Throughout #RunAndTalk week we’re hearing from a number of people about how running has helped their mental health. This is Sue Bennett’s story:
For me, I need to go back to 1997 and being diagnosed with MS, a devastating blow for me at the time, and one I took a long while to come to terms with. As a young girl I had enjoyed and taken part in sports and couldn’t imagine not being able to take part in the future.
Moving forwards and with my confidence beginning to increase (helped by friends and family and a persuasion to start having a go again!) I applied and was successful in becoming a Games Maker at London 2012. I was thrilled, excited and driven by what I was seeing and being part of. This coincided with the start of parkrun in my hometown, and my Saturdays were now filled with running and socialising with new friends. I would put my headphones on and make sure the Olympic theme tune played me into the finish. My running mojo and want to be part of something again had returned.
I joined a local social running group, made a lot of new friends, including a very special friend who became my running buddy. We went on to run our first marathon together, followed soon after by completing 3 marathons in 3 weeks, raising a lot of money for the MSUK Charity. I noticed that there was a need for a group that wished a slower pace and lesser distance and thus my first beginners’ group was born.
This led on to being asked to help be part of a new health and well-being initiative in my home town, run by our local council, 'Run England' was the start (later developed to RunTogether), and we became quite successful, winning an award in our first year.
My interest in Mental Health started in my work as a Nurse Practitioner, and I quickly realised through reading and by what people were telling me, that there was a tremendous positive impact that running was having on people's mental wellbeing. I was sure I could develop this and thus our Monday Motivator session with our RunTogether group was born. What an inspiration they were and still are, their stories just ignited my want and passion to do more. Our organised #RunAndTalk sessions brought people together and hear other's journeys. One particular one really struck a chord; 2 young men told their personal stories of their suicidal thoughts and feelings and how running had subsequently helped them cope with their struggles. Listening also to the very emotive story of Ben Smith 401 marathon runner, and I knew I needed to do more.
I applied and was successful in becoming a Mental Health Ambassador and Champion. I felt honoured to be part of the original steering group that helped shape future programmes. Covid of course put a stop to many things, but I tried to keep our running group motivated, so challenges and “live catch-ups” were put together, and of course as soon as we were able, we all started running back together again.
Then one of my runners shared a role with me, for a Suicide Prevention Outreach Worker, with our local Volunteer Bureau. I just knew I had to apply, and I was successful. My running journey and involvement in what I was seeing and experiencing has so shaped what I want to do and achieve now with mental health and wellbeing.
Talking helps, it really helps, and by sharing sources of information and where to tun to, more and more people may potentially be helped. Running and talking is a potent combination for some people, and I really want to explore this further, I have lots of ideas, and I very much look forward to seeing how the development of my roles and running might work synergistically.
Photo: RunTogether West Berkshire Monday Motivators