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Marathons for the mind

Monday, 21 May 2018 Peter Thompson

Pete has run the entire route of the Tour de France, raising over £21,000 for Mind.

Peter's determined to raise awareness of mental health issues through both words and the use of his skinny legs as a runner.

Last year I set myself the challenge of running consecutive marathons around every European country. Forty-four days after I set off I had achieved that goal and raised £19,000 for Mind and Livability. Along the way I developed a better understanding of my own mental health.

In the past I had become over-obsessed with times and everything that went with that. The dieting, the time away from friends, losing touch of why I started running in the first place. My challenges have made running fun again.

I think most of us have or search for an outlet to turn to when things get too much. For me this is running, and I would honestly be lost without it. I had tried mindfulness, typically when I was having a bad day or going through struggles in life, but I found it so hard to switch my mind off. I still do. It’s always thinking, overanalysing and working away when I just want it to stop. This is great when it comes to completing certain tasks or planning challenges but we all need to find ways to relax, and for me this is where running comes in.

"People ask me what I think about when I’m running. The answer is nothing."

People ask me what I think about when I’m running. The answer is nothing. That’s the beauty. It has become my mindfulness and my way to switch off my thoughts.

As difficult and painful as my last challenge was, it also became an extended version of this mindful state. A bubble where I had nothing else to think about apart from just running. I don’t, however, recommend it as long-term solution, as it also comes with sleep deprivation and swollen ankles!

After running my 44 marathons last year I found it quite hard to return to ‘normality’. I’m someone who needs to stay busy, to have a focus and to feel like I’m moving forward.

I thought about jumping straight back in to something new, to dust off my shoes and hit the road. But I wanted the right things to be in place. I needed the cause, the opportunity and the motivation to come together again like it had the first time.

The next challenge I’ve set myself is to run the entire 2,069-mile route of the 2018 Tour de France in just 70 days. Setting off seven weeks before the riders and attempting to beat them to the finish line by a day and raise £20,000.

As I set off I’m reminded of the question I was asked when I got back from my last challenge: whether I found it easier to run across Europe or open up about my mental health. At that moment, I didn’t know what to say. If they’d asked me that when I was crying in the corner of a Budapest bus station, the answer would have been simple. But the fact I had to even think about it shows just how hard it can be to talk openly about our feelings.

"I feel as proud of being able to talk more openly about my mental health as anything I’ve achieved physically."

If I’m honest, I still don’t 100% know the answer, but I do know that neither of those things were easy, and I feel as proud of being able to talk more openly about my mental health as anything I’ve achieved physically. You don’t need to run marathons or scale mountains to make a difference to somebody’s life, and that openness to talk, seek help or listen without judgement is something we can all do. I promise that it comes with just as great a reward as crossing any finish line.

Find out more about Pete's fundraising and awareness raising on his website.

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