News & Media

Raising mental health awareness through running

Running as a sport can have incredible benefits, both individually, and as a community. Over the coming months, we will be featuring a range of diverse groups taking part in The Vitality Big Half that are using the power of running to bring people together for a social purpose, supported by London Marathon Events.

The Vitality Big Half is a unique event that strives to celebrate London’s diversity in all its forms. As Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

Since the inaugural event in 2017, we’ve been working alongside a range of community groups and key stakeholders to support them in a variety of ways including developing a community entry process which allows those engaged in local community organisations across London to access the event at a reduced entry price. We will continue to deliver year-round community engagement initiatives to support those that are under-represented and to ensure all Londoners get the opportunity to access this event.

In the first of our series, we hear from Stefanie Stavri. After losing her brother Rene to suicide, Stef turned to running to help process the grief. Now she leads a running group, Run4Rene, founded in his memory to help others through life’s tough points.

"In January 2017 I was away with work, when I received a call from my father telling me that my beautiful brother Rene had taken his own life. It’s still impossible to get my head around how a split moment can pour petrol on all the hopes and plans and foundations you’ve laid out for a lifetime, just light a match and burn them to ash.

"After months of barely functioning, I realised I had to make sense of all the pain. It was a real sink or swim moment; where I felt myself drowning and I knew instinctively I had no choice but to create a buoy to hold on to and ride the waves of despair. Running became my float. The Run4Rene community started that late Summer. I wanted to talk about my own sadness and mental ill-health with others, but I didn’t want to sit in a room drinking tea doing it. I’d tried that, but it hadn’t worked for me. I yearned for a community and a support network but knew that I wanted running to be at the heart of it.

"Since we started, we’ve raised nearly £100,000 through community and running events together for various mental health charities but just as importantly, we’ve created a sacred space where strangers can come, run side-by-side with others and talk about anything bothering them and know they are never alone.

"Run4Rene Crew aim to grow diverse communities across London, encouraging people to support each other and to combat stigma, loneliness and isolation, which can bolster poor mental health. We're participating in The Vitality Big Half because we find it helpful having a goal to keep us motivated over colder, wetter months. We love celebrating London communities in all their forms and running in our amazing city!"

Run4Rene is free and available to all levels. If you’re interested in learning more, All information can be found on their website: www.run4rene.com

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following helplines may be able to provide help:

The Samaritans: 116 123
Papyrus: 0800 068 41 41
CALM:  0800 58 58 58 (or webchat here)