I believe (MM) it’s important to share common and similar experiences. I’d like to introduce you to Jake (JT) who is a mental health campaigner, adventurer, hiker, runner who is currently undertaking a 3000 mile challenge, covering the UK to raise awareness about how getting outside and being active can help with your mental health.
MB: Can you explain about the BBC Mind over Marathon TV programme you took part in and how it’s impacted your life?
JT: I got approached to take part in Mind Over Marathon after a casting agent at the BBC discovered some YouTube videos I’d made during my (at the time) walking challenge around Great Britain. The subject of the documentary (can exercise help mental health?) was something I was already exploring so it was an easy “yes” when the official offer came in. The programme was a hit, which was great, but the process itself is what’s had the biggest impact on my life. I got to iron out all my bad running habits with the help of two incredible mentors, and meet a group of people who’ve gone from being my support network, to friends, to family within the space of a year. I could go on about it for hours but ultimately the whole experience helped me both mentally and physically, and I’ll always feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of it. Oh, and I got to run the London marathon too. Almost forgot about that.
MB: From the show I remember you describing depression along the lines as seeing the sky turning grey, and going through the storm for those who haven’t experienced depression, can you explain what depression is like for you?
JT: Depression, for me, is a bit like being trapped in an abusive relationship. It draws me away from the things and people I love into a dark hole where it hugs me and tells me “this is where you belong”. Strangely though, accepting that I’ll always have that voice in my head was exactly what I needed. If I acknowledge that it’s real, I can attempt to manage it. If I attempt to push it down and hide it away from people it just gets stronger. That’s why community is so important to me now, and I have Mind Over Marathon to thank for that.
MB: Completing a marathon is an amazing achievement, after that high how did you deal with the post race dip in the weeks following the race?
JT: There was definitely a period of pensive sadness after the marathon. I just kept having to remind myself that the reason I was ‘coming down’ was only because the day itself was so great, so stop whinging. Also cake.
MB: Having a mental health illness could be seen as a weakness, but in your experience how is it actually a strength?
JT: Complications with your mental health doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Opening up about your mental health takes guts. The people who judge others by what’s going on with their mental health are the ones who are weak-minded.
MB: Can you explain about your new ultra marathon challenge?
JT: I’m currently running from Edinburgh to London as part of my 3,000 mile ‘lap’ of mainland Great Britain, trying to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation and promoting movement as a way of managing mental health. To try and inspire people to get outside and get moving, I’ve been passing through some of the most naturally beautiful spots in the UK – the national parks and some of the most epic stretches of coastline. I figured the best way to get people outside is to show them how beautiful the country is.
MB: How can people support you or run with you during the challenge?
JT: I’ve been flying solo for the vast majority of my challenge so I love it when people come out and join me! By following my on Instagram (@blackdogwalks) or twitter (@blackdogwalks1) you can see where I am, and if you fancy joining me for a day, let’s get it arranged! Anybody who wants to donate to the Mental Health Foundation can so via my Facebook page (Facebook.com/blackdogwalks).
MB: What does a typical day of the challenge look like?
JT: Every day is different, the only routine i have really have is to get up early, plot my route over breakfast and then spend the rest of the day running. I usually end up staying with people and families who follow me on social media, or in hostels or Bunkhouse’s. I slept in a tent over the summer but I figured that wouldn’t be the smartest way to live at this time of year.
MB: How did you get yourself out of tough moments during the challenge, when you felt like quitting?
JT: As with anything in life that goes on long enough to feel ‘normal’ there are times when I do get sick of being on the move all the time. I try not to put too much pressure on myself so if I have a day where all I want to do is slob out, eat pizza and watch films all day, I just do it. But those days are rare, most of the time I feel like I’m living my life to the full, and that has really helped keep my depression in check.
MB: What was your daily post run recovery and meal like?
JT: I inevitably get a few niggles here and there so I have to be strict on myself with regards to recovery. I do 10 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning, warm up well before I set off and spend 15 minutes stretching at the end of the day. I’m getting better at eating the right stuff, but there’s a fat child who lives deep inside me who craves pizza and sweets so the challenge is to find a balance. I’m getting there!
MB: You have a great social media presence, especially on Instagram. Can you tell me abit about yourself and if you could accomplish anything via social media what would it be?
JT: I wasn’t exactly prolific on social media before all this stared but I knew in order to maximise the potential for success of my challenge (not just in terms of raising money for the charity but to reach people who need a nudge in order to start managing their mental health), I had to start using it a lot more. Every day is different and exciting so I’ve not exactly struggled finding content, and I do my best to engage with my audience. I hope that by following me on social media people can realise that having mental health problems doesn’t have to get in the way of living the life they want to live; I try to be the type of person that would have helped the younger version of myself to realise that.
MB: You have inspired others through your actions. But in motivating so many people, who motivates you?
The people who inspire me most, are people who achieve but who aren’t afraid to let their guard down and open up about the days where they struggle to cope. Ben Smith, Sophie Radcliffe, Peter Thompson, Bryony Gordon, Matt Haig all spring to mind, and of course everyone in my Mind Over Marathon family.
MB: What one lesson which you’ve learnt in running, which you can apply to your life?
Keep going. You’re capable of way more than you sometimes give yourself credit for.
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