The Covid-19 pandemic has completely altered our existence. Different countries have different lockdown rules, but for most, the ways we train and socialise have been radically modified. While it would be easy to focus on what we have lost, we wanted to take a look at some of the athletes around the world who have been turning the lockdown on its head and restoring our faith in humanity with their efforts in support of charities and their community through Strava Epics and Backyard exploits.

We scoured social media and Strava for some of the most epic examples of human endurance during these uncertain times. Who knows, it may inspire you to take on your own challenge!

The former UK pro cyclist who destroyed her parents’ garden

On 18 April, former UK professional road cyclist turned endurance racer, Molly Weaver, completed her own take on the annual Dirty Reiver gravel race that was itself due to be held on 18 April. Not content with sitting on her sofa waiting for the 2021 edition, Weaver put her training to good use and rode her own version in her parents’ garden. Cleverly titled the ‘Dirty Weaver’, her efforts were raising money and awareness for the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid. 

The 130km course took in a staggering 1,300 laps of the garden, with her dad providing social media updates on her progress. Molly spent over 12 hours in the saddle and the only times she stopped were to hose down the bike as the conditions became less than favourable from the rain and mud. Overall she managed to raise nearly £14,000 – what a fantastic effort!

Cycling around the world in one day 

World record-breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont is perhaps most famous for cycling around the world in 78 days, and now he is bringing people together through a virtual round the world tour. 

The aptly named ‘Around the world in one day’ challenge encouraged people to join Beaumont on a virtual ride, run or row, in an effort to rack up 18,000 collective miles in one single day to raise money for the UK’s NHS. He recruited athletes of all abilities, so anyone around the world could sign up to take on the challenge of riding any distance (up to 240 miles) in a day to replicate what Mark accomplished during his world record. He’s planning to host this event every Thursday during the UK lockdown period – with 22 April having been the first attempt – and raising over £122,000 for the UK’s National Health Service. 

If you think your back-side can handle 200-odd miles on the turbo, why not sign up or donate here to #donateyourmiles?

The former Aussie rules footballer putting his best foot forward

Although Australia has been under different lockdown rules, it hasn’t stopped them getting involved. Former Aussie Rules Football star Kane Cornes managed to raise $5,000 for the Hospital Research Fund the Fight campaign by running a marathon round his home tennis court. The campaign aims to help find a cure for the Coronavirus by funding clinical trials. Given he was running on a tennis court, he had to change the direction he was running in about half way round as the constant turning took a toll on one side of his body. Despite that, it took Cornes a very reputable four hours to complete.

Rapha’s #26ClimbsChallenge

As a direct result of the pandemic, charities and NGOs have really suffered with the loss of income due in large part to potential fundraising events being cancelled around the globe. In response, the 2.6 Challenge was launched on 26 April, offering people unique ways to raise funds for charities through their own personal efforts. 

Cycling apparel company Rapha designed the #26ClimbsChallenge as a response to this. As we’re sure you guessed, the challenge involved riding a local (or Zwift) climb 26 times between Sunday 26 April and 3 May, and setting up a donation page, or donating yourself to the chosen charity, Ambitious about Autism. Naturally there have been some cracking efforts from riders across the UK, including one rather impressive attempt at a Yorkshire leg stinger ‘Old Pool Bank’. Although a British company, the challenge has seen participants across the world; a rider in Hong Kong conquered Mt. Austin – locally known as ‘The Peak’, which at just under a mile long and averaging 8% with a 30% leg-breaker near the top, it’s nothing to be laughed at. In the states there were active riders across the country, from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. Take a look for yourself using the hashtag #26ClimbsChallenge.

The Solo Sourdough Strava Segment Challenge

Staying on the other side of the pond, US pro cyclist Robin Carpenter has been challenging local riders to beat certain Strava segments, with the prize being a “fresh baked loaf of country sourdough” to the fastest male and female riders of the week, as well as a participation prize for the 10th fastest. Each week sees a different segment up for grabs, why not check him out on Instagram to see if you could put your pent up energy to good use and take on the challenge? 

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SPREAD THE WORD, SAN DIEGO! Alright folks, time to put all that pent up energy to good use and earn some bread! No, not that super cool Gen Z bread but the soft, glutenous, crusty sourdough bread that we all love! For the next week I’ll be peeping the leaderboard on the Torrey Pines segment and will be awarding a fresh baked loaf of country sourdough to the man and woman who set the fast times for the week! I will also be awarding a loaf to the owner of the 10th fastest time for both men and women to encourage participation. That’s 4 loaves up for grabs by the end of the week. All you have to do is try to PR your time on the Torrey Pines segment (we do the whole climb, not to the flashing light) and join this club on strava: This makes it easier for me to track who’s participating and not have to sort through dozens of folks who aren’t going to “get this bread” After the challenge is over I will personally deliver you a loaf of my finest country sourdough for you to enjoy during this special time of isolation. There are only 2 rules, and we’re on the honor system here; it’s just bread after all. 1. You gotta be solo. No leadouts, even from housemates. We don’t all live with friends who can pull us across the flats at 60 kph into the bottom. 2. No e-bikes. But that should have been obvious. P.S. If anybody manages to take the KOM I will put you on my permanent bread sharing list for loaf delivery any time! Link to the club is in my bio. Contest ends at sunset on Sunday, April 18.

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TdF and Olympic Medallists’ ‘Zwift Shifts’ for charity

2018 Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist, Geraint Thomas, has also been utilising indoor cycling during the pandemic. He completed three 12-hour shifts (‘G’s Zwift Shifts’) over three days on the popular turbo training companion Zwift raising money for NHS Charities Together in the UK, and celebrating the work of those on the front-lines. Thomas live streamed the rides from his garage in Wales and Zwift created multiple meet-ups for people to ‘ride’ alongside G during this impressive undertaking. 

Overall his efforts have garnered more than £360,000 and he managed to ride a bum-chafing 1,220km (758 miles). It’s not just the pros having a go either – inspired by G’s challenge, Mak Larkin from the UK completed his own three 12 hour Zwift Shifts, accumulating a massive 740km on his turbo trainer over the three days, and raising over £5000 in donations for NHS charities. 

The back garden Ironman 

It’s not just cyclists that are getting involved in the charitable spirit, triathlete Richard Groome completed his own Ironman distance triathlon within the confines of his back garden to raise money for his local food bank. Swimming for 2.4 miles while tethered in a paddling pool, riding 112 miles on a Wattbike and then running 26.2 miles around his garden, he was active for over 14 hours! Currently he has raised more than £3,000, which will significantly help those in need. 

It’s easy to get sucked into reading about the doom and gloom these days but hopefully some of these examples of human generosity and community have given you a little respite, and perhaps even inspired you to take on your own challenge. 

Plenty of amateur athletes across the globe have been making the most out of the situation by practising their skills, or undertaking challenges such as ‘Everesting’ on Zwift. Any feat of human endurance is impressive, and more-so when it benefits your community. If you have time on your hands, now is the perfect time to see what you’re capable of whilst challenging yourself and backing a charity at the same time.

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