Moira McCarthy


Masters in Major Programme Management


United States


Not for profit, public interest



By Moira McCarthy

MMPM11 United by Covid-19 in unanticipated ways

The rally cry went out to the MSc in Major Programme Management Cohort 11 class on May 27, 2020: “In the interest of bonding and as an incentive to exercise, you are invited to participate in the “Cohort 11 5K!” Date: July 12-17, Place: Wherever you are. The response was immediate and thunderous (or at least what passes for thunderous on WhatsApp):

“This is great!”

“I’m in!”

“Count me in”

“Does running on a treadmill count?”

“I can’t run, but I can cycle”

Count me in.  I need to get motivated to get my ass out the door and do some training for the half marathon in October.”

The responses rolled in, each more exuberant than the last – it was just the thing we needed for connecting while we remained apart.

Throughout June we shared our progress, screen shots of running routes, training results, and the sights we saw along the way. We encouraged each other with virtual high fives and affirmations. While the pandemic kept us in various forms of isolation, we found ourselves bound by Oxford, looming assessment deadlines, and the 5K. In our chat, we shared our hopes (reuniting in Oxford), fears (missing a deadline), and disappointments. We acknowledged that not being able to gather for in-person instruction paled in comparison to what the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, and the gaps it revealed in the world’s societal fabric.

The final “5K” took many forms: runs, walks, hikes through hills and up stairwells, bike rides, tennis – the point was to commit to taking care of ourselves and to share a common goal. Look at the photos – they tell a story of joy, accomplishment, commitment, and sharing. Now, no race is complete without a little something to show for it, in our case a ballcap (one size fits all!) “Oxford Saïd” with the number “11” emblazoned on the back.

The thing that drives our separation – COVID-19 – united us in ways we had not anticipated, it helped us lay a strong foundation for our next steps as a Cohort. By turning inward to watch out for and encourage one another in the first stage of the pandemic we now have the strength to turn our efforts outward. The question has already been raised and ideas tossed around as to how we can engage for the long run on a common societal issue as we continue our journey as Master Builders.

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