A team of 92 Somervillians have completed a virtual 15,000 mile virtual journey down the Pan-American Highway during lockdown to raise money for mental health charity Young Minds.

With a long winter lockdown looming, our community needed something to help us stay active and get ourselves through the dark months together. Our Communications Manager Matt Phipps proposed a challenge – a Big Teams Challenge, in fact: to walk, run and cycle the equivalent length of the Pan-American Highway together in just 6 weeks.

Using the Big Teams Challenge platform, 14 teams of Somervillians virtually made their way from the frozen reaches of Alaska to Ushaia, Argentina (the world’s southernmost city), travelling 15,000 miles and over 36 million steps in the process. Weekly updates were provided through the staff newsletter, introducing the travellers to each new milestone on the journey.

Best of all, the breadth of the Somerville community came together for the challenge, with staff, students, academics and alumni included among the 92 runners and walkers. The winning team, ‘The Cindy Gallopers’, was even named after prominent Somerville alumna, marketing mogul and entrepreneur Cindy Gallop (1977, English). They notched up 3,873.3km during the challenge, despite having no fewer than two (apparently unstoppable) grandmothers on their team.

Overall, the challenge raised £1,686 for Young Minds. The mental health charity supports children and young people, a cause that seems more important than ever given the impact of the pandemic over the last year. We are grateful to everyon who so kindly donated to support this cause.

After a well deserved ice bath and Easter break, the team plan to celebrate the end of the challenge with a virtual trip to Ushaia, having already done the hard miles to get there. Well done!

The participants tracked their progress along the Pan-American Highway through the Big Team Challenge platform

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