Runners & Dreamers
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Runners & Dreamers

£10,000 raised. The Run for A Bus Story.

Over the weekend of June 26th-28th fourteen runners took part in a fund raising run for London’s Bus Drivers. Organised by Mike Higgins and James Cooper of Runners & Dreamers, the event managed to raise over £10,000.

This is the story and the incredible people that helped make it happen.

The Idea.

James: During lockdown Mike and I tried to meet up once a week to run and chat. We were very careful to always be two meters apart and give people a wide berth but it was noticeable — especially with older people, that some people didn’t appreciate us running near them.

I had been training for the Brighton Marathon and Mike was considering doing another marathon too. So when Mike read that 26 bus drivers had lost their lives to Covid that sparked a thought. This was also the same time that people were running marathons in their gardens or along their balconies. Running could be a force for good.

Mike: Like James says, from our New Year training we had the legs, but nowhere to race. So we just kept meeting up and plodding around the empty streets of London. And I mean empty. In April on a run up west, we headed from Sloane Square to Hyde Park and didn’t pass a single car. Try that now… Throughout those early lockdown days, I was reading about all sorts of people locally and around the country doing something to help. I wanted to do something too. But what? The answer came on a quick run into my local park in Crystal Palace. As I nipped across Anerley Road I saw a lone bus crawling up the hill. I knew about the bus drivers that were dying of Covid-19. There’s a bus terminus about half a mile from where I live. Could we organise a run to raise funds for the families of bus drivers who had succumbed to Covid?

James: Perhaps a marathon along London Bus routes to raise money? As a creative director, for me an idea is not really an idea until it has a catchy name. So later I scribbled down a few words before landing on ‘Run For A Bus’. I texted Mike and we went from there.

Mike — Run For A Bus. Brilliant. And obvious. And brilliant because obvious. I researched an appropriate organisation we could raise funds for, and found The Transport Benevolent Fund. They were quick to respond, agreeing that they would ring-fence the funds we raised for relevant applicants and pointing us to Virgin Giving as their preferred platform.

The preparation.

James: When? Neither of us were really in marathon shape — a month of banana bread and hob nobs, compounded with no more commute runs had knocked me off my ideal condition. We thought we needed two months to prep physically and the same to organise. So we settled on the weekend of June 26–28. With two kids it’s actually easier for me to do long runs on a weekday than the weekend and I also liked the idea of running 26 miles on the 26th. Friday June 26th it was.

Mike: I wasn’t worried too much about the training: we were going to take this run very very easy. I started looking at routes for our run and quickly realised that a run following the 249, 3 and 363 routes (with a bit of a tour round Green Park) amounted to 26.2 miles (thanks to the Google Maps measuring tool, v handy). James and I chatted about getting other runners involved — not just joining us on our bus marathon, but running along whatever London bus routes they fancied, perhaps just a few km, and join the Virgin Giving page Run For A Bus team.

By now James and I had posted a little about #RunForABus on Twitter and Instagram. A Crystal Palace neighbour of mine, Peter Noorlander, knocked on the door and said he *definitely* wanted to run the bus marathon with us and *definitely* wanted to get involved more. Within about 10 minutes he had set up a Facebook page and was fund-raising hard. The money was coming in, starting with generous neighbours, friends and family, and then beyond. We were off!

James: As soon as we landed on the Run for A Bus Idea I asked my creative partner Flo Heiss to do us a little logo. We did a post and hit the socials. The week leading up to the run was a whirlwind of activity. Tweets and Instagram, a little LinkedIn — everything helped. We got on the radio and had some nice mentions (thank you Cerys Matthews on Radio 6 Music, clip here and Radio Verulam in St Albans) — helping us get to about £7,000 before we ran a step.

Mike: Social media works! By 25 June we had about a dozen more runners all over London on the team, pledging to run local bus routes and raise money. It was fantastic to see people all round London get the idea and get on board. We even had a Run For A Bus ultra-runner: Jimmy Mould would go on to run over 50km on Saturday night. Earlier that week I’d decided that we needed to formalise Run For A Bus: we got it registered as a virtual running event, registered it under the name of our running group Runners & Dreamers (England Athletics, UK Athletics and Run Britain were all extremely helpful in turning round the paperwork in two days). In the runner guidance I sent out, I reminded everyone that though they were following bus routes, they shouldn’t be running in bus lanes. Just in case.

James: I also reached out to my friend Mills who is connected to the good people at Tribe nutrition. From their instagram feed I had a hunch they might want to help us spread the word and maybe chuck in some bars. I spoke with Tom Stancliffe the founder and after five minutes he was in. An Uber was on its way with three very sweet Tribe x Ciele running caps and a box of delicious energy treats.

Thanks to Tom and Will from Tribe.

The run.

