Mental Health Champions

We are pleased to announce that the club now has five mental health ambassadors who are committed to increasing the mental health support available to our members and promoting the benefits of running for good mental health.

The team are available for chats, hugs, pep talks and they can also point you in the direction of professional support if you need it.

Sian Thomas   

I took up running around 5 years ago when I was in my late 40s. I’m most definitely a runner of the plodding variety. I’ve completed numerous events from 5k to half-marathon and have kept the tail-runner company at several of them. I’m more often found running on trails and footpaths than tarmac as I feel there are great benefits to be gleaned from having contact with the natural environment. I have found that running has helped me maintain mental stability as well as improve the asthma which plagued me for years. 30 years ago, I developed epilepsy. Depression and anxiety soon followed. I tried to manage this myself but after 12 years I finally sought help. I was diagnosed with severe panic disorder and received treatment from the NHS mental health services. I remained in the care of a psychiatrist for several years and my mental health slowly improved. For the last 16 years I have worked for the NHS mental health trust in Gloucestershire as an Occupational Therapist, and currently as Eating Disorder Clinician in Cheltenham. Having been on the receiving end of treatment, I know that asking for help is the first vital step. Please don’t be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to talk to someone. The only way we’ll eradicate the stigma surrounding mental ill-health is to be open about it.

Stephen Morris

I have been running for over 28 years, it was an occupational hazard, being Ex Military. I’ve run most distances from 5k all the way up to a 42-mile Ultra Marathon. My running career isn’t limited to the UK, having run both the Chicago and Berlin Marathons, which along with London make up half of the 6 Abbot World Marathon majors. Running for me is a cathartic thing, other than the physical benefits I get, I find that running gives me peace of mind, clears my head and helps me see things in a clearer way. I always feel mentally refreshed after a run; life seems to me, to be a much nicer place to be. I have had the misfortune in a previous career to come across quite a few people with Mental Health issues, two of which ended in the most extreme circumstances. I know that help is there for those that ask for it, that first step just has to be taken!

Helen Carlisle

I have been running for just over 10 years, but only recently have I been running more regularly. In the past I have struggled with motivation and confidence associated with my running and this has led to periods of inactivity. However, since joining the Plums I have run 4 marathons, 2 ultra-marathons and loads of other races. I still struggle with confidence and I have anxiety issues from time to time, but I always find that running helps and on bad days I try and force myself out. Managing my mental health is a daily job but I am a big believer in talking and being honest about how I’m feeling – it’s amazing how many other people feel similar and are fighting their own battles. PPP is such a supportive club and I always feel better after a good run, a coffee and a cake with my running buddies

Pete Dunderdale

I’ve suffered with depression for over 20 years now, also anxiety, as well as being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, and osteoarthritis in both knees. I’m ex-military and used to weigh 24st. I’ve been committed and still overcome my demons daily, some days easier than others. I was told at 21 by a psychiatric nurse, that things I had been through some people will never endure their whole life! I love my running, cycling, walking/hiking canoeing and camping, basically anything outdoors. I’ve run in 24hr races 5ks, 10ks, 2 half marathons, countless cycle events, and climbed Snowdon and Ben Nevis. Up there I find peace, down here I find peace helping others! Message me anytime and I will get back to you, I can be shy but I won’t ignore you, love you all plums! Xx

Claire Pezzini-Rhodes

Until 2016, I was never a runner. One day, a child said to me “race ya!” and my heart rate spiralled within 2 seconds. For some bizarre, completely illogical reason, I had an epiphany and this moment persuaded me to have a go at walking parkrun, and maybe running a bit of it too. I joined the Plum Plodders because some lovely purple people picked me up at parkrun and encouraged me round, then encouraged me to do 10ks, then more miles too. I couldn’t identify as a runner or a jogger but a plodder sounded just like me! Stress, anxiety, fear, depression and all of our emotions are physiological but for years we were all told “it’s all in your mind”. It isn’t. It is throughout our entire bodies. It affects appetite, sleep, heart, the immune system, addictive behaviour, to name but a few. Our emotions are important. Sadness signals that we need love. Anger and fear protect us. They all signal what we need but we have a culture of suppressing emotions and ignoring them until they bottle up into a confusing mess. The overwhelm stops us from knowing what we need and so it also stops us from getting what we need. What helps is having someone compassionate to help us make sense of the jumble. Talking to someone you trust is very healing. I also practice mindfulness to help me bring into awareness all of those feelings that my busy mind doesn’t notice until I pause and just breathe.