with Olivia Strong, MBE
Most discoveries, achievements and projects start with someone envisaging a
simple idea. Before taking one small but big step.
See.Think.Do is a series of conversations with a range of visionaries who did just that.
Kicking off the series with documentary film producer Olivia Strong, MBE who founded the £5 for 5km Run for Heroes challenge during Lockdown that swept across the globe. We caught up with Olivia to talk netflix crime series, cold water swimming and finding headspace.
Hi Olivia. Whereabouts are you at the moment?
I’ve recently moved back to Edinburgh from London. I’d just finished producing a Netflix crime series and had a break in my contract so decided to come home until January. It’ll be nice to spend time with the family and kickstart my next adventure.
What is getting you excited right now?
Honestly, the simple pleasure of having a bit more time and deciding how I want
to spend it. A morning stroll instead of a crammed tube – it’s small things that
make a big difference to our everyday lives!
Tell us about the Run for Heroes Campaign...what sparked the idea?
Back in March I came back to Edinburgh from London as we went into a national lockdown. My contract on a BBC / Hulu co-production had been cut down to a 2-day week and suddenly I was home with all this free time on my hands.
It was 3 days into lockdown and pouring with rain, but I forced myself to go on a run. I went to my usual spot around Arthur Seat and noticed how many people were out doing the same. I thought "why don’t we pay to go on our daily exercise"?
If we ran 5k, donated £5, and nominated 5 people maybe we could raise 5k.
I got home, set up an Instagram account and the following day pushed it out to
friends and family. At that point India and Alice came on board to cover all
branding and PR. It snowballed from there!
How much money have you raised now? What’s been the highlight?
It’s raised over £7 million – crazy as I remember how excited I was when it reach 7k!
There’s been a lot of highs and also some lows, but an epic moment was
reaching £5 million. We were eagerly refreshing the donation page until it
reached the target – and it happened exactly one month in!
From £5 to £5 million really highlights the power of people when we come
together for a worthwhile cause.
What have you learnt in the last 6 months, that you could apply to your next challenge/goal?
2020 has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve learnt more in the past 6 months
than I have in the past 6 years. Actually I think everyone has, people just might
not realise yet!
I’ve definitely learnt how important family and friends are, but also how valuable
our freedom is. I’ve learnt that life is fragile and the need for us to be flexible is
so important. The world will throw all sorts at us all the time, but it’s how we
learn from this and adapt.
What's been inspiring you recently?
I’ve been inspired by change. I feel our best ideas come to us when we change
our daily routines – it forces us to have a different outlook on life.
How important is looking after your mental health? What helps you manage it?
More than ever it’s important to actively take time out to focus on our mental
wellbeing. It’s important to know your triggers and find ways of best coping with
For me, when I’m down, overwhelmed with work or feeling a bit grey – I go on a
run. Even if I have to really force myself to, I know it gives me the headspace I
I often find this helps while working on hard hitting documentaries – it can take
its toll. I go to bed thinking about it and have learnt that I can’t work on back to
back crime docs for example. Like anything though it’s important to know your
limits and to check in with yourself regularly.
What’s your advice for taking that first big small step? (in anything)
If you have an idea - just go for it. Shut your eyes and jump in the deep end as
you’ll never know where you’ll end up! Sometimes the hardest thing is taking that big small step, and the worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out. Pick yourself up and try again!
Any bad habits you’d like to kick?
I’d LOVE to be a morning person. I’m always so envious of people that wake up
at the crack of dawn and get about a million activities in before I’ve even woken.
I’m trying to get myself into the habit but right now it’s failing slighty....
How will you measure “success” in 10 years time?
Being content and happy in whatever you do is the biggest success in my mind!
What’s the next adventure?It’s a Run For Heroes adventure. I’m in the process of setting it up as a charity
and planning our next event. Apart from that I’m trying to be more present in the
now, as nobody knows what is around the corner.
Top Local Spot: Milk Café, Inverleith Park
Watch out for: @in_casa_by_paboy: Amazingly talented cushion designer currently seeking asylum in Europe from Gambia – check him out!
Best new thing: Cold water swimming!
Smallest change/ biggest impact: Disable notifications on your apps
(and turning your phone on airplane mode at night)
Your message in a bottle: Worry less and appreciate more.
What's doing at Days? (from Mike & Duncs)
Doing: Blog posts
Trying: Hylo Athletics
Listening: Young People Doing Things
Learning: How to code blog posts on shopify