Many thanks to Gary Head for this week's thought provoking run report.
It is an honour to provide the race report for Upton House’s 110th parkrun. Over two years ago, Event Director Kirsty Weston, reached out to me through my role as Operations Manager at Active Dorset and we were able to source funding to ensure another parkrun was up and running in Dorset. At Active Dorset, our role is to increase levels of physical activity and parkrun is one of the most innovative ways our industry has ever seen to entice people of all abilities to get active. It is great to see the numbers growing thanks to the hard work of volunteers.
This week, I was one of 321 people who took on the picturesque Upton House course, with 43 first timers and 43 people recording new Personal Bests. Congratulations to Pawel Klimkowski who celebrated his 100th run this weekend. 24 volunteers, including Kirsty, made this possible, so thank you to everyone who gave their time to help others enjoy their Saturday morning.
It isn’t just the physical benefits that parkrun offers that makes it so successful. The Dame Kelly Holmes ‘Our Lives’ documentary that featured on the BBC this week (link), explored the rise of parkrun and the mental health benefits of running. And I’ve recently embarked on a personal running challenge where I have tried to raise awareness of mental health issues.
On 11 May 2019, I started running the full 1,013km (630 miles) of South West Coast Path in memory of a friend, John Paul Childs, who took his own life last year. For weeks, I took on the gruelling clifftops running from Minehead, through North Somerset, North Devon, Cornwall, before entering back into Devon and finally coming ‘home’ to Dorset. On 22nd June, I ran the final leg from Lulworth to Studland beach, exhausted but very proud of what I had achieved.
After six weeks of running at least a half-marathon of hills and tough terrain (I ran two marathons on the last couple of days), I had taken more than 1.1 million steps, burned 75,000 calories, and physically ran for a grand total of more than 4 days and 11 hours. Most importantly, I have raised more than £7,000 for mental health charities in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The South West Coast Path is challenging in many ways. I've run up and down hills, climbing over rocks, fallen over, been cut and bruised, faced with thunder and lightning, biblical proportions of rain and days where the sun zaps all my energy. But the most difficult part of all, was running past where John took his life. John made a brave decision to take his life at Berry Head, a huge cliff face in Brixham, Devon and it has left my friends and his family devastated. The challenge was more than physically draining, it was emotionally too.
We do not speak about suicide or suicidal thoughts enough. John was one of 5,000+ UK suicides in 2018. Suicide accounts for 1 in 100 deaths in the UK. It affects 3 times more men, kills more young people than cancer and more middle-aged people than accidents. It's the leading cause of death for both men under 50 & for new mothers. This is an extremely serious problem that we do not talk about, whether it is concern about contemplating suicide or the after affects when someone has made a decision to end their life.
In the face of adversity comes hope. Since leaving Minehead on 11th May and returning to Poole on 22nd June, I have had, and am still having, numerous conversations with friends, family and completely unexpected conversations with complete strangers who have all been affected by mental health and in many cases, suicide. I didn't anticipate this, but I believe my challenge is helping many of people who have lost loved ones to suicide to focus on moving forward. I've had conversations with people who have spoken about their loss of loved ones this year, last year and even from 40 years ago - and some are opening up for the first time.
You can look back at my progress and check out videos of my run on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or donate direct via my funding page, which will remain open until 31st July. All funds raised will be split between three mental health charities in the South West, the local Minds in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.