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Duncan Whyte – Ambassador Final Blog

Duncan Whyte Ambassador – Final Blog

Well, as I sit here writing my final blog a week on from having crossed the finish line at BT Murrayfield for the Mens 10k in Edinburgh, I still have an enormous sense of wellbeing from having participated in the race. I have really enjoyed acting as an ambassador for the event, raising money for a charity dear to me heart and meeting some other like minded people who share a passion for running. I was hoping to run a sub 50min time which didn’t quite happen as I finished in 51’11 but I thoroughly relished doing the run which has provided a focus and motivation for all those hours of training and preparation in advance. I find taking part in such events helps keep my own personal fitness agenda on track and supports me to keep up a level of activity that boosts my physical and mental health and gives me a greater sense of welfare in my life in general. The race was well organised and all the staff and many volunteers who without which such events couldn’t take place were superb and the course which was challenging (the hills on Holyrood Road and the Cowgate were tough!) took in many of Edinburghs historic and cultural landmarks. If you have read my previous blogs you will recall that I was running for a charity called ‘The Yard’ which provides adventure play services for children with additional support needs in the East of Scotland and is a facility that my family access with my son Theo. On the route, on many occasions I heard people referencing or shouting support for The Yard as a result of my yellow running vest with the organisations logo front and centre and it was great to see that so many local people cherish this wonderful organisation as much as I do. They really do provide invaluable opportunities for families in Edinburgh, Fife and Dundee respectively.

I started my first blog in this series by quoting one of Edinburghs most infamous fictional sons, Mark Renton, the squalid anti hero of Irvine Welsh’s seminal novel ‘Trainspotting’ and his rant about choosing life. It only seems fitting to sign off from my writing to reference the T2 reboot which was released as a contempory update as to the lives of the original characters.

Choose life
Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently
And choose watching history repeat itself Choose your future
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn
Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen
And then… take a deep breath
You’re an addict, so be addicted
Just be addicted to something else
Choose the ones you love
Choose your future
Choose lifeThe world had changed around Renton and his pals just has it has for all of us who have grown up or at least gotten older over the past 20 years. The Mens 10k sets out to promote mens health issues and as a Teacher in a Secondary school in Scotland, this is something I do in my professional life. Men of my generation and older never talked about our health, our fears, our passions, our stresses, our emotions and certainly not our mental health. Sharing any of this would be a sign of weakness which may lead to paranoia about being thought of as less of a man as a result. This was the sort of stuff women talked about. The myths about openly discussing male health of course have been greatly dispelled by well publicised research, far reaching media campaigns and thankfully a very robust and clear female narrative. As men, we all have women in our lives; partners, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends, best friends, colleagues, managers and so on. I think I could confidently proclaim that each of these female influences in our lives want us to be real men too. Men who talk about how they are feeling. Men who ask for help. Men who are strong enough to reveal their vulnerabilities and let others in. Men who are caring, nurturing, gentle and most importantly strong. Real strength comes from helping others, being that rock but also from being brave enough to let that guard down, be honest with yourself and those who matter in our lives. This does not mean being male means you have to give up swearing or following your team. We can be both football fans and show the chinks in our armour to those we trust.When I work with and talk to the young people in my school, it is very clear they all have a much better understanding of modern day masculinity than my generation and those that came before it do. They just get it and it gives me great hope that the world where my son and daughter will grow up in will be a much healthier and more supportive place for it. Attitudes are changing and I for one only see this as a transformational development. Further work needs to be done of course and I see the responsibility for that not lying with divisive and self-protecting politicians nor flimsy and faddy instagram influencers nor indeed our stretched to breaking point education system. It falls on all of our shoulders to model to our children and younger generations what it means to be a man, what being manly looks and sounds like and to model appropriate male behaviours to both our sons and daughters and those of others. After all, where did we learn all our bad habits from when we were that age?

Renton cited many modern day pitfalls of society; the inherent risks of inescapable social media digestion and regurgitation, financial strains and uncertainty as a result of economic mismanagement by the banking sector and the government bringing austerity to the doorsteps of many in a variety of guises, numbing the pain of the trappings of current life through junk food, substance misuse, self-harm and other escapist avenues. It’s certainly quite scary and undoubtedly more complex for young people growing up today and trying to make sense of the world, their place within it and trying to navigate a positive pathway through it. As I have matured in years, I have come to realise that in life, it’s never really about the destination, it’s the journey that matters. It’s about shared experiences, overcoming barriers, crossing paths and steering a course through life that brings you joy and happiness that is important. Not what you have to show for it at the end. If you can do that one day Theo, you will then be a man my son.

