Men’s health advocate and MoRunning ambassador James Martin is running 84k a week this November to raise awareness about male suicide.

MoRunning Ambassador James Martin Men's Fitness UK

Why are you taking on this challenge?

“Last year I did 6k a day to represent the fact that, on average, men die six years younger than women – for no logical reason.

“This year the distance has gone up to 84k a week to represent the 84 men who take their lives every week, so it’s one kilometre for every guy who will die that week I’m running. I’m doing that throughout November to aid awareness of men’s suicide.”

Have you always been a runner?

“No I haven’t, I only really got into running in the last few years. My sister was training for the London Marathon and I thought I would support her. I did a Couch to 5K programme and found that running, for me, was an act of mindfulness.

“I can’t do meditation or anything like that – it just doesn’t work for me – but I found getting out on the road or in the park provided a peace and tranquillity that was really valuable to my mental health.”

How much of a challenge is the daily distance?

“It’s definitely a challenge. Last year the 6k a day was just about bearable, but I think doubling that is going to be a real push. But what I want to do this year is run with people.

“I’m very much a solo runner: I enjoy putting headphones in and shutting everything out. But this year I want to speak to as many people as I can about mental health, so physically and mentally it’s going to be quite tough.

“I’m going off and doing the MoRuns around the country every weekend, and I have a few different routes around home and work, so hopefully I won’t get too bored, and having people around me should help take my mind off the running.”

Why this charity?

“This will be my tenth year supporting the Movember Foundation. It was the first organisation I came across that was encouraging men to talk about their health. For the first couple of years it was about physical health, but then the mental health conversation took over.

“I’ve struggled for over 25 years with my mental health and actually finding an organisation that said it was OK to talk about these things – and that it is the ‘manly’ thing to do to talk and not avoid talking – was revelatory to me.

“But also I think the way they go about it, with that level of engagement and fun, means it’s not just about raising money, it’s also about raising awareness. It was obvious to me that this was an organisation passionate about making change happen; it was about changing the attitudes of men, and it struck a chord from day one.”

What can be done to encourage more men to talk about how they’re feeling?

“I think there are a couple of things that can be done. The first is to get men into comfortable situations, and that’s where physical exercise – and running in particular – comes into it. When you’re running with someone, not only are you slightly distracted, but the simple fact you’re side on to someone, rather than staring at them across a table, can make conversations feel much more comfortable.

“The other thing is that we need to get this message across that the culture of ‘man up’ and ‘stiff upper lip’ is doing far more harm than good. There seems to be a sense that it’s one or the other, but that just isn’t true: there are a number of good qualities to being a ‘bloke’ in the traditional sense, but if you accept these little changes and learn to talk about your emotions you will still be a bloke, but a bloke in a much better position.”

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