The Telegram (St. John's)

Running is good medicine

- Brian Hodder Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at

Later on this evening, I will be making my annual trip to the Re/max Centre to pick up my racing kit for this year’s Tely 10. This will mark the 11th year in a row that I have taken part in this race and it has become an event I look forward to with great anticipati­on.

If you had told me when I was much younger that I would become an avid runner, I would have laughed at the suggestion. However, as I have gotten older and have had to learn how to deal with the various stresses of life and work, I have discovered that running provides me with a coping tool I need to deal with what is going on around me. The Tely 10 provides motivation to keep going and a goal to work towards in keeping myself on track.

Running has become an essential part in maintainin­g my physical and mental health and it — and other forms of physical activity — has a lot to offer when it comes to fighting mental illness. While most of the therapies offered to people living with mental illness revolve around medication, counsellin­g, support groups and other psychologi­cal interventi­ons, these activities often require trained profession­als and there is a monetary cost associated with them.

Running is free, can be done by anyone and works naturally with your own body to provide relief from some of the symptoms of mental illness. The chemicals released in the body and brain during vigorous exercise such as running can provide relief from depression, and there have been studies showing that it can also help people deal with anxiety; these are two of the most common mental illnesses prevalent in our society and exercise can be a vital tool in helping people live with their symptoms.

It has also been my experience that people living with addiction who incorporat­e exercise into their recovery plan increase their chances of success. As with mental illness, physical exercise releases endorphins in the brain which can target the pleasure centres that are also stimulated when people use certain drugs. Many people in recovery are looking for something to do to substitute for the time that was taken up in seeking and using drugs, and exercise can help to fill this void.

Learning how to take better care of their bodies and regain some sense of control over their lives are two other benefits of this activity which can go a long way in helping people regain the control necessary to maintain recovery.

When it comes to the race itself, what I remember most about my first Tely 10 — and what has been the case every year since — is the positive energy that surrounds this event.

While I could go on and on about the benefits of running and exercise, the other important impact for me has been in the area of sleep. We now live in a world where many people struggle to maintain a healthy sleep cycle, and a multi-billiondol­lar industry has arisen for companies offering sleep aids. Since I took up running, I rarely have any issues getting a good night’s sleep and I usually wake up well-rested, without any grogginess; the same cannot be said for many artificial means of inducing sleep, and these can also have negative side-effects.

When it comes to the race itself, what I remember most about my first Tely 10 — and what has been the case every year since — is the positive energy that surrounds this event. The runners themselves, from veterans to people running their first race, exude happiness and encouragem­ent to all who run. All along the route from Paradise through to Bannerman Road there are thousands of cheering people urging you on to your best and expressing confidence that you will make it to the finish line. You can’t put a price on the feeling you get when you get to the finish line and have that medal placed over your neck by another smiling volunteer, and it is something I will continue as long as I can.

I encourage others to try it for themselves. See you along the route Sunday morning.

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