Running is more often than not about the journey also rather than crossing that finishing line. It’s about the progress, noticeable changes to fitness, differences to your body, times coming down, distances going up, the people you meet, feeling good about yourself, striding with a sense of purpose and finding a positive focus for your life. I hope you have enjoyed reading the blogs and if you are thinking about giving running a go for the first time then go for it. There are loads of support tools such as ’Couch to 5k’ to get you started and I guarantee you will have neighbours, workmates and others in your community who can offer advice and guidance. I am certain you won’t regret it and it could be another step in the right direction towards a happier and fulfilling life.

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Fraser Baxter – Blog 2

Fraser Baxter Ambassador Blog 2

Since my last blog 4 weeks ago I have been busy running the Great North run (the most mental event ever!!!), The Scottish Half Marathon (A new PB!!!!) and training really hard for the Lochness Marathon in October. I say training really hard but to tell the truth is more of a distraction as the reality is that October is the month that I dread the most in the year, it is our daughter Jenna’s birthday and anniversary of her death. This as you would expect produces all sorts of different emotions – the joy of having a baby daughter and at the other end of the spectrum complete and utter sadness/ anger / grief that her life was cut so short.

During October I become more aware of the “mask of grief” that I wear and probably will for the rest of my life. What is the “mask of grief”? Well it’s this invisible shield that you develop that sort of protects from all sorts of vulnerably? It masks your true feelings to allow you to get on with your “new normal”. As with most masks they do become uncomfortable if you wear then for a long periods of time. I try to run about four times a week this allows me to take of my mask and recharge the batteries.

Your mask can help you in many situations for example when you get asked how many kids you have? It’s such a simple question but to me it’s such a difficult questions to answer. Depends on your audience right? Can you truthfully answer that to a complete stranger? Yes I have 3 kids but one died? That just make the situation totally uncomfortable and could lead to a lot of other difficult questions and maybe not fair to person asking the question. If say two the situation is normal and we can all move. This is where the “mask of grief” protects and everything looks ok for the outside but inside there is immense levels of guilt for not telling the truth. I should be saying three daughters because when I don’t I’m denying Jenna her rightful place in our family. I suppose that situation is much like running the more you train the better you get and after 3 years of being asked that question I have a well-rehearsed answer depending on who is asking!

October will no doubt be a month of ups and downs, much like the 26.2 mile back to Inverness. Once the Marathon is done and dusted am looking forward to a change in my training with the introduction of some sorter distance and speed work in preparation for the Mens10km. I am also looking forward to completely the Men’s 10K as part of a group of bereaved dad’s. As mentioned in previous blog, I go to a support group especially for Beavered Dads and we are planning to get some training runs in soon. I think running together will show unity and just emphasis the point that you don’t need to go along in this journey of grief alone!

Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Edinburgh Ambassadors at mens10k.com/edinburgh-ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Duncan Whyte – Blog 2

Duncan Whyte Ambassador Blog 2

11am exactly on the 2nd of January 2013. My first born came into this world. For as long as I can recall, I wanted to become a father. It’s the only ambition I have ever really had. I remember trying to bluff my way through my Standard Grade French speaking assessment aged 15 as a result of a combination of being thoroughly under prepared and not giving a ‘merde’ when my teacher asked me ‘Quelles ambitions as-tu dans la vie?’. This I was ready for. I had been ready all my life. ‘Mon ambition dans la vie est de devenir père d’une famille’. Madame lifted her gaze from my assessment record which she had been annotating furiously for the past five minutes but which felt like an eternity and made momentary eye contact but long enough to utter what every kid who has ever darkened a French lesson longs to hear. ‘Tres bien Duncan, Tres bien’. Fast forward back to 2013 and I first lay eyes on my daughter. Three days after my wife was first admitted to hospital. I had pretty much lived in the maternity ward during those days overdosing on terrible daytime TV to pass the mindless boredom, getting frustrated at not being able to complete crosswords and eating meals in my car. My wife insists she had it tougher and of course she did. We were both shattered. My overarching memories of that day were primarily of relief that mother and child were healthy and safe. The rest was numbness and a strange level of disconnect. It wasalmost like this was happening but not to me. Like I was a voyeur watching a reality TV show where I was pleased that the characters I was rooting for had pulled through but that wasabout it. I was expecting fireworks, a sense of euphoria, something otherworldly. Maybe it was the fatigue. Maybe it was the spirit crushing game shows. Maybe it was the Entonox (which I would thoroughly recommend by the way) or the three square meals a day from a vending machine. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what I expected. Mother and baby were doing well so I was asked to kindly leave the premises (not for the first time in my life but under entirely different circumstances). I drove home. Opened the door. Navigated my way to my bed and fell asleep. Keys still in the lock of the outside of the door. It then hit me. Hard. I usually groggily phase myself gently from slumber to consciousness via at least three slams of the snooze button. Not on this day. I woke in an instant. Sat bolt upright with adrenaline rushing through my veins and feeling like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. I tried to engage my brain. I was too young for a stroke, what was going on? Then I realised. It had happened. I was a dad. Me. To a beautiful little girl. She was mine, I was hers. Throw on some clothes, a particularly clashing combination in my giddy haste. Get in car, drive too fast (nothing illegal but not in my usual frugal mindset of optimising my MPG manner). I held her in my arms and the world seemed at peace. 1000 merdique nappys later, being puked on in a supermarket where the vomit went down my coat neck and came out of my sleeve and countless sleepless nights since have knocked the rose tinted spectacles from my face. Well, just a little. Regardless, being a dad is the proudest achievement I have had in life and trying to be a good dad is undoubtedly the biggest challenge that I have ever faced. I make mistakes all too often but I am fiercely proud of my family and do my best to meet their ever shifting needs.

Running is one of the few aspects of my life where I can recreate some of the physiological sensations I experienced the day after my daughter was born. I enjoy entering mass participation races and being part of a supercolony of runners who thrive off each other’s energy, positivity and encouragement. Whether it’s a 5K, 10K or half marathon, I get a real buzz from taking part and pursuing individual goals and overcoming personal barriers. The finish is always the highlight and reaching around the last 500 metre mark is when the best feeling comes for me. I can feel wave after wave of endorphins washing over my body, turning it to jelly and simultaneously strengthening my resolve to push my body harder to get over the line. It genuinely gives me an enormous sense of wellbeing. Pencilling in organised events such as the Mens 10K in Edinburgh into my diary helps to motivate my running in between races and compels to me to go out for a run and reap all the benefits that this brings even on the coldest, windiest and wettest of nights the East coast has to offer. If you have never ran a race before, I implore you to do so. Perhaps you are new to running or have recently embarked on the couch to 5k training plan and feel that I’m not good enough or not fast enough to take part. Let me reassure you that running events in my experience are some of the most inclusive activities I have participated in. All sizes, shapes, abilities, levels of experience are represented and the community spirit amongst runners ensures everyone feels valued whether you finish first or last. When you feel like you are hitting the wall and a complete stranger who has made up the numbers who line the streets shouts ‘come on Duncan, you can do it’ as they read the name next to your number, it gives you a thrill and pushes you on to achieve things you thought were beyond you. Sign up for an event today such as the Men’s 10K in Edinburgh, I guarantee you will not regret it and suspect you will enrol in many similar events in the future.
Having ran quite a number of races over the past few years, this will be the first time that I have ran for charity. In a very selfish way I started running for me, kept running for me and entered races for the aforementioned high it gives me. Oh, and for the bling. I love a medal I do. I guess I have always felt a bit awkward asking friends and family for money for doing something I overtly enjoy, which I do to manage my own physical and mental health and for which I would quite readily pay to do. I feel very honoured to have been chosen to become a Mens 10K Edinburgh Ambassador however the most ambassadorial thing I have done to date is to gift wrap some Ferrero rocher to give to my granny at Christmas. Exquisite but hardly inspirational. Given that I have been lucky enough to have been chosen for this role, it only seems right to make my running be about someone else rather than myself for once. At the Mens 10K in Edinburgh this year, I am going to be raising funds for an organisation called ‘The Yard.

The Yard is an award-winning charity running adventure play services for disabled children, young people and their caregivers in the East of Scotland. The Yard provides physical as well as emotional support to families in an environment that allows children with additional support needs to have opportunities to promote their physical development and social communication in a safe and vibrant setting. My awesome son Theo loves visiting the Yard in both Edinburgh and Dundee. As his dad, it is so satisfying to see him explore the facilities at the Yard with confidence, take controlled risks that he wouldn’t in other contexts and moreover relax and have a bundle of fun. What The Yard gets so right is in fostering a culture and ethos of inclusivity and equity for children and families who often have experiences of feeling marginalised and excluded or simply having trouble accessing other services. Signing up for the Men’s 10K in Edinburgh and being lucky enough to do so as an ambassador for the event provides me with a platform to highlight the fantastic work of all the people who make The Yard what it is, to raise money to help support the services The Yard offers and to put a little something back into a facility which I and my son have benefited from and feel so passionate about.

Race day is just over a month away now and my regular running routine continues although I have not got out as often or ran as far during training runs as I would have hoped for. Things have been super busy at work, a short period of illness, the nights turning darker and just generally being shattered as a result of a busy professional and domestic schedule has meant that whilst I am keeping my body and running legs ticking over, I am certainly not in any shape to be aiming for a PB come November the 3rd. I much prefer running outdoors as opposed to in the gym and as the weather turns a bit wetter and wilder so it will take considerable personal commitment to motivate myself to get out and try to get into some form of reasonable shape. I just need to remind myself that I always feel better after a run even when the prospect of going for one in the first place can be a little less than appealing. To compound matters, I thought it would be a great idea back in May shortly after completing my first half marathon to sign up for another. This is now tomorrow (Sundaty 29th September). Tonight is an incredibly are child free evening as my cherubs go for a sleepover at their grandparents house. Thus I am preparing for the 21.1km having had two beers and a glass of wine to wash down the meal my wife and I enjoyed at our local curry house. I am not sure this is exactly how Mo Farah prepares 16 hours before his events but whilst running is important to me, being a father and a husband always comes first. I am sure Mo would approve.

Hopefully I will see some of you other dads, grandads, sons, uncles and brothers at the start line on the Royal Mile for the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh 2019. In my next blog, I will let you know how my balti fuelled half marathon went, update you as to how my training has been progressing and share with you my pre race thoughts and emotions prior to the big day.

If you are reading this blog and feel like you would make even the smallest of contributions to The Yard then you can do so by visiting my JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/duncan-whyte1 This would help to support The Yard continue to support the development of and create wonderful experiences for children with additional support needs.
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Fraser Baxter – Blog 1

Fraser Baxter Ambassador Blog Post 1

Well I guess the first thing you should know about me is that I am a bereaved dad. My life was turned upside down when my second daughter died on 20 th October when she was just 1 day old. Jenna Baxter was her name and she has changed my life in so many different ways!

The excitement of our second imminent arrival quickly turned to shock when she was born and quickly taken to be resuscitated. 25 minutes is how long it took the medical team to revive my beautiful baby girl, they kept going so long because she took a tiny gasp. The waiting to find out if she was okay was unbearable. The consultant came to tell us that our baby was very poorly and they were not sure if she would survive.

When I saw her for the first time up in SCBU, I was flooded with so many emotions but seeing all the equipment and machines she was hooked up to I felt and overwhelming sense of fear. She had to be moved to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh as they had more specialist equipment there. I travelled in a police escorted ambulance with her and wife travelled in a separate ambulance. We were told that she may not survive the journey but she did! After a team of consultants spent time assessing her they then spoke with us to tell us that there was nothing else they could do for her. These are words that no parent should have to hear. We were in shock but they told us to spend as much time as possible with her. Our parents came to see her and our little girl, Jessica came to see her baby sister. Jessica was 3 at the time but she was able to make some memories with her little sister. She kissed her and sang her ‘Twinkle Twinkle’. Those are memories I will never forget.

On the evening of the 20 th October we had to make the difficult decision to turn off Jenna’s life support. 42 hours after she came into this world she left again. Just a brief visit! Jenna died in her mummy and daddy’s arms knowing only love.

And just like that my life changed, all our plans for our new life as a family of 4 were cruelly taken from us the night we had to turn off Jenna’s life support. There are no words to describe the grief in the days and weeks that followed Jenna’s death.

Having never being a runner before I have no idea why I started to running but I remember just wanting to escape a house full of sadness. I soon realised that when I ran I could process my thoughts and feelings.  I used the time out running to try and deal with my grief and process my thoughts. It was like the more I ran the better I became at surprising my grief and coping with my new normal.

It has been nearly a 3 years since we had to say goodbye to Jenna and although life goes on and you have to put your life back together piece by piece but the sadness will never go away completely.  There are days when the smallest thing can trigger a memory or a thought about what could have been. 

After 2 years I could no longer out run my grief and decided that I need to talk to someone. So with the help of Sands Lothian, I get regular counselling and attend a support group for Bereaved Dads. We started the support group for the Dads about 18 months ago and this year we will around 10 bereaved dad running the men’s 10km which is amazing! Please look out for us in our Sands Lothian Running Vests.

It may be a bit farfetched to say running saved my life but is has been my anti-depressant during the dark times. Whilst I am still trying to come to terms with what’s happened I still manage to run 4 times a week most weeks and run a few races a year.

Having signed up for many events since my 1 st race in April 2017 the men’s 10km is one of my favourites. What’s better than running around the city centre of Edinburgh and that sprint finish inside Murrayfeild. Being an Ambassador will help raise awareness of beavered dads who are often forgot about and suffer in silence. If there are any beavered dads reading this please know that is ok not to be ok.Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Edinburgh Ambassadors at mens10k.com/edinburgh-ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Duncan Whyte – Blog 1

Duncan Whyte – Ambassador Blog 1

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a rather big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fabulous fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on
that couch watching mind-numbing sprit-crushing game shows, stuffing plastic junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, wasting your last in a miserable home nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, messed-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life…. But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else.

The immortal words of Edinburgh’s very own down and out poet Mark Renton in Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting. It is both aspirational yet empty, safe but frightening and an attritional social commentary on the spiritual pitfalls of western consumer capitalism. It doesn’t fail to strike a chord within me and is a monologue which only resonates with greater efficacy 23 years later.

In the year of the films release, I was a 14 year old schoolboy, desperately wanting to fit in and hopelessly failing, longing for my days in the Scottish education system to cough me up so I could reset, start again, find my way, find myself. For as long as I can remember, I have always been painfully shy. I remember regularly going into a local sweet shop with my younger sister who very eloquently conversed with the shopkeep with lyrical ease to create her bespoke 10p mix whereas I pointed and nodded awkwardly in order to fill those small white paper bags that only seem to be the packaging of choice for such confectionary conveyers. As puberty took its grip, I further withdrew into the safety of my shell and the concept of just being able to make it to adulthood was a defined goal. Then everything would be ok. A job, big television, friendship, family, kids…. This seemed like a pretty satisfactory objective for a young man who was the only male in a single parent household in the last throws of conservative Thatcherism to aspire to.

I did well at school and left with a suite of qualifications that left me in the very fortunate position to be able to go to University. I was lucky to be learning about something I was passionate about and there were a range of experiences such as flat shares and part time employment that supported me to integrate into society through the things I had learned, realisations that I had had and through some great people I met. I developed some coping strategies to manage social situations with less shame and embarrassment and to all ends was making my way in the world, if a little ungainly. I even had the electric tin opener and CD player to prove it.

Upon finishing my higher education, I had moved through a few relationships, meandered from job to job and got a bit lost. It was time for a new path, a new city, a fresh start. It was here I found my vocation, met the woman who would become my wife and is what I consider to be one of those sliding doors moments of my life. I embarked on a career, started paying into a pension, took out a mortgage, got married, and went on holidays although sadly I have never owned a shell suit to match my suitcases. This is definitely still a life goal. Over the years I had found a range of ways to get by, to overcome the introversion, nervousness, shyness and inhibition. Some healthy, some not so much. It took being confronted about this by my partner that Ied me to first seek help. I rang the GP and made an appointment. I wasn’t sure if I would actually go or not but I did. It was hard. We talked things over. It was then I discovered that I suffer from anxiety. Something that everyone experiences from time to time and is a natural and necessary part of the human condition but what for some people can be chronic and life affecting. What I had mistaken for shyness or social ineptitude was actually a disorder that explained many things. Regular feelings of unease, overanalysing trivial events, playing over and over worst case scenarios in my head in the lead up to future occurring’s in my life, feeling restless, trouble sleeping and an underlying sense of panic. With medical help I accessed a range of different support strategies including cognitive behavioural therapy (wasn’t for me), medication (made me feel worse) and face to face counselling (useful but limited to a finite number of sessions due to strains on our NHS). However, like Ewan MacGregors character in the film, I chose something else. I chose running.

I had always been a very active individual. I dabbled with running a little at University as a means to stay trim as my student diet threatened to catch up with me. I enjoyed it as it gave me a sense of purpose, provided an ideal excuse for further procrastination from my studies. This however was without a soundtrack as CD players were feckless to run with (even with the latest shock protection technology of the time) and MP3 was yet to revolutionise how we all listen to music. So I returned to running again in my early thirties. Mental health whilst still having an aura of stigma associated with it is certainly not the taboo subject it once was and much great work has been done to break down barriers in relation to this. Mental health is a topic I talk about a lot in my work and which as a result I have learned a lot about and I have grown to understand myself, my condition and how to manage this more effectively. Upon lots of reading up on the positive impact of physical activity on mental wellbeing, and on taking advice from the health services I had been supported by, I decided to get myself a pair of trainers and go for a run again.

I run most evenings and find this to be a cathartic way to wind down after a busy day. I can mull over the day that has been and the one that lies ahead in a fixed time period that allows me to free up my mind at other times to focus on the things that matter, my family. Running helps me be a better dad, husband, friend and colleague. I don’t always find running easy and motivating myself can be a challenge at times. However, I invariably feel better after having stretched my legs, body and mind and the sense of release and satisfaction post run always rewards in ways that I found other pursuits don’t. I like to enter organised events as they give me a target, something to aim for, a purpose to it all and undertaking mass participation events gives me a genuine buzz. I enjoy running shoulder to shoulder with other runners each with their own reasons for running and I have found there to be real solace and a sense of community amongst those who beat the street. I have found runners come in all shapes and sizes, every age, gender and cultural demographic are represented and from all diverse walks of life. The running community excludes no one and embodies a set of values that I have found provide a sense of belonging which sometimes sadly rarely exists in other facets of modern day living. I have medals to reflect my participation in 5k’s, 10k’s and this year at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, I completed my first half marathon.

I am taking part in the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh this year because of my love for the city and my passion for supporting Men’s health and in particular male mental wellbeing. My grandparents live in Granton, not too far from Renton et al. in Trainspotting and I spent many a school holiday exploring the city’s streets. They are wonderful people and I visit them with my own children regularly. Furthermore, through my own experiences and through my work I have come to learn that men are less likely to talk about their mental health and men are less likely to access support than their female counterparts. Suicide is the leading cause of death in males under the age of 49 in Scotland and events such as the Men’s 10k can put the spotlight on such issues and demand a wider open dialogue about how such statistics can be turned around. I feel honoured to be chosen to be an ambassador for the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh 2019 and hope to see many of you reading this at the start line on November the 3rd on the Royal Mile.

