As part of Samaritans awareness day, we asked Kevin and Claire at Run Things to write us a blog about mental health. Kevin kindly sent us the following.
The reason Run Things was set up was to bridge that gap between physical and mental health. There has been such a huge culture shift in recent years that has allowed people to talk more openly about their mental health and how it’s affected both positively and negatively. For many people, exercise – and running in particular – has become a crutch in one way or another. One thing we’ve realised is that whilst running is running, the effect it has on people and the reason they do it can be so varied. For some, it’s structure and aiming for a goal. It might be time to think and reflect and it might be time to switch off. There are people who want to run so hard they feel like they want to be sick – a sort of self-punishment and test of one’s mettle. But then there are those people who never do more than a ‘plod’ because they want to talk and socialise and have fun.
For me personally, running has been everything in that list and more. My life has been up and down like it has for many people and one of my biggest coping mechanisms has been to embrace running to support me. When my dad died, running was a chance to grieve; to cry and not be seen. I’ve run so hard I’ve had that taste of blood in my throat, the pulsing in my ears and the fight to keep the vomit down. I’ve challenged myself to refuse to give up and to run as fast as I possibly can. The euphoria of crossing a finish line knowing I have nothing else to give has made me stronger in all facets of my life. For a long time, that was running to me. But now that rarely happens (who knows, maybe I’m less driven. Or maybe I have nothing to prove any more). Now, running is peaceful and running is social. For the first 5 years of his life, I ran with my son in his buggy. We both cried when we had to retire it because it meant so much to both of us – it was good for our mental health.
There are all sorts of statistics out there that state people who run are happier. That when people run, their body releases serotonin, a hormone that is associated with anxiety control and mood. Sure, that might well be the case, but perhaps sometimes we get hooked up on science when actually, doing whatever we love, is likely to make us happier. Run Things makes us happy. It came about to support people who needed help – to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity. We wanted to put on events that are open to all – people who get anxious in crowds can now take part in large events from the comfort of their own company. People who struggle with their confidence, feel down, have caring responsibilities, can’t get out of their house – they can all take part! We’ve seen some amazing friendships form as a result of what Run Things has become and it’s because we pretend that running matters but really, it’s just a vehicle to give people a bit of self-belief, a target and a means to communicate with others. That’s what we’re really doing!
What we forget is that mental health ISN’T mental illness. They’re used interchangeably and actually, not everyone with bad mental health has a mental illness. Everyone has a responsibility to look after their mental health and like their physical health, a few easy lifestyle changes can go a long, LONG way. Let’s just hope that people continue to feel empowered enough to say their mental health is not great, as freely as people are willing to tell everyone they have a cold!
Run Things has a virtual run club that is available to everyone – offering training support, a club coach and physio, events, activities and plenty of friendly faces. Why not join up, get your club top and start representing the club whenever you get out the door?