This April, third year History student, Bethany Marris, will be taking on the London Marathon in support of the University’s Healthy Minds programme. Here, she talks about her marathon journey and explains why she was inspired to raise funds for student mental health.
“I’m from Yorkshire and where I live it’s very, very flat,” said Bethany, “so training for the marathon with Bristol’s hills has been interesting! I really like running around the Downs up in Clifton. They’re not too far out of the city and you don’t have to dodge past lots of other runners when you’re out there, although there’s still a big hill to conquer before you reach them!”
22-year-old Bethany from Hull took up middle distance running as a teenager – a hobby which became even more important to her when she began studying at the University of Bristol.
“In my first term I experienced a bit of imposter syndrome,” said Bethany. “There are all of these great expectations set for you when you start at university. People tell you that it will be the most sociable time of your life, so it can be difficult if your reality isn’t quite matching up to that.”
“I was quite far away from home, so I couldn’t just pop back for the weekend if I wasn’t feeling great. But running helped to take my mind off things and gave me a bit of space when I needed time for myself. Trying to get involved in a university sport team can be a bit intimidating, so I just made running my thing!”
As the year progressed, Bethany found herself settling into university life. “I met some lovely people through my course and as soon as I moved into my house I developed a really solid friendship circle,” she said. “I absolutely loved my university experience from then on.
“I think it’s quite common for people to have that wobble in first term. Students come from so many different places and backgrounds; it’s inevitable that some people will find it easier to adjust than others.”
Being a big believer in the power of exercise meant that when the chance to run the London Marathon for Healthy Minds arose, Bethany jumped at the opportunity.
The University’s Healthy Minds programme aims to help students experiencing mental health difficulties through a bespoke exercise programme. Students on the programme are paired with a mentor, a member of the University sport team with advanced mental health training, who coaches them throughout and provides them with expert guidance.
“I really like that the Healthy Minds programme takes the interests of the student into account rather than having a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” said Bethany. “You’ll often hear people suggesting yoga, Pilates or a gentle jog as being good activities for people experiencing mental health difficulties. But really, all sports can be beneficial to our wellbeing.
“Another benefit of Healthy Minds is that it can introduce students into sporting environments where they’ve got to interact with others. It’s a great way to get people talking and encourages connection through conversation.”
Alongside her degree, Bethany works as part of Epigram’s editorial team, serving as the paper’s Deputy Digital Editor.
“At Epigram, we often get sent really honest accounts of student mental health and it’s great that increasingly people feel more able to be open about how they’re feeling. I don’t think that would have been the case five or six years ago. But it’s so important that we keep making those positive steps forward and keep the conversation around mental health going.”
When it comes to the marathon itself, Bethany has her sights set firmly on the finish line.
“I’m very competitive with myself, which I’m hoping will help on race day. My aim for the marathon is to run as much of it as I possibly can. That’s about it really – I just want to keep running!”
To support Bethany on her marathon journey head to justgiving.com/fundraising/bethany-marris