Ottery woman’s lockdown virtual marathon in aid of Hospiscare gives new meaning to distance running

An Ottery St Mary businesswoman has turned creative with exercise so she can run a virtual marathon and raise funds for Hospiscare.

Laura Saunders, aged 26, opened her boutique gift shop LauryLee, in Broad Street, in January and had been set to hold its first fundraiser at the end of March, in aid of Hospiscare.

When the coronavirus lockdown forced her to cancel the event, Laura became determined to fulfil her pledge to run the Exeter marathon in May, so she can continue fundraising for the charity, which faces a loss of at least £1million due to the pandemic.

Laura has set up a JustGiving page and hopes people will show their support for her efforts by donating some money to Hospiscare.

She will live stream her marathon run on Facebook, so supporters can watch her efforts and cheer her on from afar.


Laura previously ran the Geneva half marathon.

Laura is inviting people to suggest their favourite tracks so she can compile a playlist of music to keep her going on her solo run.

Before lockdown, Laura had been marathon training four times a week, spending the remaining time at the gym or swimming.

Now her efforts have moved closer to home, using the garden for circuit training, lifting plastic bottles filled with water as weights, and taking her daily exercise time to run routes locally.

She said: “Since the lockdown’s been in place, I’ve had to be a lot more conscious about running routes and listening to my body. Whereas before I’d push myself to keep going further, or faster, I’m now being a lot more cautious, not wanting to add any more strain to the NHS.

“I’m taking routes that I know will be quieter and less populated, and running earlier in the morning to ensure less people are about – obviously keeping a distance if I do see people approaching, or crossing over if safe to do so.

“I’m also keeping my routes a lot closer to home that I normally would have done, and looping back rather than running out further.

“In line with government guidelines I’m only running routes from my front door so I’ve had to get creative with my runs to keep it interesting.

“The hardest part at the moment is not being able to run with anybody, so I am having to motivate myself to run and hold myself accountable.”

She added: “The hardest part during the marathon will be motivating myself along the way. I’m asking people to send song suggestions so I can create a playlist and know people are supporting me during the run by listening to the song they suggested.”

If all goes to plan, Laura will run the 26.2mile marathon without stopping on Sunday, May 24, starting at 10am, either in loops around her garden, or to a route near her home.

She has left planning the exact route until nearer the date and will stick to whatever government rules are in place.

Laura said: “The marathon will be run as any other marathon, all in one go. The only difference is I’ll be running alone. No competitors, no crowds, no snack stations and sadly no finishing line and medal. Hopefully I’ll persuade a household member to help handout drinks and snacks.

“Initially when the marathon was cancelled, I was slightly relieved I could continue running but at a much more leisurely pace and have a few more months to train for my first marathon.

“However, seeing that Hospiscare and other local charities were struggling, I realised I had to still do something to help raise funds.

“Not knowing any other way to raise money while in lockdown I decided that this would be a great opportunity to merge the two together and have fun with it still.

“As it’s not an official marathon I won’t be pushing myself too hard, but I’d still love to achieve the under four-hour goal.

“I wasn’t going to run the Exeter marathon to raise funds, having already asked family and friends to attend the instore charity event that was planned instead, but obviously I have adapted this to the marathon attempt now.”

She added: “With the current situation I’ll be listening to my body and not pushing as hard as I might have done in normal circumstances.

“I’ve not yet planned the exact route I’ll take on the day as I will wait until nearer the time and listen to the government guidance for this.

“If needed I’ll run one mile twenty-six times, or even loops around my garden if guidance suggests staying home completely.

“I’m hopeful that it won’t come to that though as it might get a little boring.”

Laura said she had been prompted to adapt her marathon run in aid of Hospiscare after learning the charity faced losing £1million within the next three months.

The charity, which helps terminally ill patients and their families in Exeter, East and Mid Devon, has had to close all its income-earning charity shops and cancel all fundraising events because of the pandemic.

The businesswoman had been due to hold an instore fundraiser for Hospiscare on March 28, with bake sale, raffle and silent auction, but her plans were scuppered when the Government announced the UK was in coronavirus lockdown.


Laura in her gift shop LauryLee, in Ottery St Mary.

Laura said: “After two months of planning and liaising we had many generous donations and were all set for the charity event, when along with all non-essential businesses, we had to close.

“As much of a loss as this is for small businesses, I quickly realised that charities such as Hospiscare were struggling a lot worse.

“Not only had they had to close their charity shops, but a lot of events, such as the instore event I had planned, now would not be going ahead.

“They had estimated a loss of £1 million up to the end of June as a result of Covid-19.

“When I heard this statistic, I knew I had to do something to help and while I couldn’t offer an instore event, I thought perhaps I can still run the marathon I had intended to originally in order to raise funds for Hospiscare. Hence I decided to put back on my running shoes and continue training for the marathon.”


Laura has set up a JustGiving page and hopes people will show their support for her efforts by donating some money to Hospiscare.

Donate to Hospiscare through Laura’s JustGiving page here.

Follow her training progress, suggest playlist tracks and watch the live stream of Laura’s virtual marathon run here.

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