As secretary of his local running club, Usk Runners, Gareth has been a social runner for a number of years. But, until early February 2014, he had not run more than eight miles in one go. He said: “Last year I entered the ballot for the London Marathon, applied through Mind for a place, and also put myself forward for a place through my running club. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful on all fronts, and didn’t get a place.
“Then on the January 29 this year, I was sat at my computer in work when I received an email from Mind saying that they had some last minute places available and these would be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Lots of thoughts went through my head, mainly about having only 10 weeks to train. But I had to seize my opportunity to complete the 26.2 miles and raise money for Mind.
“I picked up the phone and within five minutes had been confirmed as an entrant into the London Marathon. Then the reality hit. Would I be able to finish it at all, would I have the motivation to train? The next 10 weeks will answer all of that I thought.”
Since gaining his entry place, Gareth has ran over 300 miles, completing two long runs of 18 miles and 20 miles. He added: “I am lucky enough to have a number of friends in my running club who have trained with me to make the miles easier.
“The training is tough, but I am secretly enjoying it. Running allows me to clear my head and think. The stresses of the day get eaten up by tarmac, and some of my best thoughts come to me when I am running. It is so therapeutic. You don’t have to run a marathon, or even a 5k, but I would certainly recommend getting out and pounding the pavements to anyone.”
Gareth will run the Virgin Money London Marathon for Mind to help raise awareness of Mental Health. It is estimated that in any given year one in four of us will experience a mental health problem yet there is still stigma associated with mental health.
Gareth said: “I wanted to raise money for Mind as I work for Mind Monmouthshire, a local Mind. Naturally I see the excellent work that Mind Cymru and local Minds do on a daily basis. The work we do not only helps people, it literally changes people’s lives. There are not many people that can say this, but I really do love my job.
“I have also had very close family members experience mental health problems in the past. Looking back now, it would have been fantastic for me to know about the different services local Minds offered. Stigma around Mental Health, was, and still is, a major problem and was the main barrier for my relatives not getting the help they needed at the time.
“As the recent TV advert says ‘It’s Time to Change’. This is so true. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. If someone has a heart attack, we wouldn’t think twice about asking them how they were and make sure they got the help they deserved. But with mental health we don’t. We are scared to even ask.
“It’s time that perceptions around Mental Health changed. If, by running 26.2 miles and raising vital funds for Mind, I can change one person’s perception of Mental Health then I have achieved something.”
Gareth hopes to raise over £1,000 for Mind, the mental health charity that works to help ensure anyone who has a mental health problem has somewhere to turn for advice and support.