James tells his inspiring story about how taking up running has improved his mental health and contributed to the work we do. By taking part the Great South Run for #TeamMind, fundraising has been a huge part of James' journey after he received help from Mind himself.
Throughout my life, I've had a love/hate relationship with running. When I was a teenager, I liked going for the occasional run around the footpaths where I used to live. I did my first 10k around this time - The Abbots Langley Tough Ten.
This is a hilly 10k, hence the term 'tough'. The first time I did it, I was given my medal at the finish line by a local legend and one of my heroes, Graham Taylor.
It's very sad that he is not around anymore, but today the run is held in his memory as we all loved him
It's very sad that he is not around anymore, but today the run is held in his memory as we all loved him. I'm a lifelong Watford FC fan, so to receive a warm, friendly - "well done James" - with a handshake and picture with him at the finish line was special, I will always remember it.
After this, I went through phases where I thought running was a bit rubbish. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I was suffering from medication side effects after my psychotic episode.
I remember being told many times by medical professionals that exercise would make me feel better and was good for mental health (true fact by the way). I got fed up with hearing this, it's easier said than done when you're feeling lethargic and tired, with no energy thanks to your pills.
However, I'm a big believer in trying new things, until you find something you like, where exercise is fun, not a chore and not self-punishment.
In my case, someone recommended ParkRun. At the time, the thought of a 9am 5km run, on a cold winter Saturday morning was the last thing I wanted to do. I used to regularly sleep until 11am due to medication.
But I decided to give it a go, and it's one of the best decisions I've made this year!
Running in a green park, with hundreds of friendly people is a much better way to do it. You're surrounded by nature, good vibes, people of all ages and cute dogs.
I ended up doing a park run in Birmingham with my friend Dan around the beginning of August (pic below), as we were there for a stag do (we did the run before the stag, not after.
It was here that Dan suggested a fantastic idea to me, "shall we do the Great South Run in October? We could raise money for Mind!"
Ten miles is a lot longer than 5k, but we were keen, as we are both very passionate about mental health and love the work that Mind do to help people.
By this point, I well and truly had the 'running bug'. My current personal best was set during a ParkRun in Lowestoft at the end of August. We were in Suffolk for the wedding of the stag from Birmingham. This time Jack joined me, we ran along the sunny coast and I managed to do 5k in 22 minutes, I never thought I would get a time like that!
Me and Dan were committed to the great south run by this point, and would send each other screenshots of our training runs on Strava. I live in Watford and he lives in Basingstoke, so we had limited opportunities to run together.
At the beginning of October, I surprised myself again. It was that time of year to do the Tough Ten, back to where it all started for me. I was amazed that I did it in 44 minutes, I only wish Graham could've been there.
One week before the run, me and Dan decided to do one final push for fundraising. We were confident of reaching our target, but between us we had another target which we agreed would be "a nice number and amount", but was this achievable?
I was invited to be the guest speaker at the University of Hertfordshire that week. The event was called ‘Stopping Mental Health Associated Stigma’ and it was organised by their Staff Disability & Wellbeing Network (DAWN), but anyone could attend, including students.
DAWN provided refreshments including cakes at the event, and they told me the money raised from this could go to a charity of my choice, an easy decision! I collected the donations and added them to my JustGiving page. We had smashed our target beyond our expectations, with the race still days away.
We got to the starting line and were full of excitement and nerves.
On race day, we had to be up at 6am! This sounds hard, but once we got to Southsea Common, the atmosphere was incredible, I’d never experienced anything like it! We got to the starting line and were full of excitement and nerves.
We felt better though, as the man on stage delivering the warm up was brilliant. People from all kinds of charities were laughing and dancing around, having so much fun together.
For the first two miles, me and Dan were having a great time. One of our friends at mile one shouted "GO ON LACKEY AND JIM!" and this felt brilliant. We were high-fiving every person possible and really enjoying the day.
I was also extremely proud to wear the Mind t-shirt
I was in some pain for the rest of the run, but hearing my name shouted by locals really kept me going at a good pace. I was determined to give all my donators their money's worth, by getting a great time. I was also extremely proud to wear the Mind t-shirt, and saw loads of other runners doing the same.
I managed to do it on one hour, eighteen minutes and seven seconds. I was aiming for around 1hr 30mins, so I was delighted with this. Dan managed 1hr 26mins which I thought was amazing considering he had played for his ice hockey team the previous evening, what a warrior!
Once we recovered, we headed straight to the Mind area for some tea and biscuits! Everyone there was awesome and we had some great chats with them and our fellow fundraisers, as well as getting cool photos for the gram of course.
I would highly recommend running, it does wonders for the mind
I would highly recommend running, it does wonders for the mind. Even starting off by going for a walk is a great first step, lots of people do this at ParkRun anyway. Go at your own pace, your mind and body will appreciate the fresh air, nature and meeting lovely people.
I do other forms of exercise too. Running isn’t for everyone, but for me it has been life changing. Get in touch if you have any questions, I’m here to help.