Exercise

Men’s mental health – the marathon man

Have you experienced a runner’s high?

Running or jogging can turn a bad day into a good day as the endorphins start to dance in the brain building self-consciousness, awareness and confidence. Frustration and stress can turn to speed and the freedom allows the mind to file information or think up some wonderful ideas.

Running is good for the body, mind and soul.

 

Meet Arthur…

Arthur Miller, the marathon man, has been doing running for over 30 years.  During the early 1980’s his first marriage sadly fell apart triggering a range of deep emotional upsets and, most certainly, running became his channel of escape. Arthur has kindly told me his story so I can share it with our readers as part of our men’s mental health awareness articles but before we dive in, here is something important…

An Important message…

If you are a man and you are worried – suffering in silence or failing to get some help is not something you should do. There are people you can talk to and there are people that will listen. If you are facing challenges we recommend that you share them with someone.

A problem shared is a problem halved – it’s true.

According to statistics published by Men’s Health Forum – in the UK, 76% of suicides are committed by men and it’s the biggest cause of death for men under 35.

12.5% of men are suffering from a mental health disorder. (1)

It’s a well-known fact that men are less likely than women to ask for help.

There is self-help. It starts with acknowledging and identifying the challenges that you have.  Present yourself with choices – a change in lifestyle, assistance from a doctor, a therapist or a life coach. You may have financial challenges and can’t afford a form of therapy but a lot of self-help is free!

Exercise can be free. Several studies have shown the benefits of physical exercise to improve mood and overall mental wellbeing.

Arthur Miller, our contributor for this article told me that running and his numerous friendships that he made along the way have helped him through to his current happy life.  Strengthened by this outcome he has come to terms with his back and knee problems which is so common with ‘elderly sports folk’ (I had to include his phrase – it made me smile).

Over use and injuries aside, decades of pounding the streets has kept Arthur’s mind, body and soul in a good place.

For some runners, dreams of winning races are unachievable. However, Arthur can proudly admit to winning first place in the Over 70’s half marathon at Stevenage in November 2014. He retired from racing on a high and when referring to his running, he said he has been the luckiest man and so truly grateful!  He has so many stories that he could share, a lot of them are hilarious and hopefully we can invite him back to tell us more.

Being part of a running club can come with many psychological benefits. You make new friends from all different walks of life, all with their own story to tell. As Arthur can confirm, great friendships can be formed whilst encouraging each other’s running performance and sometimes surviving the most challenging runs together as a team.

Arthur has shared some of his history of running…

“When nearing my 41st birthday I had managed to keep reasonably fit by training youth football teams and doing short jogs.  At this time the “Space age” was well established requiring ultra-lightweight and special clothing etc for astronauts producing and including what are now seen as trainers/running shoes.  A generous client of mine owning a sports shop gave me a pair of blue Addidas running shoes, claiming they were “great” and certainly proved to be the case as my jogging mileage thereafter steadily mounted.

The first major world-wide city marathon was organised by a Fred Lebow in New York, November 1970 – immediately being a huge success.  Later he was befriended by Chris Brasher, the British Olympic gold medal winner and together they completed the 1979 race that impacted hugely on Chris, to the extent of triggering a desire to promptly set up the London version and this was duly launched 29th March 1981. 

The needed London publicity was helped by the Sunday Observer newspaper during the same month of acquiring my Addidas shoes. With an unforgettable aerial photo of hundreds of men, all colours and creeds in shorts and vests queuing keenly outside a lengthy line of portable loos at the last New York race which both amused and astonished me to the extent of waiting to attempt the 1981 London event some five months later.  In addition to that, the New York Marathon with a friend the following November, but, with nary a thought about the level of training required!  Well, the first need was a simple walk across Westminster Bridge to County Hall to complete a form and pay a small entry fee. There were no problems but the incredible response meant it would never be so easy again!

Over the next few months I pushed up my previous easy going jogs to a final 13 miles -leaving me nervous for the “big day” but I was helped by a kind neighbour pal who offered a drive to the early start at Greenwich. Also to meet up at the finish line should I make it!  What followed was one of the greatest days of my life and an unforgettable emotional experience whilst passing the south London flats with elderly folk waving down from their balconies. Next along the route came the famous 1869 Cutty Sark clipper ship where I listened to the much celebrated entertainer Max Bygraves performing at a street corner and then crossing the fabulous Tower Bridge.  Along the Thames embankment packed with spectators, weariness hit hard but I crossed the line in just over 4¼ hours – grabbing a treasured medal plus T-shirt.

After half an hour there was no sign of my friend John. I returned to the village where I lived by train and taxi then sank into the bath, starting to dream of New York Marathon in November.  My wife rushed in the room having received a panic call from John still at the London Marathon’s Constitution Hill finish!  We reconciled over a glass or two of wine later.

 A congratulatory letter arrived from Chris Brasher’s race team plus an invitation to join them for the New York race later that year. How could I possibly refuse? I soon made friends with a few other entrants at a plush Manhattan hotel close by Central Park, in awe “took in” many of the mesmerising areas of a fantastic city and five days later was at the start line. Then I duly crossed several bridges and districts that I had only previously seen in Hollywood movies. On a tough stretch with almost ten miles ahead, a race vehicle with a speaker system proudly announced we were running in a world record breaking time marathon with the now infamous Alberto Salazar passing the line in 2hrs. 8mins. Mr Brasher was present promising our party a place in the 1982 London race (broken) we triumphantly returned to Heathrow celebrating 12 months ownership of my Addidas wonder shoes!

 On the crest of a personal “wave” elected to complete a marathon running tour of Paris – the third of the world’s finest capital cities the following May.

My athletics career has brought me a wide range of friendships within three clubs from Hampstead to St Albans. There are so many indelible, happy memories and the need in life for positive commitment over training schedules. Also how to look after my body and, most important, the desire to give something back to this wonderful sport in various ways. I was able to help several male and female runners, inspired by big race events viewed on T.V. to complete a first marathon. I became a road racing manager and organised trips to numerous top class races around England, including The Great North run and notable events in France.  I returned to New York in 1988 completing proudly the 26.2 miles with my wife Mary alongside and qualified for the 100th Boston race – the world’s oldest marathon in 1996.”

Arthur met a special friend through one of his running clubs, Bill – a taxi driver. The two men were very different and as they ran the miles, rain or shine – they talked openly and helped each other through different stages of their lives. Running definitely helped Bill’s mental health, it was his place of sanctuary. Bill sadly died of cancer but his legacy will live on through his generosity and kindness. We would like to dedicate this article to Bill.

Through running, Bill and Arthur helped each other in different ways. They enhanced each other’s lives and Arthur was there for Bill until the very end.

 

As you can see, running has played a major part in Arthur’s life – one could say it kept him sane at times.

Only now, approaching his 80’s has Arthur’s health limited his miles dramatically. It is just about time to hang up his running shoes but he will still walk and he will drink wine! Arthur understands the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and good diet with a nice glass of red on the side.

If you have been inspired by this article and you want to start running it is important to wear appropriate footwear.

Take advice from the experts and when you take that first step, no matter how big or small – it is a step in the right direction for your mental health.

Thank you Arthur for sharing your story. x

Best wishes,

Rachel

 

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** The content on this site should not be used as medical advice, we are giving our readers information and insights. If you are concerned about your health or need medical advice please see your doctor. If you are struggling with any issues please talk to someone – don’t suffer in silence. **
References:
  1. https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/mens-mental-health/

 

 

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