The weather that week had been hardcore. In the 30s every day. I checked Dark Sky every five minutes. On Thursday night it broke with a huge thunderstorm. The rain stopped about an hour before we started to run. It was really sticky but I was constantly brushing against trees to get some water for my face. Then the sun appeared and what was supposed to be an overcast day turned into another scorcher. We ran like vampires, chasing the shade.

Mike: We were very pleased to be joined at 7am on that Friday morning for the first part of our bus-route marathon by Darryn Lapham from the Transport Benevolent Fund. He was running his own 18-mile loop that overlapped with ours and looked well set when we parted ways near Crystal Palace. But boy was it warm. The Ciele hats that Tribe had kindly sent us never left our heads. Andy, another Run For A Bus fundraiser, had completed his run the day before on that scorching Thursday… in a mask. Oof. The weather was slightly cooler on the Friday, but not much. Fortunately, we had helpers with food and drink at miles 8, 15 and 23 (thank you Gavanndra, Thao, Geraldine and Simon!). It might have been collapso time without their help.

James: Darryn was originally from Zimbabwe and South Africa so we had a great chat about that part of the world as I have spent a lot of time there traveling and camping.

Our first checkpoint was Crystal Palace. Some water, bananas and Tribe bars. Pouring ice cold water on the Tribe caps was lovely. Having lived and trained in New York for the last 12 years I’m used to the heat but I also know a few tricks.

We went through Herne Hill and Brixton. Into town over Lambeth Bridge. The centre of town was empty. The normal tourist hotspots like St James Palace, №10, Buckingham Palace and The Mall were all deserted. We ran down the centre of the Mall.

Not quite the finish of the London Marathon but…

Our pace throughout had been just over an 8 minute mile, a minute slower than my normal pace, so I was feeling pretty good. The going got tough after about Mile 16. I remember slowly climbing the Charing Cross footbridge steps and feeling the hot sun on my non sun-creamed body (because it was supposed to be cloudy!) on the exposed bridge. I’m one of those runners where if I keep going I can…keep going, but every time we stopped for a traffic light it became harder to get going again.

All the way down the Old Kent Road and into Peckham was hard. It was hot, there was no shade and it began to get really busy with people. It’s now 10am. We’ve been running for three hours.

Mike: James is not wrong. Those last 15 miles were like running into a hair dryer. Fun? Not much. By now, Peter had a nasty case of nipple rash — the bloodstains on his Run For A Bus shirt were a bit alarming, so off it came and on he went. They breed ’em tough in Holland.

James: We had another stop in Peckham Rye where I guzzled half a bottle of Orange Lucozade. I know this is not a good idea as I get stomach issues but it just tasted so bloody amazing that I couldn’t resist.

We look OK for Mile 23.

The last two miles up the steep hill to Crystal Palace were really really hard. Mike and Pete seemed to be in good shape and ploughed ahead. Part of that was probably that they knew this stretch well both living in Crystal Palace. For me the hill seemed never ending.

Mike: Sydenham Hill. It’s a bit of a beast, a ramp that approaches 20% gradient at its steepest. But at least it’s short, and after that, flat. Local knowledge helps. By then we had another Crystal Palace neighbour with us, Stephen, who cajoled us along the last few miles.

James: We got to the top and both Mike and Pete upped the pace, again because they knew our endpoint of the Crystal Palace Bus Terminus was just around the corner. I didn’t know this and thought they had lost their fucking minds, but I just about managed to stay with them until we got to the finish line where friends and family met us with drinks and snacks.

I was beat. We walked back to Mike’s flat where I disappeared into his garden chair, got severe pins and needles and then a small dose of cramp.

But we had raised another £1000 just in the four hours we had been on the road. So it was all well worth it.

Louisa on the 249 route
Carl ran several routes over the weekend
Jez nails the 73!

The team.

Mike: Over that weekend Andy Hill, Andy Roche, James, Darryn, Carl, Louisa, Jimmy, Jez, Syd, Paul, Francesca, Laura, Caroline, Callum and Alfie ran along bus routes all over London — a huge thank you to all of them for their fantastic efforts. In the days that followed further donations took the total to £8393.31 — with Gift Aid that’s over £10,000 for the families of London bus drivers who have succumbed to Covid-19.


We’re in touch with the Transport Benevolent Fund (hi Darryn), discussing the details of how the funds will be dispensed. We’ll get back in touch with more news. As well as the money of course, we also feel like we are doing our bit to raise the profile of the plight of London bus workers, and transport workers in general, in the pandemic. We ran for London’s bus drivers, because they keep London running.

For the bus workers’ sake, I hope we don’t have to Run For A Bus again next year. But if the need was there, I’d love to do it.


The Next Runners & Dreamers event is the Sub 3 Series, a paced sub 3 marathon attempt in the Autumn. Did you train for a sub 3 only for your race to be cancelled? Join the club.

Join us as we run quite fast but massively slower than Kipchoge.



A running group for the creative community in London and beyond.

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