Why am I running a 100 mile race?

16th Feb 2022
Challenging mental health inequalities

This content mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts. Please read with care. There are details of where to find help at the bottom of this page.

Why? Well, that's a very good question!

If you’re going to do something that’s hard, you’d better have a clear idea of why you’re doing it in the first place. Especially when it comes to running. Every reason you can find to persist is like a pillar in the centre of a house that stops it from collapsing. So, this blog is part of my race strategy!

I picked up running in my early 30s and I haven’t stopped. It’s been a brilliant way for me to process and organise my thoughts, deal with difficult emotions, build friendships and experience new vistas.

To this end, I’ve decided to try to run the South Downs Way 100 miles race in June and raise vital funds for the Mental Health Foundation, which I have the privilege to lead.

The goal is to complete the course in under 24 hours. I’ll need to get roughly 15,000 calories into my body, climb 12,700 feet and take at least 160,000 steps to reach the finish line. Every single donation I receive will be another reason for me to keep going. But why on earth go for 100 miles? Well, here’s a few reasons.

Mark Rowland running

Running to remember

Almost ten years ago, I lost my brother Daniel to suicide. It was a shattering tragedy that I’m still learning to live with. I want this run to honour his memory and be part of my journey of turning that terrible event into something that also brings consolation and healing.

Despite so much being spoken about mental health and much great access to support, we’re still in the foothills of understanding how to protect and support our mental health – and what that means for us as individuals, communities and as a society. We still find it difficult to ask for help and too many of us have lost too much to allow this issue to fade away.

I believe passionately in the need for more understanding, action and investment in preventive steps on mental health and funds raised for this run will enable us to do that.

A sense of adventure

I’ve always loved adventure, being absorbed by nature’s beauty and taking on challenges that tested my limits. This yearning for adventure has grown, especially after the last two years we’ve endured.

Last year, I completed my first 50-mile race. In the pain of the aftermath, I made my family promise not to let me run a 100-mile race. I was convinced the combination of another 50 miles wouldn’t be good for me and I may have been right!

And yet, I’ve decided to lace up again. The promise of adventure, and all the comradery and fun that comes with it, is probably the biggest motivation. It’s my way of feeling fully alive.

Daring Greatly

The feeling of relief and pride in taking on something I found difficult have been some of the best moments of my life. I have Theodore Roosevelt’s poem, Daring Greatly, on my wall. It is a reminder to me to challenge the fear of failure and to set audacious goals for the things I care about.

Buried in the human psyche is the need to have something we value to work for. We deeply need to find and give meaning to our lives – and personal or professional goals are a good way to achieve this. We talk a lot about the value of our work/life balance, but I prefer to think of it as having work/life ‘energy’. I need things in work and out of work that give me fresh impetus, perspective and a sense of progress and they fuel my activities in other aspects of my life. Goals help me settle my restless soul and I’ve noticed that as I have done so, the ruptures of existential angst have receded.

A feeling of anchoring

There is essentialism to running. The ego fades. You are left with your bare humanity in a state of complete exhaustion and that’s a great place to be! There’s something about the physical vulnerability of running long distances that gives me clarity and reminds me of what’s really important and what I value most in life. In everyday life, it can be easy to lose track of that. There are so many distractions and I find running helps position what and who I care for, right at the centre of my attention.

So, these are my reasons; to remember, to adventure, to dare greatly and to anchor myself. Seems like four very good reasons to take on this 100-mile challenge.

This race is now full, but if you would like to book onto a different Centurion challenge in support of the Mental Health Foundation, they have other dates available and you can secure your spot. Please let us know you are taking part by [email protected] and one of our friendly people will offer you fundraising tips and advice and send you one of our running vests. Visit our active challenge webpage for details about our other running events.

The money raised will enable us to expand our COVID-19 advice hub and to keep using the evidence from our study that tracks the pandemic’s effects on mental health, to inform and influence governments and other decision-makers. We will grow our Covid Response Programme, which across the UK is responding to the needs of people who, research suggests, have been worst affected by the pandemic.

Mark Rowland is fundraising for Mental Health Foundation (justgiving.com)

If you are feeling like ending your life or feel unable to keep yourself safe, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

Make a donation

Alternatively, or as well as, you can support the work of the Mental Health Foundation by making a donation.
Donate now
Was this content useful?