Wednesday 26 April 2017

Why did I run a marathon for Student Minds?

Ross writes about tackling the Brighton Marathon for Student Minds.
- Ross Munro

As a medical student, I am well aware of the plight of mental health but it wasn’t until I lost an old friend and fellow student that its importance struck me. Student Minds was introduced to me at his wake and after reading about the charity, I felt compelled to get involved. Consequently in April 2017, I ran the Brighton marathon for this innovative charity in an attempt to fulfil numerous goals. Some of my goals: 

Remember a good friend 
Training for a marathon presents you with the gift of time. I claim to be a ‘busy person’ but this is more of an excuse than a truth and marathon training sets aside hours of your week to contemplate life. Whilst training on the wet blustery Brighton coast no amount of company, music or radio podcasts can prevent your mind from wondering. In these moments of stress-free mental bliss my mind unintentionally homed in on my late friend. I thought about his love of music, passion for politics and fondness of science, I thought about the years we spent playing Pokemon, being generally uncool and how we didn’t care, I thought about school, parties and early memories, I thought about his endearment, loyalty and kindness, I thought about some of the happiest moments of my life. 

Whilst aimlessly jogging along the seafront, I realised how important it was to cherish these precious memories and to let them live on. Upon reflection, training for the marathon gave me the time and mental space to grieve and although I am sad that he is gone, revisiting these memories was a healthy experience and I enjoyed it. 

Evaluating and supporting my own mental health 
At school I was taught to regularly assess my scrotum for lumps in an attempt to catch testicular cancer early and this was good advice. However, reflecting on my own mental health was not once mentioned. This doesn’t add up when the incidence of testicular cancer is 1 in 2,200 and mental health affects everyone if not personally, then indirectly. Fortunately, I have since learnt that evaluating one’s own mental wellbeing is invaluable but unfortunately mindfulness, meditation, writing and so on has never worked for me. Running, I have recently learnt does! 

Running offers quiet reflection in addition to improved sleep, stress relief, positive mood changes, increased energy, weight management and greater concentration. I find the most useful benefits of running are mental distraction, social interaction and a sense of self efficacy.  All of these factors are beneficial for my mental health and I have since concluded that time spent running, is time well spent for me.

Promote mental health on the charitable stage 
Why is there any stigma surrounding mental health? I can only assume it represents the ugly hangover from a barbaric public health disaster in the 1900s. Surely it is now time for a new generation to break mental health conversations out of its shackles and bring it into the public limelight. I desperately want to be a part of this freethinking and cosmopolitan new era. 

I was so proud to wear my student minds vest whilst running the marathon and virtually euphoric every time I heard a spectator shout ‘go on student minds!’ The Brighton marathon was awash with worthy charities and it felt like a majestic celebration of altruistic spirit. My only personal regret was the distinct lack of runners supporting mental health charities. With the prevalence and arguably the impact of mental health illness similar if not greater to that of cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia, it is my wish that this eventually be reflected in the charitable sector. However, in order for this to happen the stigma has to go and with the advent of a new national mindset, I hope and believe we will get there. 

Training and completing the Brighton marathon in aid of student minds has been an enlightening, enjoyable and emotional experience. Despite setting out to help the mental health of others through fundraising, I would imagine in truth, I got more out of the last few months than anyone else. It is a pleasure to raise money for student minds, I believe their fruitful work amongst the student population is a shining example for the wider community. Let’s be the generation that conquers the taboo surrounding mental health for the benefit of everyone. 

Support Ross's hard work today by making a donation on his page. Interested in taking on a challenge yourself?  Find out more on our fundraising page

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