For the past two weeks I have been on strike in support of the University and College Union industrial action over cuts to pensions, pay cuts, casualisation, equality pay gaps and unsafe workloads. This post isn’t about the strike but the role running has had in this strike.

To mix up the picket lines, and to keep warm on bitterly cold strike days, the Leeds UCU branch have organised a “running picket line”. Every day we meet up and run three laps around the circumference of the University campus with whistles, banners and flags. It helps me gets a 10K run in before lunch time, but more importantly it has allowed me to meet fellow striking colleagues who I wouldn’t usually meet during my regular working day.

I find that running as a group provides an easy way to speak to new people, hear about why they’re striking, hear about why they’re running, and hear what they love about their work. I’ve run with post-docs in plant science, professors in romantic literature, language support staff, PhD students, school engagement officers and library staff! While the journeys that brought us to the University vary wildly we come together everyday and run for a common cause. The first lap often involves introductions to new-comers, the second lap allows people to mingle in naturally paced groups, and by the third lap, high on endorphins, we’re ready to take on the world!

More widely, away from campus and strikes, I love how group running allows people from all walks of life to come together and create a powerful energy and joie de vivre. At least that’s what I have found from running with NLFR and UCU.



Helen Freeman

“Why do you like running in a group?!”