If you know me, you’ll know I’m all about my running support group – Run Talk Run. I’m not too shy about banging on about it to everyone I meet. I often get asked “how did this all come about” so I’ll give you a very brief timeline of how things have developed!
Summer of 2017
I, Jess Robson, was in a particularly bad place in my noggin. Things had started to spiral from about April after some big life changes and fact of the matter was that I just wasn’t coping.
I gave therapy a whirl, and whilst my lovely therapist with a gorgeous soul was likely very good at his job, the relationship just didn’t “click” and I didn’t feel able to share fully what was going on.
I spent a fair bit of time going home during this weird, low phase. My mums a keen runner (LOL #understatement) and she quite rightly dragged me out on a Sunday morning whenever I spent the weekend at home. It dawned on me that I was opening up far more during these long runs than I ever did sat face to face with my therapist.
I was finally running more and more again. My mums encouragement and inspiring messages were putting me back on a path to recovery through the sheer pounding of pavements. I realised (not for the first time) that this was MY SPACE. This was where I felt good about life, and I felt like the sharp edge of depression was beginning to soften.
I was part of an online fitness community at this point who shared a group whatsapp, and I suggested to the group that us Londoners made a habit of meeting to run and chat. I explained (in not TOO many words) the position I was coming from – #MentalHealthWarrior – and there was just one girl (out of hundreds) who actually agreed this was indeed a lovely idea.
We met once, we ran once, we spoke briefly about anxiety and then that was that – she didn’t come along again.
By this point I’d decided that to get a solid group of people together to run with consistently, weekly, I was going to HAVE to reach beyond my own friendship groups and contacts. I asked Instagram to put the idea of “Run Talk Run” out to their friends, and I gained a running buddy that way, who I am now lucky enough to consider a wonderful wonderful friend.
November & December 2017
Still very much in the throes of depression, I took it upon myself to position myself in the same spot every week outside Monument Station. I was lacking esteem, unsure of what the fuck I was really doing there. I was reaching out to everyone I bloody well could but the idea just simply wasn’t gaining any traction (or so it seemed).
Instagram followers were increasing, I was speaking to plenty of people about the wonderful benefits of running for our mental health. Everyone seemed to agree that this was just a brilliant idea so why was no one ever bloody showing up?!
I doubted VERY much whether I could see this through.
It was during these two months that I met the wonderful Tom Haswell, who I had the pleasure of meeting and running with a few times just before the Christmas break. It was through the (brutally honest) truths shared between us on those runs and the encouragement that he gave that allowed me just enough motivation to just keep trying.
The Christmas break made me really sit down and consider whether pursuing Run Talk Run was potentially making me more ill. I was lacking in esteem to such a huge extent and still not really out of the mental funk I had found myself in.
Putting myself and my ideas “out there” and seeing them not really come to any fruition was really fucking tough.
I genuinely feel that if it were not for the support of my mum, and the mental health community on Instagram (big up Sanctus and their very inspiring ways!), I would have most definitely thrown in the bucket.
But (obvs) I carried on and decided to just go flippin’ HAM on this thing. I began contacting every mental health charity and organisation I could think of and told them what I was up to, asked if there was any support for these projects, asked for their advice. I got plenty of “advice” from all angles, but it was Rethink Mental Illness that really stepped up to the mark.
I met with Sam from Rethink who is a support group coordinator, and to be honest, even with the “mental health focus” I had never even considered RTR to be a support group. But it was the perfect way to look at it. Needless to say, the support and guidance from Rethink were a BLESSING and I was commended on my ability to show up week on week without anyone turning up. I was assured that this is what EVERY support group experiences when they first start out and if I could make it through “that phase” I could make it work, period.
February & March 2018
Rethink didn’t solve ALL my problems, mind you. I was still very much struggling to attract any consistent runners. I had myself and a team of 2 (Bryony and Tom I flipping love you!) and occasionally we’d be joined by a passer-through.
It was still REALLY fucking cold during these months and waiting outside the Runners Need shop at Monument not having a clue whether anyone would show up was (I won’t lie) feeling a bit silly almost. The biggest benefit I was seeing from Run Talk Run were these two close friendships that I was forming, and the fact that I was running consistently every Thursday. Because even when no one showed up I would get the fuck on with the run anyway regardless.
Spring time saw the runners slowly begin to increase. Where I might have just 1 or 2 people show up previously, Run Talk Run was beginning to look more like a team of 4-8 people.
It goes without saying that seeing this many people run together, chatting about their shit and really “connecting” made every cold night running alone worthwhile.
I’d been doing a HELL of a lot of work on my mental health at this point, and it was a combination of self-improvements and Run Talk Run-improvements that were really just pulling me further and further away from the black dog. The further I was pulled from the black dog, the more I felt able to really give my all to my runners.
Run Talk Run finally found a HOME! I had been contacting gyms and cafes and shops for months to try and find a place for the RTR team to have a bag drop and “indoor” meeting point and The Bridge Gym really pulled through for me on this one. They invited me in for a chat, and after a very brief explanation of RTR and our values, they kindly opened the doors to their café for me and the gang to meet weekly.
Moments after leaving The Bridge Gym meeting I cried. Unapologetically. ALL the damn way back to the office.
The introduction of this new meeting space soar numbers climb quicker and quicker REALLY flipping quick. Still a humble 14 runners or so, but a huge contrast to the 5-ish runners I’d expect when waiting outside Runners Need Monument.
A short while before The Bridge Gym had confirmed their willingness to be the Run Talk Run home, I had been in contact with The Gym Group to see about hosting it from my local gym to work. The prospect seemed SO out of reach, and SO unlikely that I didn’t even give the request to The Gym a second thought.
I’d found RTR a home now, so I almost just had nothing to lose by really pushing hard on the “big-boy-chain-gym” and so I decided to get back in touch with the gym manager. The answer, to my complete and utter surprise was a YES – I could host RTR from The Gym. Surprised was an understatement (yep, I cried again).
So now we have two weekly meets – one from The Gym Waterloo (SE1 8UX) on Tuesdays and one from The Bridge Gym (SE1 0NQ) on Thursdays.
I genuinely could not be happier, or prouder, or more IN LOVE with the absolute mental health warriors that come along to Run Talk Run. The online facebook group community is just amazing – I feel like I can post “my shit” there on the bad days too – and I hope others feel the same in that respect.
Run Talk Run have a summer party (a 5k followed by a picnic!) organised for Saturday 21st July… feel free to come along to that if you wish. You can grab a free ticket here. I feel this is the PERFECT way to celebrate the friendships that have been formed, the amazing role that Rethink Mental Illness have played in the development of Run Talk Run and everything that we stand for – #COMMUNITY.