Yorkshire Man of the Year starts running club to beat mental health problems

Ben Davis ran round the whole of Yorkshire for men's mental health charity CALM
Ben Davis ran round the whole of Yorkshire for men's mental health charity CALM
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The Yorkshire Man of the Year, who last year ran around Yorkshire for charity, has set up a running club to inspire others to take up running to help prevent mental health problems.

Ben Davis, who goes by Ben Dave, raised £20,000 in 2018 running a complete lap of the region for men’s mental health charity CALM, which stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably.

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Mr Davis took up running after a lengthy battle with depression in which he found it difficult to ask for help.

The 32-year-old freelance events producer from Harrogate came up with the Running Yorkshire challenge last year raised double his £10,000 target in the feat which started at South Bay in Scarborough, taking in the Cleveland Way, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, Humber Bridge and Spurn Point, before returning to Scarborough to make up the loop.

After taking time to recover, Mr Davis set his sights on helping others in his home town of Harrogate, by setting up the Early Bird Run Crew, a daily informal running group.

Mr Davis said: “I'm really interested in how we can use running to build communities to support people with mental health issues. If people are suffering from loneliness or isolation, or mild depression or social anxiety, how can we use running to help people combat that? Because that's what I did.

“When I was badly depressed I remember sitting in my flat on my own and thinking ‘I need to be around other people but I can’t think of anything to do other than go to the pub, which wasn’t the best place to be.”

He said, up until he did the lap of Yorkshire, he’d always run alone, but during the challenge he was joined by hundreds of other people and he realised the benefit of running together.

He said there’s a mixture of people involved and the run is accessible to people who have never run before, with runners nominated to go at the back of the pack so that beginners are not alone.

Jo Ashby, a traffic warden, said she has the “most hated profession in Great Britain, so I really need a good hit of endorphins to get me through the day”.

“It really sets me up mentally for the day ahead,” she added.

Sam Holbrook, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine, added: “The runs set me perfectly for day, both physically and mentally. In addition, and most importantly, the crew is non competitive and inclusive, and has given me the chance to socialise with folk from all walks of life. I feel so fortunate to have the chance to get to know such diverse and wonderful people.”

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Mr Davis aimed to inspire the group and others outside it to think of CALM as the “go-to charity” when they’re entering races.

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, said: "We've been blown away by Ben's journey and his tireless support of CALM. Ben demonstrates everything that CALM is about in being honest about his experiences, bringing together an engaged community around an interest like running, and sharing a message of openness and hope across all the good work he does. “We know physical exercise can have a hugely positive impact on our wellbeing, and we've seen how getting people together to support CALM through running is a really powerful thing."

The Early Bird Run Crew meets at 6.30am at the cenotaph at the centre of Harrogate.