Running For Mental Health – A Reader’s Story

I’ve been contacted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous (which I respect) but who has a story to tell about running and mental health.

I haven’t done an update on my 10k training recently, so it felt like a good time to kill two birds with one stone. So far, we’ve raised £523 for the Lincoln City Foundation, and there’s still a month to go before the race. My own preparations are coming on ok; last week, I ran my first sub-30 minute 5k since I had Covid, and I’ve done 40k this month, with another 10k to do this week. However, I’m still suffering from a strain in my right leg, and my runs are powered by Ibuprofen, Deep Heat and the knowledge because I’ve announced my run to my readers, I can’t back out!

If you can spare anything at all, please head here and sponsor me and Rob Bradley, who are running the Lincoln 10k for Lincoln City Foundation’s mental health services. I’m going to be able to tell you more about those in two weeks after I pop along to visit Martin and the team and be shown exactly what they do.

In the meantime, it was lovely to get this email (I do have the person’s name, but you must understand some people are not comfortable talking about their mental health publicly) about the Couch to 5k and the benefits of running.


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Hi Gary,

I wanted to reach out and say thank you for your recent articles on running and mental health. It’s fair to say your article had a big impact on me because it came at a very tough time. Please let me explain.

In June I lost a family member and it hit me hard. Recently, with the cost of living, things have been tough anyway and the summer just felt a bit pointless. I couldn’t afford to go out and drink my sorrows away and I ended up just wallowing and moping about without any real purpose. It came to a head over the August bank holiday weekend. Normally I’d be out drinking with the lads or spending time with my girlfriend, but broke and still grieving, I just sat indoors the whole time playing on my Xbox. I’ve never had anything like this before and I didn’t know what to do.

I think it was the last day of August when you put your article out. I like your writing and I don’t always agree with you but it’s how you put things, its always balanced. I haven’t read your book, but I know from articles on your site some of the things you went through. You bottled stuff up didn’t you? People find it really easy to talk about mental health, some people talk about it all the time but there are people out here like me who just can’t. It isn’t easy, not because of having rubbish friends but because when you say it out loud it weakens you even more. If I told my girlfriend I was depressed she might be nice about it, but I thought it would change me in her eyes. I know you understand that.

Anyway to cut a long story short you said running was a good way of making yourself feel happier. The exact words you used hit me because you said you had a purpose after a run. I wanted a purpose, something to stop me going down the rabbit hole of shit. I’m quite fit anyway because I’m a bit younger than you (cheers for that! – Gary), so I downloaded the couch to 5k straight away, and skipped to week 2. Within half an hour of reading your article I was running in my local park with my headphones in.

You were right, running is tough and it isn’t fun. I have music on at the same time as the app which helps, but after the first session I walked home thinking you’d fed me a line. I got in, had a drink and kept thinking about my run. It was only in the shower I realised I hadn’t had one dark thought since getting home. Maybe you were right after all, so 48 hours later, I went out again. The apps running spells weren’t long enough for me, so I started going through it twice.

It’s now the end of September and I’ve got week six in about four weeks. It’s a challenge now, two lots of 10 minutes, but I’m loving it. At work, I think about running on my run days, I picture where I’ll go and plan my playlist. I get home and do the right things before I go out, and when I get back, I’m buzzing. I’m running further and faster than four weeks ago and I’ve lost some weight already. I wasn’t fat, but I feel so much better in myself after a run.

Gary, the darkness still comes at times, but not as much as it did. I wasn’t suicidal and I wasn’t doing loads of drink or drugs, but I wasn’t going anywhere other than down, then I read your article. Running does make you feel better, it can help fight off some of the bad elements of having mental health issues. More importantly, you once said that you had to have bad days to know what good days are (see, I do read your stuff). I think the opposite is true with running. You have to have good days so you know what bad days are and you can deal with them and thanks to running I do have good days. I even spoke to my doctor about how I’d been feeling but I turned down pills and potions. Just talking to her helped and this week I told my girlfriend. She broke up with me.

No, she didn’t really, she was great. See, I can even joke about it now. It isn’t all down to running, or you, but that first run started making me feel like me again. It might not have saved my life, but it definitely changed it. Sorry for going on so much, but I wanted to say this in case anyone out there is thinking about running the couch to 5k. Do it.”

Name and email address supplied