feet running on a dirt road

Meet the Friendly Faces Behind UNE’s Social Running Group

As part of the exciting UNE Healthy Campus initiative, a group of passionate UNE staff and community members have newly founded the UNE Social Running Group (USRG).

The USRG is for runners of all backgrounds and experience levels, with beginners especially encouraged to attend. It provides a unique opportunity for newbies to gain experience alongside more experienced runners, with lots of guidance, support and encouragement to be provided within an open and friendly group setting.

The USRG will be hosting weekly run sessions at SportUNE every Thursday (commencing on the 18th of January), with a 12.30 PM session to be run by Mark McClelland and a 5.00 PM session run by Anthony Rogers.

Mark currently works within Estate & Built Environment (EBE) as a carpenter and has been at UNE for about 3 years, with 2 years of running experience under his belt. He is hoping to help bring lots of new and inexperienced people into the running world, through the USRG.

Anthony works at UNE Life as the General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services, where he has been for over a year. He has been a recreational runner for 30 years (starting when he was 17) and is passionate about reaching new race goals and assisting others to do the same.

We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mark and Anthony about their love of running and why they are participating in the UNE Social Running Group.

Read on to learn more:

1. What ignited your passion for running, and why should someone participate in events like the UNE Healthy Campus Run? 

 Anthony: Sport has always been a big part of my life and particularly from my teenage years it was running. I love the feeling of ‘runner’s high’ with that feeling of mood improvement I experience after a long run. It is so addictive. If I go too long without a run, I start to get a bit agitated, as I have become so accustomed to the mood improvement benefits it has provided me over decades of recreational running.

Mark: I believe running to be so much more than just physical activity. It has the power to truly make you understand your body and mind and what it is capable of. People should get involved in the UNE healthy campus run simply to get oxygen through the lungs and use some lunchtime energy to create a more social, physical and mental you.

2. In what ways do you believe running fosters social connections and a sense of community?

Anthony: Running is quite unique in that it can be as social as you want it to be. From running alone in a remote rural setting, feeling like you are the only one in existence, to a massive running event like the City2Surf going from the Sydney CBD to the beach, where I competed with about 60,000 runners, it has provided me with so very many positive social experiences. I regularly find myself thinking about how other people need to be told about the good news of running and wonder how anyone could go through life not experiencing such positive experiences. I just think how they are missing out on an affordable and practical means of radically improving their mental health and well-being.

Mark: For me running used to be about getting lost,” some time to yourself”. But now it’s a social thing and I find running in a group not only motivates you but also helps you push boundaries if you choose to. It’s like any sport, the comradery during and after, connects people because it requires determination, teamwork, and effort.

3. We often hear about the physical benefits of running, but how have you personally experienced its positive effects on mental health and wellbeing – can you give us an example of this?

Anthony: Distance running is one of my favourite ways to get away from the pressures of life and go off to my special place. I have a course around my home approximately 5kms from the centre of town in Armidale. It is 14km in distance and I try and complete it 3 times a week, starting at dawn before work and doing different types of run sessions. I do have to keep the course a secret though, as it is very quiet and so scenic, so I would not want to spoil losing the serenity it gives me.

Mark: After 15 years of rugby my body didn’t feel like it was up for the challenges of running. But after a “mind” adjustment, I went for it, realising it was more the mental challenges stopping me than physical ones. Get your mind right and you can achieve anything, and two years of running has taught me that.

4. How do you encourage others to embrace running to improve their overall health, both physically and mentally?

Anthony: I have been a recreational runner for nearly 30 years (starting when I was 17) and am more motivated than ever to kick my race goals and assist others in doing the same. I have found it is very important to enter at least one fun run each year to motivate you to keep on running. This is not essential, but it does add another dimension to the experience.

Mark: It’s like anything, it’s about “doing”. Anyone can run, but it’s how you would like to do it. So many people say to me they don’t run because they’re not fast but it’s not about being fast, it’s about getting your mind and body through certain challenges and continuing to do so. Challenge yourself and have fun along the way.

5. Why is helping with the UNE Healthy Campus initiative attractive for you – what do you hope to bring to the events?

 Anthony: I am very excited about the UNE social running group starting in 2024 as I am passionate about passing on my love of running with all its physical and mental health benefits to as many people as I can. I look forward to running with as many beginner runners as possible at the UNESRG 2024.

Mark: Being a part of Healthy Campus initiatives is exciting for me because I could bring my own personal experiences of how exercise and running has changed and guided me through the many ups and downs that life has to offer. And it’s not about punishing yourself, it can actually put you in a good mood and help you get through those life struggles and long workdays.

Getting involved is as simple as filling out the EOI form, with the option of joining the Strava Group, which you can participate in no matter where you live or work.

Keep up to date with all UNE Healthy Campus events and activities on the Healthy Campus webpage and by following UNE Life on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, where we post frequently about UNE Healthy Campus and other exciting things happening around UNE.