In contrast to the first #runwalktalk event held in February this year we gathered on a warm, sunny morning in July. Ready to build on the initial enthusiasm and to create space for mental health nurses, doctors, patients, jog leaders, walk leaders and anyone with an interest in coming together to enjoy green space, fresh air and exercise.
Markeaton Park provided the paths and puddles last time. It was Darley Park, with new way-markers, freshly cut grass and the perfectly situated cricket pavilion for our July meet.
Organisers – led by Dr Subodh Dave, Consultant Psychiatrist with Derbyshire Healthcare and CPN Jane Foulkes- wanted to use the session to connect not just staff and patients with run and walk leaders, but also integrate other opportunities and services such as Derby’s Livewell, Move More, Peak Running, Parkrun, Jog Derbyshire and Derbyshire Mind.
Exploring the park
Gazebos, flags and bunting gave a mini festival atmosphere as well as useful information for everyone about what’s on, how to get in touch and some poignant reminders of the benefits of looking after ourselves.
A model 5lb lump of fat was passed between several groups with looks of intrigue and disgust. We’ll all have that image in our minds as we tackle the next hill!
Participants registered for either a walk, run/walk or run, each ranging from 1.5-3.6 miles around the beautiful park and along the river. I opted for the run/walk and quickly got chatting to others in the group as we headed off under the confident and reassuring guidance of a Jog Derbyshire Leader.
It didn’t matter what you wore. Some came in jeans, others in lycra. We weaved our way through the trees and hedge rows, exploring the routes and discovering what had brought each of us here. For some it was a first introduction to the park and a chance to be in a different place and try out running, for many it was a reminder of how easy it is to exercise outdoors and the massive sense of wellbeing when we get out there.
Stories and conversation
“It nourishes my body,” reported Emily, a regular with Jog Derbyshire group Melbourne Joggers who suffered from an eating disorder and struggled to balance a healthy link between eating and exercise before taking up running. You can read more about her story here.
“It’s the social side for me, being out with other people,” said John who’d come along with his mentor.
“I can’t wait to lace up my trainers and just get out there,” said a mental health nurse who’s ‘not a runner’ but regularly strides out for headspace, company and the feel-good endorphins created when we exercise.
After plenty of rest points to catch our breath and talk to others, we eventually returned to the pavilion for coffee, cake and conversation. Greeted by the Peak Running’s brunch club, we sat in the sunshine to recover, then shared stories of our own personal challenges with anxiety, stress and mental illness and how running, walking or any kind of exercise had helped lift us into lighter places. People spoke about how exercise had helped them to feel better about themselves and then more able to support each other.
Creating a feeling of equality
It’s this point about interdependence which really resonated and seemed to run through the whole morning. Creating space and conditions for people to connect, listen, share and support each other without judgement and without job titles. Equal, human and caring. We all had something to offer and I’m certain there’s more to come.
Only an hour after we’d packed away emails were exchanging at pace to get another date and to build on the momentum. Where else, how else, who else, what else could we do to re-create this environment in hospitals, workplaces, communities?
There’s so much to ponder and a really exciting opportunity emerging here. We’re already looking forward to the next gathering on 3rd October.
Thank you to all for making this possible. It genuinely feels like shared endeavour.