This Sunday, an incredible group of five Bristol alumni and staff members are taking on the 2023 London Marathon in support of the University’s Healthy Minds programme.
This programme helps students who are experiencing mental health difficulties by providing a bespoke physical activity plan and access to sports facilities. Students are paired with a mentor – a member of the University fitness team with advanced mental health training – who coaches them throughout their time on the programme.
Each runner is aiming to raise at least £2,000 for Healthy Minds, and you can support them via their JustGiving pages linked below.
Introducing this year’s runners…
Chris Lloyd (BSc 1979), Alumni
I am excited to be running the London Marathon for Bristol University’s Healthy Minds programme. I did a degree in chemistry at Bristol, and I was Student Union Treasurer. I am running in memory of Mark Robinson who was at Bristol University and died in 1979. My wife was his next-door neighbour, and I had been at school with him. He might still be alive if the Healthy Minds programme had existed when we were students.
I always said I would never do a marathon as I would not have time to train, but I did my first one aged 60 as I needed a fresh challenge. I will also be using the Edinburgh Marathon, The Chiltern 100 Mile Cycle Ride and the Royal Parks Half Marathon as part of my fundraising.
I am Lead Member for Leisure at Three Rivers District Council. I have established two Parkruns and one Junior Parkrun in our district and I am on the Health Scrutiny Committee of Hertfordshire County Council. I believe physical activity helps your mental resilience.
I want to raise money to help the current and future generations of Bristol University students get the help and support they need when the going gets tough. You can sponsor me and help me reach my £2,000 target.
Elena Clarke (BA 2019), Alumni and Staff Member
I currently work at the University of Bristol in the International Student Recruitment Team. I also studied my undergraduate degree in French and German at the University of Bristol, graduating in 2019.
Overall, I have very fond memories of my time as a student, but there were times when I felt lonely and experienced some mental health difficulties. For me, physical exercise helped me feel more like myself again, and this is why I want to run in aid of Healthy Minds. I wish I had been able to access Healthy Minds as a student, and it would be great for them to help as many people as possible.
I got into running fairly recently, completing my first half marathon in Cardiff in October 2022. I wouldn’t describe myself as a natural runner, but I’ve been surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed the training. I knew from a fairly young age that I would want to run a marathon at some point in my life. My mum has run the London Marathon on a few occasions, and I always used to go to watch her, so she has been an inspiration to me.
I live in Cardiff and enjoy running around Bute Park and the barrage in Cardiff Bay. When I lived in Bristol, my favourite spots were Ashton Court and Conham River Park. My role at the University requires lots of travel abroad, so I’ve been enjoying some more exotic routes as well – recent cities include Beirut, Seville, Geneva, and Paris.
I have a strong connection to the University of Bristol and its community; I am so excited to represent it at the London Marathon.
Harri Davies (LLB 2013), Alumni
Attending the University of Bristol was transformational for me personally and professionally. I was fortunate to call Bristol my home for 10 years during my studies and my early career in my 20s. In that time, I ran the Bristol Half Marathon and Bristol 10k, and I look forward to a day where a marathon event might materialise in this brilliant city.
Until then, I am thrilled to be running my first marathon on British soil in London and aim to eclipse my result in New York in 2011. More importantly, Healthy Minds is an extremely important initiative supporting the Covid-19 generation for whom therapy and medication may not have been effective. It provides participants with the foundations and know-how to enable them to support themselves for life.
Having moved to the capital in March, training has enabled me to see London in all its above-ground glory with favourite parks including Clissold, St James’s and Hyde.
Best of luck to everyone taking part, and thank you to everyone who has donated.
Ravi Sharda (BA 2020), Alumni and Staff Member
I first moved to Bristol in 2017 to study a history degree. After I graduated, I worked in a primary school as a sports coach before becoming a tennis coach for the University tennis programme.
I had been a casual runner in school, but started to run regularly in my first year of University. In 2021, I was going through some mental health difficulties. I had not run in a while, so I decided to enter a half marathon. The process of setting myself a goal and sticking to a training plan did wonders for my mental health. I felt inspired, motivated, and enjoyed the challenge of running the race in under an hour and a half, which I managed to achieve.
I think one of the reasons running (or any physical activity) is so good for you is because it shows that success is not solely about winning or losing, it is about the process of showing up and trying. Running showed me that the ideas about who we think we are can be reimagined to show us the true potential of our capabilities. When the opportunity to fundraise for Healthy Minds came along, their ethos and work they do with students resonated with my own personal story.
Johanna Murphy (BA 2021), Alumni
I am so pleased to have been selected to run the London marathon for Healthy Minds as a University of Bristol alumna.
I graduated from Bristol in 2021 where I studied history and lived variously in Redland, Clifton and Badock Halls. I absolutely loved my time at Bristol. I made an amazing group of friends, loved the teaching and enjoyed all that the city has to offer – which is quite a bit! That being said, even during my short three years, Bristol was in the news for its track record on support for student mental health, and there were a number of tragic cases.
University can be a lonely place and during Covid-19, this became more profound as students were subject to lockdown rules so seeing friends was much more difficult, teaching was moved entirely online and the total freedom that university generally affords was taken away.
I am proud to support a charity that is working to support Bristol’s students’ mental health, and I truly believe there is no better way to do this than through physical activity! Running is a fantastic outlet for stress and anxiety and massively helped me through my hapless job search last year. While I am happily settled into a job now, I have continued to love my marathon training and have spent the weekends exploring all corners of London. I recommend following the Regent’s Canal from northeast to west – traffic-free routes are a rare breed. See you at the start line!