When David Hawkins decided to swap medication for gym membership in a bid to beat the blues, little did he expect that he’d be running a half-marathon three years later.
The 50-year-old from Lesbury, who has battled depression since the age of 18, decided in 2009 it was time to ditch the pills in favour of exercise and yoga – a decision which not only worked wonders for his mental health, but also shaved nine stones off his weight.
And he has now secured a place in this September’s Great North Run, having completed the Druridge Bay 10k only a few weeks ago.
“I have been able to keep the weight off through a mixture of healthy eating, continuing to attend the gym and swim at the Village Farm Health Club at Shilbottle, as well as participating in their boot camps and Nordic walking classes,” said David, of Lealands. “This has meant that I have on the whole kept on top of my depression, kept active and felt socially included and more confident.
“My New Year’s resolution was to run the Great North Run, which I have wanted to do since 1995 when I was diagnosed with bi-polar depression. So I started to train for the half-marathon run and managed to get a place in the race running for the mental health charity Mind.
“I chose Mind as they are involved in all sorts of work in the mental health field including support and counselling, increasing awareness and reducing stigma.
“This has really given me a focus and a determination to succeed as it is a cause very close to my heart as my father and grand-father also both had prolonged spells of depression and anxiety.”
David – who weighed 23 stone at the height of his depression – first began running between lamp-posts, then walking to the next one before running again. He gradually progressed, building up his stamina over the months, to the point where he could run the six- mile beach course at Druridge.
“Hopefully I can progress over the next three months up to half-marathon distance of 13 miles and hope to raise funds for Mind in the process.
“This has been such a positive journey over the last few years and I feel so much better as a result both mentally and physically, on the outside and the inside. My family have been incredibly supportive and a huge help on those darker days that we all have to face along life’s path – so I’d like to say a big thank-you to them.
“ If anyone would like to give a small donation I would be absolutely delighted and it would make the run so much more worthwhile and help Mind continue their great work.”
If anyone would like to sponsor David, you can visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidHawkins7
The Great North Run takes place on September 16 , from Newcastle to South Shields.