Fundraising for McPin: 300 miles to better mental health

David Bowman

When you remember PE at school, how do you react? I tend to feel a sense of dread – even now. My strong dislike of the subject, I think, came from the fact that from primary school all the way through to the end of secondary school, I was bullied. By the time I left school in 1991, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I was even pushed to the point of being suicidal. This certainly didn’t make physical activity any more appealing.

Alongside my mental health issues, I also struggled with weight gain. After leaving school and the dreaded PE, I don’t remember doing any kind of regular activity. In 2007, I reached 16 stone and decided that this had to change. I had also reached a point in my life where I realised that I needed to turn things around in a bigger way.

Starting some form of exercise seemed like a good idea. 

I started gently with cycling and this progressed to running. In 2017, I wanted to take running more seriously, but it didn’t feel safe where I was currently running and couldn’t monitor my progress. Then someone introduced me to Park Run. I decided to give it a go.

I did my first Park Run (5 km) in 34:02 minutes and my eleventh run in 27:20 minutes. My current personal best is 25:45 minutes.

A new mission

As my fitness improved, I decided to do the 2019 Great South Run in Portsmouth. I wanted to accelerate my weight loss and I also thought that this could be an opportunity for me to give something back to society.

I decided to raise money for the McPin Foundation because their work in mental health research matches my own interests. On a personal level, I have experience of anxiety and depression. Academically, I completed a BSc in Psychology and Statistics and an MA in Applied, Social and Market Research. As a result, I understand the critical importance of evidenced-based research to improve services and how the mental health field could benefit from this.

So, I had a mission. But I needed a plan.

In April 2018, I started a program of six weekly runs, increasing from 7.5 km to 10 km and then 12.5 km. Following this, I completed eight weeks of 15.5 to 16 km runs. I hope to have run 300 miles (483 km) before I go to Portsmouth on 20th October.

Running improved my life

I still have issues with confidence and anxiety but running has helped improve these significantly. It has also helped me lose weight. Since April this year I have lost 20 lbs, which totals about 2.5 stone (35 lbs) since 2007. Apart from running, I have been a scuba diver for 15 years, which I love because it suits my personality. I am also an amateur photographer and spend time tending my allotment, both of which keeps me grounded and mindful.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t do a regular physical activity to give it a go. And if you enjoy running, try Park Run. These Saturday morning runs have become an integral part of my life and have improved it so much. I look forward to them and if I miss it for more than two weeks, I get withdrawal symptoms!

David will be running the Great South Run on 20 October to raise money for McPin. Please consider donating: