Marathon runners get their heads together

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry (right) take part in a race at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, as they joined runners taking part in the London Marathon for their mental health campaign Heads Together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 5, 2017. Around 150 competitors who are running for the umbrella organisation will be joined by the royal trio on the London Marathon Community Track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London on Sunday for a training session. See PA story ROYAL Heads. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry (right) take part in a race at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, as they joined runners taking part in the London Marathon for their mental health campaign Heads Together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 5, 2017. Around 150 competitors who are running for the umbrella organisation will be joined by the royal trio on the London Marathon Community Track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London on Sunday for a training session. See PA story ROYAL Heads. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire

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Exercise is good for the mind as well as the body.

It releases feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in the brain and getting in regular exercise improves self-esteem and confidence.

Sue Sweeney, who is running for Lancashire Mind with Heads Together

Sue Sweeney, who is running for Lancashire Mind with Heads Together

So it is no surprise 700 people are taking part in the Virgin Money London Marathon specifically for Heads Together, the event’s official charity of the year and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s campaign to change the conversation on mental health.

The drive aims to change the national attitudes towards mental health from one of stigma and fear to one of support.

The campaign wants people to feel comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, they are able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and ensure fear no longer prevents people talking or getting the help they need.

Sue Sweeney is one of a small handful of people from the region to be part of this team, running on behalf of Lancashire Mind.

The 56-year-old, of Bretherton, decided to raise money for mental health charity Lancashire Mind, after a close family member took their own life in 2015.

She says: “Mental health can be a taboo subject and people don’t know how to approach it. Nobody chooses to be in such a dark place.

“We will all experience pressures with our mental health during our lives. It’s okay to not always be okay and the more we understand that, and the more we talk about it, the better we can help each other.

“I hope that by raising funds for Mind that I can play my part in ending stigma around mental health once and for all, not only through running, but by opening conversations with those around me about mental health.

“I have opened this conversation in ways and with people I could never have imagine. I never envisaged the strength of sharing experiences, how opening up yourself can help others relate, put things into perspective and realise that a conversation about mental health can be non-judgmental.”‎

Sue, a mother-of-six, will join hundreds of other runners from across the UK who will be pounding the streets of London on Sunday with Heads Together to make it the mental health marathon.

As part of her training, she met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Price Harry, as well as former athletes including Paula Radcliffe and Iwan Thomas.

Sue adds: “It was touching to see the Royals involved in this cause. Not only does it highlight the importance of this issue, but their ability to engage with the issue demonstrates how it touches each and every one of us.

“It was also very natural talking to Prince Harry. The advice I received from Paula Radcliffe and Iwan Thomas was invaluable and reinforced the fact that although difficult, someone like me who had only taken up running a couple of years ago could accomplish a feat such as completing the London Marathon.

“There was a terrific team spirt between the runners and friendships were cemented that day.

“I will be running with Lisa McQueen, from Liverpool. Two heads are better than one and we will be there, together, at the finish line.

“When I’m not feeling very motivated, I think about all the millions of people who deal with mental health challenges every day and that spurs me on.

“But I won’t lie, I’m very much looking forward to celebrating at the finish line.”‎

Sue, a self employed remedial and sports therapist, adds she is grateful for the support she has been given, especially from Hi-Line Transport, in Blackpool, which has sponsored her.

Heads Together is the charity of the year for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon and brings together inspirational charity partners that have achieved great progress in raising awareness and providing vital help for people with mental health problems. As a result, all participants, regardless of which charity they are running for, will be encouraged to wear blue Heads Together sweat bands to show unity for people with mental health issues.

The Heads Together team, which consists of 700 participants, is made up of groups from: Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families; Best Beginnings; CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably; Contact (a military mental health coalition); Mind; Place2Be; The Mix and YoungMinds.

The London Marathon (presently known through sponsorship as the Virgin Money London Marathon) is a 26-mile course, with participants running for a variety of charities, including British Heart Foundation, Make A Wish Foundation, Cancer Research UK, CLIC Sargent and NSPCC.

A record total of 253,930 people entered the ballot for this year and more than 50,000 were accepted. It is expected 39,000 will take part.

The London Marathon first took place on March 29 1981 and has been held in the spring of every year since.

• To support Sue donate to www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SusanSweeney

• To read stories on more Lancashire people taking part in the London Marathon see tomorrow’s Charity Champions page in the Lancashire Post.

To join in the conversation: hashtag #HeadsTogether #TeamHeadsTogether Twitter: @kensingtonroyal/@Heads_Together Facebook: @HeadsTogetherCampaign.