In April 2024, a group of five Bristol alumni, two students and a member of staff are taking on the 2024 London Marathon in support of the University’s Healthy Minds programme.
This programme supports students to take positive steps towards improving the way they feel through a varied and socially engaging programme of physical activity and has now supported over 500 students in improving their wellbeing.
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…
Neil Hext (LLM 1992), alumni
It was the University of Bristol that started me on a lifetime of running. I joined the rowing club in the first week of the first term – possibly the least fit and most unlikely candidate ever – and ended up loving the sport. A big part of rowing was the ’land training’ and, as I got more involved in my career, rowing fell away and I ended up just running: mostly long-distance, snail rather than hare. I’ve now done three marathons, an ultramarathon and a lot of half-marathons. I have also got into trail running – there is nothing like getting out into the hills to enjoy somewhere new. And you can do it anywhere! My favourite run so far has been the Jabulani Challenge in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in Sydney.
I am really pleased to be running the London Marathon for Healthy Minds. Awareness of mental health issues is starting to grow, and they can affect anyone at any time in their lives. Exercise is an important part of addressing that challenge when it occurs. Habits started at university can end up staying with you for the rest of your life. I am thrilled to be running the marathon for such a good cause.
Tom Moody (BSc 2012), alumni
University life is full of soaring highs, but it can also present a challenging side – a new city, new friends, a steeper learning curve, independence, and evolving sense of self. All these things can weigh on mental health, in ways both big and small. I am a firm believer in using exercise as a tool to support mental wellbeing, and think back to my own days of using intramural rugby or runs on the Bristol Downs as a means of escape whenever the anxieties of student life kicked in. But mental health concerns need not be suffered in silence, having access to a wider community and a dedicated programme can be transformative, and the work that the University of Bristol is doing can make an incredible difference.
As a Londoner, running around the city I grew up in has also long been a bucket list ambition. To do it while raising money for a good cause is the dream combination. This year I managed to complete an Ironman Triathlon for good causes related to mental health, so I am excited to build upon that in 2024.
Gareth Hembrough, staff
I work at the University of Bristol in IT services as a network specialist in the campus network team, I really enjoy the job and I’m lucky to be part of a great team!
I have always enjoyed running – getting outside into nature is always good for my mind, whatever the weather. When I am at work, I really enjoy running at lunchtimes and my favourite route is along the river path under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I entered my first half marathon in Bath in 2006 and I’ve done it every year since, many times for charity. I have also done the Bristol Half Marathon and various other shorter races. When I’m on holiday, I always try to get out and do some 5k runs– it’s a great way to see the sights!
Since I started running half marathons, I have always had an ambition to run a full marathon. Ideally, I wanted the London Marathon to be my first as it is one of the biggest (and in my opinion the best), so I am very excited to be selected to run the London Marathon in 2024 for the University of Bristol Healthy Minds programme. It is such a worthy cause. As I can personally see such a huge benefit of physical activity to my mental health, I can see how the Healthy Minds programme would be so beneficial in helping support student mental health.
I have set myself a goal to try and run the marathon in under three hours!
Tommy Nicholson (BSc 2019), alumni
I spent 4 fantastic years studying Chemistry at Bristol, graduating in 2019. While I was at Bristol, I spent a lot of time as part of the boat club and saw the benefit but also the strain that high level sports training put on students. Along with other University boat clubs, I co-founded Rowing Together for Healthy Minds to highlight the need for a focus on mental health within the world of university rowing and the sport as a whole.
I am now based in London and am very excited to represent Bristol once again as part of the London Marathon team – it has been on the bucket list for some time, and I can’t think of a better cause to be running for.
Please give generously to support the Healthy Minds team’s amazing work!
Solenne, current Anthropology student
I’m really looking forward to running and fundraising for Healthy Minds. I’m in full support of the ways in which the programme strives to improve student wellbeing through a nurturing, supportive environment and physical exercise.
Emily Heath (BSc 2018), alumni
Sport has always played a huge role in my life, but its significance becomes ever more prevalent in these challenging and stressful times. This is why I cannot wait to run in support of Healthy Minds to help ensure that more students get the support they need.
Stephanie Parkman (LLB 1995), alumni
I graduated from the University of Bristol at a time when we mostly wrote our essays by hand, a pint of cider from the Coronation Tap was £1.60 and mental health wasn’t as widely talked about as it is today.
It’s hard to imagine such a time, which is why I am thrilled to be able to raise awareness and support for the University’s life-changing Healthy Minds programme. If that means that I get to run the London Marathon in the process, then this really is the stuff of dreams!
Healthy Minds has changed the lives of over 500 students in the last five years, helping to set them on the road to both mental and physical wellness. Think about how many more students could benefit in the future with our support!
Thank you in advance to everyone who will support me in my training and fundraising, which includes my two teenage sons who were last heard muttering ‘Why does Mum always do these extreme things?!’