In my next blog, I will reveal the charity that I will be running for in the event, what motivates me to run and keep running and what I have been upto in order to get myself ready for race day.Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Edinburgh Ambassadors at mens10k.com/edinburgh-ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Ross Russell’s 10K run for SAMH

Ross Russell’s 10K run for SAMH

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK – a statistic that resonates with 25 year old Ross Russell who has had some very real struggles with his mental health in the past few years.

Ross is currently in training for the Men’s 10K Glasgow on 16th June and has decided to fundraise for the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) – a charity who put mental health care and awareness at the forefront of their work.

Here’s Ross’ story:

“Two years ago, I finally opened up about struggling with mental health issues after over a year of not feeling myself and not realising that I needed help. The problems started shortly after entering my third year of university in September 2015. I was making a two hour round trip most days, wasn’t enjoying the course, was struggling to make friends and started falling behind with work and submissions.

After months of stress – trying and failing to keep up with assignments, I stopped attending and eventually dropped out in early 2016. I didn’t have a job at the time, so I was totally unemployed and no longer a student.

Job hunting wasn’t easy – applying to several jobs a day and hearing nothing back. When I finally managed to get a job in March 2016, I only lasted two months before quitting because I was experiencing panic attacks before and during shifts. I was dragged to my GP by my mum as I really didn’t think I could face going. I was put on anti-anxiety medication and offered counselling, which I accepted.

Waking up and spending every day sitting in the house either sleeping or applying for jobs I knew wasn’t going to hear back from, started taking its toll. I felt so low and my self-esteem was non-existent.

One Saturday night in March 2017, I broke down to my mum after a night out in town with friends. It was then, my mum helped me to realise that I needed to get help to get my life back on track. I was put on a course of antidepressants by my GP. Antidepressants were a last resort for me – I always said that I would never take them unless I really had to.

Three months later things started looking up and in June 2017, I was given a job interview for an apprenticeship with my local council. I started in August, was gradually taken off my antidepressants at the end of the year, and haven’t looked back.

These past two years (although I still have my bad days) I have never felt happier, and it’s all thanks to the support I’ve received from my friends, family and a few others who know who they are, especially my mum who I don’t think I’d still be here without.

Having experienced all of this, I want to do the best I can to try to help others who are battling their own mental health problems.

My message to anyone who is struggling: opening up about how you’re feeling is the most difficult part, but something as simple as talking to your loved ones can make the world of difference. People do care and things will get better.

Any size of donation for SAMH is greatly appreciated and will help motivate me in my training!”

To donate to Ross’ fundraising efforts, visit his JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ross-russell4.  Join in the chat on social media. Twitter – @Mens10k, Instagram – @mens10k, Facebook – Men’s 10K. #Mens10k #positiveMENtality

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Greg Cann – Blog 1

Greg Cann – Ambassador Blog 1

Have you ever agreed to something and then in hindsight wondered why? Have you ever been excited by an opportunity and then feel uncertain if you can carry on? You’re not alone…

I started running 2 (or 3!) years ago…I don’t remember exactly when or why – just felt I needed to do something to fill a gap and keep me occupied. At 40-something, I had been playing rugby for over 30 years and realised that it couldn’t continue – but I didn’t want to sit around and balloon in size. PARKRUN – that would be it! How hard could running 5k actually be…easy for a fit, rugby-playing afficionado of exercise – right? WRONG – it was torture. I remember the feeling and time – something I became obsessed with for almost a year.

After the 5k buzz, I started 10ks, then half marathons – that wasnt enough…I decided I needed on a goal. SO, I would use the new regime to raise money for a charity – one that I had been involved with personally and professionally for a couple of years. 2017 would see me run the equivalent of 10 marathons over 12 months…how hard could THAT be? Blooming murder actually…5k, 10k, Mens 10K, Kilomathon, Hairy Haggis, RED January etc etc, the list was endless…BUT I did it – finished some 14 months later (yeah yeah!)….WHAT NEXT? Wait and see…

So WHY have I carried on? Do you ever ask yourself the same question…? I found that running was my escape…from the pressures of work, from family squabbles…a time that was only me, (although usually with my second escape; music) and a space that allowed me to think, recharge my mind and get away from everything else. Through work partnerships, I found out more about the impact of physical fitness on mental health and began to realise that my mental health was all over the place – up and down constantly, linked to loads of external things that I had no control over – BUT YOU CAN IGNORE THEM ON A RUN!

