Over the last couple of years, the international charity organisation Run Talk Run have had a growing presence across Scotland, with groups currently open to runners in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.
The collective support group was created to make both physical activity and mental health support less intimidating and more accessible. The idea was to create a peer support and community group which uses physical activity to facilitate conversations we might otherwise find too difficult to have.
Jamie Wieland, founder of Run Talk Run Glasgow, said: “The group is a safe space to discuss your mental health. Whatever your needs are, we are here to talk to.
"None of us are councillors or anything, we aren’t trained doctors. We’re just a friendly ear that’s there to listen and talk things through with you.
“Everything is confidential, so everything that is said within the group stays within the group.”
Creating a safe space
Jamie created the Glasgow arm of Run Talk Run after spotting the initiative online. He'd originally looked to join a Glasgow arm of the charity and didn't find one.
“I had a look and found there wasn’t a group in Glasgow and I just thought ‘well, that’s that then’, and didn’t think about it for a while. It wasn’t until some time later I realised that I could possibly be the one who could start one up.”
From then the group has grown from strength to strength, currently running groups on multiple evenings and looking to grow into different parts of the city to help facilitate around attendees’ differing schedules. However, Jamie is adamant that the group must remain beginners-orientated.
“We have participants who have been through a journey with their mental health and are looking to improve that. We also have people who already keep good mental health and just want to maintain that.
"When people have come at first they are often nervous about their own fitness levels … but we will always be a beginner friendly group. Walking is fine.
"We will always go as fast as the slowest runner.”
Adapting to lockdown
Creating a space for people to discuss their mental health and tackling their social isolation was important to everyone at Run Talk Run Glasgow. However, with the introduction of the lockdown regulations because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was clear that the group couldn’t continue as it had done previously.
It was recognised that they had to continue in some form to continue to support those that now relied on the group.
Jamie adds: “It’s definitely been tough during lockdown. However, we’ve managed to keep in touch. We have created online check-ins using social media and other platforms. These have allowed participants to keep in touch and continue the usual discussion.
"We’ve been encouraging the group to continue with the exercise as well. At the moment each member is doing a 5k on their own and sharing their progress for the group using tracking apps like Strava. It’s been great.”
Run Talk Run Glasgow has even seen some new members join during lockdown. Some have also reconnected with the group after losing touch, including expatriate Scots living abroad who have used this opportunity to connect with the group in their home city.
Jamie hopes to see this growth continue once lockdown comes to an end, but he hasn’t lost sight of his original goals.
“The hope is that if you feel the need to come to one of our sessions – that you walk away feeling better after the session.
"It’s not an overnight process, but we just want to create a space where people feel comfortable to talk.
"To be honest, the fact we are all getting a bit fitter is great too, but it’s a secondary goal for us.”