Championing running for all and its physical and mental health benefits

England Athletics, in capacity of secretariat and in association with partners Mind, the mental health charity, hosted an all-party parliamentary reception in Westminster as part of its ongoing commitment to celebrate the many benefits of running as an ever more accessible and inclusive sport.

Tuesday’s event, supported by a coalition of Running Champions across Government, was also an opportunity for those gathered to hear the inspirational story of Sam Barlow, founder of Fitmums and Friends, the hugely successful social running phenomenon that saw Sam win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero Award in 2021.

Fitmums and Friends with Chris Jones

Discussion amongst the MPs and other guest partners of England Athletics, including Sport England, Great Run, London Marathon Events, Run Through, Limelight Sports and Human Race ranged from raising awareness of the benefits of running for mental and physical health, promoting nationwide initiatives which ensure running is accessible and inclusive, and the support of a cross-party group in Parliament to advocate for the sport in their local constituencies.

Kim Leadbeater, MP for Batley and Spen and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for running, was among her colleagues within Westminster making their own personal pledges in support of actively promoting running activity, including the hugely successful RunTogether initiative delivered by England Athletics and #RunAndTalk week.

Pledge: to promote the power of running for physical and mental health

The event coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week, which Kim explained was a real passion of hers.

“I think I can freely say that we have all felt anxiety in our lives and we develop strategies to cope with that,” she said. “For me, physical activity and sport has been one of those ways of dealing with anxiety.”

She added: “I think it’s really important for MPs to be involved in promoting all types of sports and physical activity including running. It’s such a powerful tool to bring people together in our communities, and address issues around physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

APPG Pledge: to encourage more to run to help with mental and physical health across the vale

Hayley Jarvis, from Mind, said:

“Running has changed my life and it is a key way that I manage my mental health. I am a proud peer volunteer for a local mental health running charity, and I supported hundreds of people to get active and use running to support their mental health. Our mantra is your body, your mind, your pace, your time.”

running in a park

Dan Isherwood, Head of Operations at England Athletics, said:

“Our work with Mind and especially our #RunAndTalk campaign, is essential to our work in ensuring that athletes and runners across the country feel supported to achieve their full potential and build a lifelong love of the sport. During the last 12 months, 6.5 million people have run on a regular basis, over 80% of people have reported they’ve improved their happiness and mental wellbeing as a result.”

Find out more about the #RunAndTalk campaign and our Mental Health Champions in affiliated clubs across the country below: