What do you do when you’ve reached the end of the road? Or in INEOS’ case, you have achieved what you set out to do six months early? You set new goals
INEOS – buoyed by the success of its global running campaign GO Run for Fun – is now broadening its horizons to help raise a generation of healthy children.
It has added its weight to former headteacher Elaine Wyllie’s vision to get every child in every school running daily to help in the fight against childhood obesity.
And it is planning to launch an educational programme around its award-winning Dart cartoons to teach children about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.
Elaine pioneered what has become known as The Daily Mile at her primary school in Stirling in Scotland. For the past three years every child in the school has run or walked a mile every day – just for fun.
“The running is the reward,” she said.
Initially INEOS and Elaine’s focus will be on the UK where one in three children are now classed as overweight or obese. But ultimately, together they hope to have a global impact.
“Elaine’s passion, drive and enthusiasm for this are contagious,” said Ian Fyfe, HR Director of INEOS Group, who met her at the flagship GO Run For Fun event at Olympic Park in London in the summer.
The GO Run for Fun events – and so far almost 200 events have been held in the UK, mainland Europe and America – are grand occasions, run in a carnival atmosphere with celebrities to inspire the kids.
“The Daily Mile is effectively a GO Run For Fun event at school every day,” said Ian.
But the aim – and benefits to a child’s health and self-esteem – of both events are the same.
“Both of us have planted a seed for children about how much fun it is to be active, out and about in the open air, taking exercise and getting fitter and more athletic,” he said.
Elaine has now retired as head teacher of St Ninians School where she launched the brilliantly simple scheme after hearing the pupils were exhausted by just the warm-up before their weekly PE lesson. But her work is far from done.
The GO Run For Fun team recently hosted a debate, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park about what needs to be done in the UK to tackle its growing childhood obesity crisis.
Elaine was among the four panellists introduced to an audience of journalists and guests by Charlie Webster, a GO Run For Fun ambassador and TV sports presenter.
“Childhood is the time to instil the right messages about fitness and what to eat,” said Dr Paul Sacher, another panellist who helped INEOS to produce an educational video aimed at children. “If we miss that opportunity we have not done our job as parents, teachers and as a society.”
All four panellists, who also included INEOS GO Run For Fun Director Leen Heemskerk and ‘Marathon Man’ Rob Young, want the UK school curriculum to change so that physical exercise is deemed as important as maths and English, from primary school age.
“We have a serious problem out there,” said Paul. “It is now more normal to be overweight.”
That’s not the case at Elaine’s former school where not one of the 420 children is overweight.
“They look lean and they are energised,” she said “And they are more alert in lessons.”
But she told the panel that the school hadn’t always been a picture of health.
In 2012, after being told how unfit her children were, she took a class on to the school field and asked them to run around it. Most could only manage one lap.
Four weeks later – after the introduction of The Daily Mile – all of them could run the mile without stopping.
“I knew it would improve their fitness,” she said. “But I saw more than that. The children were bright-eyed, less fractious, better behaved and seemed happier. It improved their mental and physical well-being so much so that our children now think it is normal to run.”
At St Ninians no time is wasted changing into running kits. The children run for 15 minutes in the clothes they wear in the classroom and then get back to work.
“It costs nothing and the children enjoy it,” she said. “You just need passion, not facilities.”
The GO Run For Fun Foundation shares a similar ethos.
The campaign was launched by INEOS in September 2013 with a £1.5 million donation spread over three years to encourage children to run for fun.
Chairman Jim Ratcliffe, who is a keen runner, hoped 100,000 children would have taken part in one of 100 planned events in the UK by the end of July 2016.
To date, more than 188 events have been staged, not only in the UK, but in mainland Europe and Texas in the USA, and the 100,000th runner crossed the finish line at Wavertree Athletics Track in Liverpool last month (November) – six months ahead of schedule.
“We have been amazed by the response from around the world,” said campaign manager John Mayock, a three-time Olympic finalist and Commonwealth Games medallist. “It’s fantastic to be making such progress.”
And that progress is set to continue as INEOS and its new partners seek an antidote to today’s modern ills.