[U]ndaunted by the Beast from the East, 19 runners from mental health charity Growing Well braved the elements last weekend (Sat 17 March) to take part in the Lakeland Trails at Cartmel.
For many, it was the culmination of a commitment to get fit which began with ‘RED January’ – a national initiative to run every day of the month. Fundraising helped to pay for the entry fees and training kit. And 25 pairs of trail running shoes were donated by the Staveley based, Inov-8.
Of the 19 people who took part, 12 ran the 5k course, six competed in the 18k challenge and one runner raced in the 18k event. Alix Jagger, from Growing Well says it left many with a great sense of achievement, improvements in fitness, confidence and well-being and, for one participant, significant weight loss – five stones in eight months.
Growing Well’s General Manager, Clairelouise Chapman, who ran as part of the team said: “It was amazing that so many people turned up to run in such extreme temperatures. It is a great example of how Growing Well creates an environment where people want to be there for each other, and feel supported and encouraged to achieve personal challenges. We’re had a fantastic time organising this, and it’s wonderful to see people’s progress towards physical fitness as their mental fitness improves.”
Based at Low Sizergh Farm near Kendal, the charity operates from six acres of land with horticultural production areas, poly tunnels, yurts, porta cabins and a field kitchen. Operating as an organic farm, Growing Well helps young and old with mental ill health by involving them in its running. It works with teams within the National Health Service, including GP’s, Mental Health Teams and specialist support units and is currently funded to help people back into work.
People access the free support by self-referring or being referred on by their doctor or specialist.
In the last four years, Growing Well has doubled the number of people it supports who are feeling depressed, anxious or finding everyday life difficult. In 2017, two thirds of the 125 people they helped progressed into employment, training or volunteering and 91% reported an improvement in their mental health as a direct result of their experience.
The idea for Growing Well began in 2002 in response to an advert by farmer Richard Park at Low Sizergh Farm, to grow vegetables for their farm shop. It came at a time when there was little structured and supportive opportunities to help local people recovering from mental ill health. Today 15 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and salad grown each year provide up to 100 local families with a weekly crop share and lunch for 20 people onsite. The salad crops are also used by Low Sizergh Barn and at Westmorland services at J38 of the M6 at Tebay.