Meet Team Heads Together 2019: Why James is running the London Marathon

"The one take away that I have shared with others is quite simply 'It's OK not to be OK' - it really breaks down the barrier of jargon, labelling and helps to frame a different type of conversation."

Why are you running the marathon?

I have run 3 marathons before, and never quite fallen in love with running.  I wanted to approach this differently and find a longer term connection with the physical and mental benefits of running for my general health and well being, rather than focusing on just the “goal” of finishing.  So whilst this is not my first marathon, I was going in knowing what a huge task it is to train and motivate myself daily, putting in hours and hours of training, and running hundreds and hundreds of miles to ensure I arrive on the day in as good a condition as I can be. I knew there would be challenges along the way – business trips and work pressures, illness, cold & poor weather, low motivation on dark mornings and of course injury scares – to overcome, but I wanted to embrace that with a positive attitude and a different mindset.

Why are you running it for Heads Together?

Whilst mental health and wellbeing has thankfully had greater prominence in recent years, I was keen to understand how we can further raise awareness and ultimately ensure a much broader acceptance of the issues and a more open conversation on how those affected can find the support they need as early and accessibly as possible. I was particularly interested in the recent Heads Together initiative around Mental Health At Work as that resonates for me.  I’ve engaged in many conversations and read a lot of people’s stories in connection with Heads Together and mental wellbeing generally – the one take away that I have shared with others is quite simply “It’s OK not to be OK”- it really breaks down the barrier of jargon, labelling and helps to frame a different type of conversation.

What are you most excited about on race day?

The atmosphere and camaraderie amongst runners is incredible – and no more so at an event like this.  My brother is also running, and for me the event will start when we go to collect our numbers in the days leading up to the race.  I’ve also trained much more and embraced the mental challenge very differently that I am genuinely excited by what the race will bring, rather than being fearful of it. I remember at the Heads Together Training Day the running coach gave some advice on not being a “bus stop runner” – speeding up when you see a crowd of people.  Having pounded the streets of London and used my commute as a training route, I can safely say I still fail to heed that advice.  So quite how I will react to a constant line of vocal and hugely encouraging crowds along the 26.2 mile route is yet to be seen!

What’s keeping you motivated?

I am running for Heads Together as part of the ongoing support and relationship that Collinson, the company I work for, have had with Heads Together & The Royal Foundation since 2017.  This year marks my 20th year with Collinson, and I am incredibly proud to be both representing them at the event and on behalf of their great relationship with Heads Together. We have multiple runners from our global offices and coming together as a team – we will meet in person for the first time together at an event the week before – and the support we have had in terms of fundraising and donations from colleagues around the world has been a huge motivation for us as all. As is having an older brother who is a marathon veteran with a PB that is very likely out of reach!

What’s your top tip of advice for a fellow marathon runner?

  • Listen to your body – if you are picking up niggling injuries, get them checked out.  Generally most injuries will be connected to a single issue, whether that be shoes, posture, technique etc.  Understanding that early, but also resting if you are struck by injury are very important.  Stretching and warm downs are also critical, they are not an optional extra in my view.
  • Get your kit right – properly fitted running shoes are a must.  Get yourself to a running shop and make that your first investment.  Having the right clothing for the variable weather conditions is also very important.  Never have a reason not to go out: rain or shine, dark or light.
  • Enjoy it, but be honest with yourself. Personally I generally hate the first mile it can often feel a chore and be a real drag. Even getting to that point has generally been a battle of whits to fight the “you don’t need to go on that run, tomorrow could work better” demons.  Anyone seeing me from mile 3+ would never believe that  I will whisper it too, but I didn’t naturally enjoy the running club enthusiast environment.  I found it a bit intimidating, but having run at organised events it has helped me to manage that.  I still don’t think I will ever be one of those people discussing negative splits, cadence and VO2 Max levels at the next running club meet up.

Learn more about James’s story here