On a sunny Saturday in November, HRW colleagues from our London and Oxfordshire offices congregated in Victoria Park to participate in the Red Run 2019. There, we met people from all walks of life dressed up (or Drag-ed up) in red, with their running shoes on, ready to raise money by running or walking in support of HIV services. Francesca Cooper (Research Executive) shares her experiences of the event, as well the secrets to the success of her training… 

When my colleague Vincent Huart (Senior Research Executive) shared the sign-up for this event to all UK-based HRW team members, it was immediately met with huge enthusiasm: we were eager to get involved in something about which we share a united passion! The annual Red Run encourages people to take part in any way they can, offering the option of a 10K run, 5K run or 5K walk: and, with some naivety, I didn’t hesitate to sign my name up for the 10K run…

The first thing to mention is: I am not a runner. And, in the interests of full disclosure, at the time I had no idea how long 10K was. Of course, I realise that 10K is 10 kilometres, but in terms of how long this should take to run, I was clueless.

Through discussions with other volunteers, I swiftly learned of the personal challenge I had (semi-unknowingly) stepped up to, but with the motivating cause in mind, I was eager to test my limits and stand up in support of those living with HIV and AIDS.

A few days after signing up, I downloaded a ‘Couch to 10K’ app, and visited my seasonal friend – the office gym. After 45 minutes on the treadmill, and as I (dramatically) described it at the time “some heart palpitations”, I’d completed my first ever timed and distance-monitored run. Feeling slightly terrified that I had only managed 4K before reaching my limit, I had officially kick-started my training.

Being honest, over the following months my routine was not completely consistent, and I had more than one prolonged training break; but I always started each run with one goal in mind: “beat the last one”.

Before I knew it, the fateful day had arrived, with over 2,500 attendees gathered to see the drag girl band, Denim, and Gandalf himself – Sir Ian McKellen – prepare us with a motivating speech and the coveted ribbon cutting. It was exciting to see some friendly faces from the industry dressed up in red and ready to take on the challenge in support of such a good cause. In one hour and one minute, I’d successfully ran the furthest distance I ever had in my life, encouraged the entire way by enthusiastic by-standers and supporters.

Through life-changing medical advances and innovation, we are increasingly successful in the battle against the prevalence and consequences of HIV. However, living with HIV remains to be a stigma and unfortunately many sufferers experience delayed diagnosis or no diagnosis at all. Collaborative events like the Red Run are essential in increasing wide-spread awareness, funding and support for those living with HIV. 

While I didn’t catch the running bug per-se, I am motivated to get involved in many more initiatives like this (maybe even beating my personal best next year). I encourage you to get involved too in any way you can, even if you are not a frequent runner like me!


By Francesca Cooper
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