In 2020, you're taking on the epic London Marathon. What made you choose to run for James' Place?
In 1971, when I was a baby, my mother took her own life and this wasn't discussed as I grew up.
A few years ago, I was invited to a meeting with a group of people bereaved by suicide to share my story with Heads Together and it was that day that I met Clare Milford Haven. My father's family are from the Liverpool area, so I kept an eye out on news of James' Place in Liverpool.
My father died in March 2019 so when I was thinking about a charity to support in 2020, James’ Place seemed to be a lovely nod to the memory of both my mother and father and an opportunity for me to support an initiative that I am passionate about. I have struggled with my own mental health over the years and have had periods of suicidal thoughts as a young man and never had much luck in finding support when I so desperately needed it.
What's going to keep you motivated throughout your weeks of training?
Before 2018 I was almost surgically attached to the sofa and so I signed up to the Red January fundraiser raising money for MIND as an attempt to kick myself up the bottom. Something clicked and rather than running for every day in January I kept it going for 100 days in a row as my teenage daughter mentioned to me I was less "grumpy" and I could also recognise an improvement in my mood and general health, both physical and mental.
During that 100 days I picked up the parkrun bug and have since then run 102 parkruns taking part in runs from Perth in Scotland to Lands End in Cornwall. I didn't miss a parkrun in 2019 running in 55 events as well as completing half a dozen 10ks and on the day before my 50th birthday I took part in Cardiff Half Marathon. A small group of friends also took on the National Three Peaks Challenge in July 2019 to raise money for a disability charity that I work for (National Star).
After all that I remain a very slow runner who continues to carry too much weight and doesn't find it particularly easy. I value the community that running has helped me discover as well as the difference that regular exercise has had on my physical and mental health. As the child that was picked last in school for PE I was genuinely surprised and delighted by the welcome that "proper" runners extend to those making an effort. Parkrun in particular is really good at that inclusive philosophy. It has helped me to challenge my own perceptions on what might be possible.
What message would you to give those that are struggling with mental health, that will be following you throughout the marathon?
Running has taught me to carry on despite all of your senses shouting at you to stop. Taking one step forward and realising that any negative is temporary has been a really good life lesson for me. As a 50 year old I have all the insecurities and anxieties I carried as a teenager but I have learnt that pausing and waiting for difficult moments to pass is a powerful tool to use.
One step forward, slowly, gently.
You can support Peter's London Marathon challenge here > www.justgiving.com/fundraising/petedjohnson