel better about yourself than helping others. It’s not really about the words or how to craft what you’re doing, it’s about turning up, putting yourself out there and giving a bit of you - sometimes more sometimes a bit less, it doesn’t really matter. I’m DOING, I AM a positive role model and I’m able to help others find a bit more balance in their lives. I feel comfortable knowing I’m able to do good and help others in some way, simply by giving my time and showing them I care and am willing to listen, which doesn’t need any words at all.
My name is Holly, I’ve been running since I was about 10 and at the lofty age of 32 I still run for fun, have made loads of friends and been to some interesting places with the sport. I wanted to be a Mermaid coach because the programme is a brilliant fusion of sport psychology interventions, personal story telling and running. It makes sense to me and I can see it working in just 6 weeks. I really enjoy teaching the girls how to be strong and trust their instincts while having fun moving their body. I have a young daughter and hope to inspire her to feel proud of her talents and be brave enough to stand up to untruths in the outside world about what it is to be female. I haven’t worked it all out yet but I try to be the version of myself I'm most happy with so she has a good role model.