Over recent months Kent Live has been following the incredible journey of a running club in Sevenoaks which is helping women beat depression through exercise.
We’ve heard about the psychology behind running and mental health, and spoken to some of the women it has helped – but now reporter Sian Elvin has laced up her trainers to give it a go herself.
For me, running has always been a solitary activity. I love getting out of the house to pound the pavement every so often, but I just put my headphones in and shut off the world.
I’ve never run in a group, so understandably I was nervous when running coach Shona Campbell invited me to go and see what it was like.
She launched Up and Running six years ago alongside clinical psychologist Harriet Heal, in a bid to help women tackle mental health issues through exercise.
So a couple of weeks before the launch of the next Up and Running course, I went along to one of Shona’s regular running groups to experience the benefits of jogging in a group.
And as soon as I met Shona and Harry my nerves were completely put to rest by their kind and welcoming attitudes.
“I don’t want people to think we’re supermodels or strict personal trainers,” said Shona, as we set off in Knole Park for a 7km run in the blazing sunshine, “We’re just normal women who like to have a chat and do some exercise.”
And exercise we did – but from my first few minutes running I could tell even though Shona isn’t a strict personal trainer, she is very experienced in coaching.
She let the people in the group set the pace rather than her, and it meant no one got left behind or felt like they were struggling.
And in the gorgeous surroundings of Knole, I really enjoyed myself. It was very quiet, only seeing the occasional dog walker and runner – with Shona and Harry cheerily saying “Good morning!” to them – and seeing the odd deer bounding out from the undergrowth added to its beauty.
“It would be rude not to, really,” said Shona, “It’s just so beautiful here.”
And the routes we took through the woods and further away from the house made me realise how large the park actually is and just how little of it I had explored.
Luckily Shona knows it like the back of her hand so we never got lost – aside from her sometimes joking and sending us off in the wrong direction, then calling us back again.
We finished the course feeling tired, but satisfied with our achievement of completing a morning run.
And I couldn’t believe how much of a weight had been lifted by getting out in the fresh air for a jog – and sharing it with others, which really helped with motivation.
I felt so much better, and can imagine the mental health benefits of doing it on a regular basis, particularly when I’m struggling with low moods or anxious moments.
“After all, there are many chores in life, and I don’t think running should be one of them,” Shona had said. And her groups definitely stop it from feeling like a chore.
The next Up and Running course starts on Saturday, September 16.