Mark West is a runner and mental health advocate, having struggled himself with depression and anxiety. He uses running to support his own mental health and to help others. He is a mental first aider and the leader of Run Talk Run in Southampton.
What is your proudest running achievement?
My proudest running achievement is being the leader of my local, Run Talk Run group – we use running to facilitate conversations around mental health.
What has running taught you?
Running has taught me that I am much stronger than I ever thought, that I can achieve things and by working hard and pushing myself, there are no boundaries to what can be achieved.
What is your most ambitious running goal?
I was desperate a few years back to run under 1:30 for a half marathon. I followed a 16-week training schedule meticulously and despite having a really bad patch at 10 miles, managed to achieve it.
Have you got any memorable or funny running stories to share?
I once entered a 10k race which was part of a weekend “running festival”. I stayed the night before in a hotel and thought it was odd that the race time was 4 pm. As I was walking to the start, it became very apparent that it wasn’t taking place and in fact, the race took place the day before!
What has been your worst moment as a runner?
Managing injuries are tough especially as you get older. I try to listen to my body as much as possible and am more than happy to take a rest day should I need it.
What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?
I ran 100 miles in a week for a mental health awareness campaign. It was really tough mentally but with the right preparation, planning and rest, it’s possible and it reminded me of what our bodies are capable of.
What has been your most serious running injury?
I have torn my hamstrings (twice) when I was a sprinter on the track. I just think my body isn’t strong enough for too much speed so I am always ultra cautious now with a sprint finish in a longer race.
What is the best advice you have ever received about your running?
Honestly, I have had lots of advice over the years but two things stand out. The first is to always carry two pieces of kitchen towel with you on any run and the second is leave everything out on the track, trail or road.
If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first started running, what would you say?
I’d say not to compare yourself too much to others and to get some help with technique. In pretty much any other sport, we get advice and help on technique but as runners (generally speaking), we just run.
Have you got a running hero or a runner you look up to?
Paula Radcliffe had a huge impact on me and my running. I think she has done amazing things for women and running in the UK in making it more accessible and acceptable for women to get out and run. Additionally, I have always admired her mental strength, particularly during marathons.
In one sentence, what does running mean to you?
Running makes me happy and keeps me happy.