I see firsthand the impact of physical activity on confidence, self-esteem and mental health of the people I worked with, especially amongst men who didn’t open up or talk about ‘that kind of thing’…so I ran, and carried on running, and will continue to run and exercise because I know the power and impact it has on me, and on every individual that gets out there…

This is why I am so excited and honoured to have been selected as an Ambassador for Men’s 10K Glasgow. Follow my journey to this year’s event and support…why not even get involved yourself!? You never know, you might just enjoy it!Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Ambassadors at mens10k.com/ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Richard Fenton – Blog 1

Richard Fenton – Ambassador Blog 1

I ran my very first competitive 10k in September of 2017 and got myself a time of 49:33 after training for seven months from a standing start and being two stone overweight. The second I crossed the finishing line, I knew I had caught the running bug. That’s why I signed up for a few more races including the 2018 Men’s 10K Glasgow where I managed a time of 50:15. Since then I have completed 10 more events of varying distances and types, but as far as 10k races go, my favourite event is the Men’s 10K which is why I am back again this year with a target to beat my best time!

As I write I have really begun to step up my training with a mix of road running and on those cold icy days getting into the gym and onto the treadmill. If you have signed up for your first run and you are happy to take some advice around training, I have a couple of suggestions which worked very well for me. Firstly one foot in front of the other, then repeat; may seem obvious but pace isn’t really important at this type of event, it all about getting to the start line and moving forward to the finish and enjoying the journey. This rule applies to training too which is very important; the fact is the more you train the more fun you will have on the day. Secondly eat the right stuff, fuel is vital when training and even more so on race day. You don’t have to get a team of nutritionists involved, for me its peanut butter on toast with sliced up banana to make a toasted sandwich and a bowl of porridge, two hours before, for you it may be something entirely different, although I would recommend staying away from a fry up.

As it stands I am up to pace with my distance so getting in some regular 10k runs. I recently managed to cover 10k out on the road in just under 53 minutes, so quite pleased given that I am 49 in May this year. One thing that I always love about race day is the fact that you get boost to your pace time, which means whatever your best time is training you are more than likely going to smash that on the day, the reason is simple, you get carried along with the pace of your fellow runners and the atmosphere – the Men’s 10k has one of the best.

I will be back again soon with another blog and hopefully a video, in the mean time you may see me out on the roads of East Kilbride or on the trails in Calderglen, either way good luck with all your own training efforts! 
Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Ambassadors at mens10k.com/ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Ryan Watt: Why I’m running the Glasgow Men’s 10K for SAMH

Ryan Watt: Why I’m running for SAMH at the Glasgow Men’s 10k

Father’s Day was never a big deal in my family. Every year it panned out in more or less the exact same way, a trip with my sister in the car down to see our Dad at his flat in Troon. Equipped with a gift (usually a wooly jumper bought in the never-ending GAP sale) and a card. The gift and card being the only thing that distinguished this trip from any other weekly trip we would make to see him. In previous years, we would maybe venture out to the local cafe for a coffee and some food. Sadly, in more recent years, this visit was usually confined to his flat on account of his worsening health.

Last year, on Father’s Day, we again embarked on the car journey to Troon. The journey to our Dad’s flat. Sadly, on this occasion, it was to clear the flat out of all his belongings. He had passed away just a few days previously due to respiratory failure. Let me assure you, that day I would have done anything to give him the wooly jumper and card one last time.

My Dad had been suffering with COPD since around 2009 which naturally had a severe impact on his quality of life. To compound this, for as long as I can remember, he has had a running battle with his mental health, mainly chronic depression. Quite often he would have the upper hand in this battle, however, like many others who struggle with mental health there were extended periods where it got the better of him. I am no psychiatrist or doctor, but my experience with my Dad has exposed me to how mental health and physical health are intrinsically interwoven. There can be a vicious cycle between the two, a race to the bottom so to speak. In my Dad’s case, his poor physical health served to worsen his mental disposition, which lead him abuse cigarettes and cannabis, which only further worsened his mental and physical health. Like this, the cycle continued.

Throughout this sad time, my sister and I were acutely aware that any attempts to try and improve his physical health, and thus his quality of life, would be futile unless we were able to help him to a better place mentally. We tried going down the typical avenues to seek help for this, primarily through the NHS. Given the lack of public funding for mental health services, this usually involved a six month waiting list to see a psychiatrist, followed by another extended wait for a follow up appointment. In my Dad’s case this felt like putting an elastoplast on gaping wound. Looking back, I wish my sister and I had known about the incredible work of charities such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), which is why I am writing this blog today.

As difficult as the last eight or nine years of my Dad’s life was, there was still a lot of laughs and happiness to be had. The relationship we had together was less that of a father and son, and more that of two lifelong friends. We would sit and listen to music, usually starting on the Beatles but progressing through the decades up to the current era. We would play guitar together. We would laugh at his inappropriate jokes. He was very easy to speak to. He spoke open and honestly about his mental health with me, even from a very young age.

Looking back, I can’t say how invaluable that has been to me. When I was in my early twenties, I had a spell of mild depression and severe anxiety, the latter of which I still manage on a day to day basis.

