Jess Robson, founder of Run Talk Run, talks about how she started the organisation and how they’ve coped during the pandemic.
Run Talk Run was created in 2017 on the back of a year weighed down with depression. Having opted for formal therapy, medication, and other “tickbox” self care strategies without much luck, I discovered one thing which helped a lot – talking about my mental health whilst on a run. I searched for support whereby I could move and talk about my hard days, and negative thoughts but couldn’t find a space that felt right to me in my depressed state.
I started by hosting a weekly meetup every Thursday evening, and now Run Talk Run is hosting mental health support groups nationally, facilitating peer support whilst out for a gentle 5km run. The objective is to create a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling in a less intimidating environment. The runs are free to attend, and take place on a consistent weekly basis which allows our participants to really establish the support as part of their routine. It is scheduled self care, in the company of people who are entirely understanding of what it is to live with mental ill health.
We often find that once you create a space whereby talking about your mental health is both permissible and encouraged, people will willingly share their experiences and support their peers in equal measure.
As you might imagine, running is not for everyone! We minimised this barrier which might have otherwise been challenging by lowering the bar to participation and being open to ALL abilities of runners, even if that means we walk much of the route. We also introduced Walk Talk Walk as an alternative space, to open our doors to more people who are seeking support.
The outcome of our spaces is that we have community led initiatives running at scale, whereby the leader of the group gets just as much support as an attendee. People are opening up about their mental health in a non–medical setting, thus normalising the conversation and normalising seeking support from our peers. In a survey conducted in December 2019, 82.9% of runners stated that Run Talk Run had improved their mental health.
Covid-19 undoubtedly made providing peer support more challenging. For a community who thrive on meeting our friends “offline”, it was hard to create a space on Zoom calls that could imitate the environment we create at Run Talk Run. Nevertheless, we still showed up for one another week after week, to provide a video call instead of a run, and that in itself was a reminder that the support is routinely available to our participants. Returning to our runs with limited numbers has been welcomed with very open arms by the entire community.
My top tip for anyone thinking about establishing a community organisation would be to welcome the support of volunteers, and not take it all onto one pair of shoulders! I love the quote “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.
To find out more about Run Talk Run, or get involved in our community please reach out to email@example.com or visit our website – runtalkrun.com