Well Run Brum: a New Wellbeing Running Group for Men

Well Run Brum: a New Wellbeing Running Group for Men

A paramedic who witnessed the impact of mental health issues first-hand on the NHS front line backs Well Run Brum, a new initiative promoting men’s wellbeing through social running.

Kyle Raffo, who starred in several series of the Channel 4 documentary 999: On the Front Line, is one of the first speakers lined up for the brand new Well Run Brum movement, founded by 36-year-old Richard Loftus.

Richard came up with the concept for Well Run Brum after experiencing his own mental health crisis. He said, “I phoned the GP and just sobbed. I told them I couldn’t cope anymore.”

That day was the realisation that he’d been struggling with stress, depression and anxiety.

Eighteen months later, Richard now describes himself as a completely different person – and one of the main reasons for that is running.

He has built running and talking into his routine as a coping mechanism, and because it’s benefited him so much, he’s encouraging others to take that positive first step with him.

Aimed at all ages and abilities, Well Run Brum provides a safe space for men to come together to run 5k routes around the streets of Birmingham City Centre at a ‘conversational pace’. Each session will start at a different location to take in a variety of city scenes.

Free fortnightly sessions

The free fortnightly sessions will begin with a short talk from a speaker focusing on fitness, health and wellbeing topics. The idea being that the talk will open the door to conversation among the runners.

“Being able to start that conversation can be really overwhelming,” Richard said. “What I love about this concept is that someone else is doing the talking first. You can take it in, join the conversation, listen to others, or just be, there’s no pressure; hopefully people will get something out of it either way.”

Richard has completed the England Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness qualification and a Mental Health First Aid Level 2 in preparation for supporting runners both physically and mentally.

A first aid kit for mental health

Kyle will be speaking at the run on Tuesday 26 March, which for that week meets outside the Wesleyan building in Colmore Circus Queensway, Birmingham, at 6.45pm.

Kyle set up a community interest company called Pause & Inspire to launch wellbeing first aid kits after witnessing a worrying rise in mental health issues during his 10 years on the NHS front line.

The Pause kits are designed to get people thinking about their mental wellbeing with the aim of preventing some of the more common stresses and anxieties developing into bigger problems.

Just as someone would reach for a first aid kit if they were physically injured, the Pause wellbeing kit contains a variety of sensory items that people can use in the moment if they’re feeling stressed or anxious. The items have all been carefully selected by paramedics and work on the premise of reducing stress by inhibiting the sensory channel.

Kyle said, “During my time in the NHS, I responded to countless 999 calls that were related to mental health issues, so much so that these became the majority. As a society we need to get much better at looking after our wellbeing before the point of individual crisis.

“Let’s give people the tools, knowledge and resources to be able to know what’s normal for them and when something isn’t right.

“We’re also passionate about removing the stigma and opening conversations, which is exactly what Richard is trying to achieve. Well Run Brum is a great idea and I’m delighted to support it.”

Richard said, “I reached out to Kyle because I’d read about his wellbeing kits and it feels so relevant to what I’m doing. Running gets you in tune with your body and the kit gives you the tools to be able to do something about it.”

‘A series of insignificant things’

Richard’s struggle with his mental health built up gradually over time until he reached that crisis point. It’s only now looking back from a healthier place that he can see the impact it had on him.

“When I phoned the GP surgery, they were amazing. They could hear the panic in my voice and they got me an appointment that day. I was diagnosed with stress and depression, was prescribed medication and signed off work by the GP,” he explained.

“I think it was a series of things that led up to it which each sound insignificant on their own, but built up into this unimaginable ball of tension and anxiety. It turned me into someone who was angry, irritable and not very nice to be around. I wasn’t really taking care of myself or anyone else.”

After a few weeks sitting at home watching TV, Richard decided to join a gym and took up running.

“I started talking to people who didn’t know me or my story and we were all on the same level, all trying to get through a gym class or a run.

“I then began messaging some of my friends and asking if they wanted to go for a run and I found I was able to talk much more freely in that setting and tell them what I was going through.

“I’m a different person now. I know it myself and others tell me, which made me realise how long this had been impacting me. I realised there’s an opportunity to help others in a similar way.”

Richard also hopes to address some of the stigma that still exists around mental health.

“The stigma and expectation to ‘man-up’, get on with it and deal with things creates its own issues. I was so embarrassed at first and there’s a feeling of failure of not being able to cope. I still feel that to some extent and that stigma rings for true for many people.”

Well Run Brum launched on 12 March, with sports psychologist Dr Tom Bates speaking on how ‘the mind really is the athlete, the body simply the means’ before runners set off on a route around the city.

For more information, please visit Well Run Brum

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