Thanks to my Dad not only was I equipped with the vocabulary on how to articulate what these feelings were, but I had someone with whom I could pick up the phone to and talk about it with which made me feel so much better. My sister would tell you the exact same thing. The need to share this knowledge and vocabulary with others, as well as the need for increased mental health service provision, feels greater
than ever.

That is why this Father’s Day I will be running in the Men’s 10K in Glasgow, to raise funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. SAMH are active in communities all across Scotland, providing mental health care and other vital services that are generally woefully underfunded by the government. I only wish I had been made aware of SAMH sooner. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate my late father and friend than to raise funds and awareness for a charity who make such a big difference to people suffering from mental health problems. Moreover, since his passing, my fiancé has becoming increasingly at pains to inform me that I have put on a few pounds (she’s going easy on me, its the best part of
two stone).

Given the aforementioned association between mental and physical health, training for this run can only do me the world of good. Though he is gone, my Dad is never far from my thoughts. Every other day I play his vintage Hofner guitar, listen to the music that he brought me up on and espouse his, often inappropriate, sense of humour (much to my fiancé’s dismay). Though I couldn’t be with him last year, he will be by my side every step of the way this Father’s Day. Cheering me on from the side, booting me up the backside when I start to tire, waiting for me as I cross the finish line.

He will be the wind on my back and the sun on my face. This, along with the massive amount of support and donations I have received, will keep me going, right to the end. I hope to do him proud, along with everyone who has supported this cause so far. To anyone else out there running to raise funds and awareness for SAMH or any other mental health charity, I leave you with the rather fitting lyrics of one of my dad’s favourite Neil Young songs.

Long may you run,
Long may you run,
Although these changes have come.
With your chrome heart shining,
In the sun,
Long may you run…

Read more and donate to Ryan’s JustGiving Page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ryan-watt1.

To fundraise for SAMH at a Men’s 10K event this year, head to https://www.mens10k.com/charity/affiliates/?charities_id=88.

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Scotland’s men make positive change at Men’s 10K Edinburgh

Scotland’s men make positive change at Men’s 10K Edinburgh

Thousands of guys took to the streets of Edinburgh for the Men’s 10K this morning on a cold but gloriously sunny day in Scotland’s capital city.

The collective spirit of the Men’s 10K runners never fails to generate a truly unique atmosphere as guys from all different walks of life come together, united by the same goal. This feel-good atmosphere was certainly evident today, as the music blared and the Royal Mile slowly filled up with guys eager to start their journeys.

Supporting a 1,500 strong army of men, plenty of locals and charity cheer groups lined the streets to support, further adding to the already fantastic atmosphere.

From the start line, runners dropped down into Princes Street Gardens, heading past many of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks including the Scott Monument, Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Park, before heading up through Grassmarket and onto a grandstand finish at BT Murrayfield Stadium. Plenty of friends and family gathered in Murrayfield’s West Stand to cheer runners over the line.

The Men’s 10K never fails to conjure up some incredible runner’s stories. Among the finishers was Greg Royle who was fundraising for the event’s official charity Cancer Research UK. Greg’s decision to raise money for CRUK came after his family were directly affected by the disease. He said:

“My brother suffered from a malignant brain tumor a few years ago. Without the treatment he received from the from CRUK and the NHS he would not be here today, so I am raising money to give back and support them in their fight against cancer.”

You can read more and donate to Greg’s JustGiving page here.

Greg Royle was delighted at the finish line

Also completing today’s 10K was David Spence, who was fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK in memory of his grandad who died from cancer a few years ago. David said:

“Today is actually my grandad’s birthday, so running the Men’s 10K today in support of such a great charity seemed like a good way to honour his memory after such a tragic loss.

“I really enjoyed the run and finished a lot quicker than I’d hoped!”

You can donate to David’s JustGiving page here.

And Adrian Thomson was running for MS Society Scotland after seeing close family affected by the condition. He said:

“My mum and aunt have both suffer with MS, so I felt it was time to support them even more by fundraising for the charity that helps them and all others with MS around Scotland.

“I love running so why not do it for a fantastic cause?”

You can dontate to Adrian’s JustGiving page here.

In addition to today’s event, the Men’s 10K ‘Man Cave’ has been located on Mound Precinct over the days preceding the event, just off Princes Street in Edinburgh. The Man Cave also made its way to the finish area at Murrayfield today! The Men’s 10K’s resident dinosaur, Rex and his historically dubious caveman friends were out and about distributing over 4,000 man bags filled with important health information. This included contributions from Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, Health in Mind and the Eatwell Guide.

For those who want to do it all again next year, early bird entries are now OPEN for the 2018 Men’s 10K Edinburgh. Next year’s event will take place on Sunday 4th November. To find out more and enter, visit https://www.mens10k.com/edinburgh/.  

The 2018 Men’s 10K Glasgow takes place on Father’s Day, Sunday 17th June and you can also grab an entry for that today at https://www.mens10k.com/glasgow/.

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