taking inspiration from the men of merthyr

DSC_5135 Earlier this year, in March, Cardiff University sponsored the Half Marathon World Championships, offering support to hundreds of people in the Cardiff city region to train up and take part. My boss did it, from scratch, along with her daughters, and along with a very special group of men from Merthyr. Some of the men (well, one) had run marathons before, but the vast majority had no previous experience of running. Some didn’t own a pair of trainers. But they turned up each week for training, yoga, pilates, the lot. They went down to Cardiff and did the race, and they wanted to do it again.

I didn’t take part in the World Championships; the thought of training through the winter was too much for me. I had done a few leisurely runs with some mum friends in the village I live in, but had promptly stopped as soon as the clocks changed in October and it got too dark to be fun any more. The men, and everyone else who ran in March, carried on – through the wind, rain, sleet and snow of winter.

When the race was over, I felt a huge wave of pride and admiration for the men. I was working with them on a different project which was happening at the same time (The People’s Platform), so I knew how much effort was going into their training. I felt their glory in the weeks and months afterwards, and I wondered if I could ever do what they had done. I wasn’t the only one in our team to be inspired; three of us agreed to run the Cardiff Half together.

I’m running to raise money for Making Minds, an arts and mental health voluntary organisation that I’ve been on the committee for since it began a few years ago. We’re a tiny group of volunteers, and we have no income other than what we bring in ourselves. In every aspect of my life, I feel how profoundly the arts and culture can have a positive impact on wellbeing. My work with the men (and the women, older people, young people…) in Merthyr has been one example of how that happens. And although I’m still learning exactly how transformations occur, I know that they do.

I’ve always had a guilty feeling that I don’t contribute as much to Making Minds as I’d like to, so I’m stoked to be able to do this for them. If I do actually make it round, I’ll have the men to thank for inspiring me to do it, and for showing me the power and strength that lies within us all.


Photo credit: Jon Pountney


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