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Run Grateful

We talk to Mark White and Liz Warner about their social initiative Run Grateful, and how they believe being thankful while you run – even for a short distance – can have some surprising benefits…

You may not have heard the term ‘runner’s high’ before but, the chances are, if you run, you will have felt it at some point. Simply put, it’s that feeling of elation you get either during or after a run, endorphins rush through your body and you feel like you’re on cloud nine.

Imagine then if someone told you there was a way of multiplying this runner’s high so you feel even better, both mentally and physically, after a run. Well this is what Mark White and Liz Warner believe their Run Grateful social initiative can do.

Running to express gratitude

Run Grateful was developed last year when founder and running enthusiast Mark ran a marathon with a difference. His friend Danny Dell encouraged him to run a mile every hour for 24 hours, starting with a 5K to ensure it tallied up to the marathon distance.

Mark has long been an advocate of running to express gratitude so, to put his own twist on the 24-hour run, he decided to give gratitude and thanks to someone or something for each one of his 24 miles, sharing them all on his Instagram page. The positivity his posts generated convinced him this was something that could grow and so Run Grateful was born.

The grateful mile

If your interest has been sparked by this idea, fear not – you don’t have to run for 24 hours to Run Grateful! Mark’s idea developed into the ‘grateful mile’, where people are encouraged to express gratitude for a mile. That mile could be the only distance you walk or run in a day, or it could be one mile of 20.

Mark said: “I wanted it to be inclusive, I know running for 24 hours is not for everyone, so that’s when the grateful mile came to me. Run Grateful’s messaging is: if you’re lucky enough to move, then get out there and exercise, even if it’s for a mile. Before you go out, hyper-focus on someone or something and, while you are exercising, let that be the reason why you are out.”

Choose your theme – big or small

“It could be a particular person you give gratitude to, you could even phone them while you’re out, or it could be a moment or an experience. There are so many ways you can express gratitude. It could be for big themes like family, friends and health, but it could also be hyper-focused on particular experiences.”

Liz added: “People’s gratitude is so varied. A good majority are bigger themes but, for me, the really interesting ones are the smaller ones. It could be as simple as, ‘I’m really grateful for the smile someone gave me this morning’ or ‘I’m grateful for red lipstick’. The people who continue to be invested in Run Grateful are challenging themselves to go a little deeper to find gratitude in the smaller things, which takes a little more thought.”

The power of positivity

Mark has been running for more than 10 years and has used that to connect movement and exercise with gratitude. He realises this is not necessarily a natural connection for a lot of people, but uses his positive experiences as an example of the powerful force it can bring.

He said: “It’s something I have been practising for 18 to 19 years now, it’s been a big part of my life and has brought me out of some very, very dark times.

“In fact, running saved my life. I had certain experiences with anxiety that were very dark. But it’s changed it because it’s given me an opportunity. Run Grateful exists because I went for a run. Running has changed my life and formed my own personal relationship, it’s been a gateway to more hopeful times.”

Improve your wellbeing

Mark believes that if he can do it, anyone can. He was a heavy smoker when he first started running and nearly stopped because he didn’t feel he was progressing. Now he is running marathons over a 24-hour period, getting both that runner’s high and the positivity from giving gratitude while he does it.

Liz added: “Going for a run does you so much good. It improves your health, decreases stress, the list of benefits could go on and on. But giving gratitude improves your wellbeing, too. So by combining both you are killing two birds with one stone and improving your day-to-day health and wellbeing. We’re not asking that every run you do is a grateful one – it’s whether occasionally you can take a mile or 10 minutes out of your run to give gratitude. You will get the benefits your run will bring you anyway, plus a whole lot more.”

Well, what are you waiting for? To find out more about Run Grateful, see their website.