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Participants set off from the Vitality London 10,000 Start Line

My exercise and mental health journey

Meet some of the inspirational people taking on the Vitality London 10,000

This year’s Vitality London 10,000 is encouraging participants to #DoItForYou and get active in support of their mental health and wellbeing.

Read on for inspirational stories from some of those taking part in the 10K event, as they share their personal journeys and reasons for running.

Anoosheh Ashoori

"I am Anoosheh Ashoori, a 69-year-old retired engineer. In August 2017, I was abducted in Tehran and endured nearly five years of captivity in the notorious Evin Prison. It was during this challenging time that I discovered the profound impact of running as a source of solace and strength. From that moment, my aspiration became to participate in the London Marathon once I regained my freedom.

"In March 2022, I was finally released and returned home to the UK. Since then, I have completed two London Marathons and two half marathons. Looking toward the future, I am resolutely determined to run my third London Marathon in April 2024, marking my 70th birthday and the third anniversary of my liberation from Evin Prison. I received a Spirit of the London Marathon Award in 2022."

How important is running/activity for your mental health?

"Regular running and physical activity have played a vital role in maintaining my good mental health. This has been true for nearly five years, both during my time in Evin Prison and now in the free world. Running has served as a powerful outlet for stress relief and emotional regulation, allowing me to channel negative emotions into positive physical exertion. It has been a source of solace and strength, helping me overcome challenges and maintain a sense of wellbeing. I am grateful for the positive impact running has had on my mental health."

Why is running/activity important for your mental health?

"Running or engaging in physical activity is crucial for maintaining good mental health. It provides numerous benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, boosting mood and improving overall wellbeing. Regular exercise also promotes better sleep, increases self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. Additionally, running or participating in activities, such as the Vitality London 10,000, offers a valuable opportunity for self-reflection. Prioritising physical activity can significantly contribute to a positive and balanced mental state."

What aspects of running/activity best support your mental health?

"Being outdoors allows for a change of environment, fresh air and exposure to nature, which reduces stress, enhances your mood and promotes relaxation. It offered me a healthy distraction from daily worries and negative thoughts, allowing for a sense of mindfulness and present-moment focus. Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, increases self-confidence and fosters a sense of accomplishment. Ultimately, the combination of these aspects contributes to reduced anxiety, improved mental resilience and overall enhanced mental health."

What do you most enjoy about running/activity?

"What I most enjoy about running/activity is the sense of liberation it brings, especially in contrast to the confinements of Evin Prison. Running became my escape – a way to reclaim my sanity amidst the turmoil. It provided a respite from the harsh realities, allowing me to focus on the present moment and find solace in the rhythm of my footsteps. Through running, I channelled my emotions, transforming anxiety and fear into determination and resilience. It gave me a sense of control over my own body and mind, helping me fight against the grip of insanity and maintain my mental wellbeing in the most challenging circumstances."

How many hours per week do you take part in physical activity?

"I engage in physical activity for approximately 12 hours per week (that is six days per week, for about two hours each day). This includes various forms of exercise such as running and strength training. I believe in maintaining a balanced approach to fitness, incorporating both cardiovascular exercises and strength-building workouts. Regular physical activity not only enhances my physical wellbeing but also contributes significantly to my mental health. It provides me with an outlet for stress, boosts my mood and improves my overall energy levels. By dedicating time each week to physical activity, I prioritise self-care and reap the numerous benefits for my body and mind."

What physical activity do you partake in apart from running?

"In addition to running, I engage in a diverse range of physical activities to ensure a comprehensive fitness regimen. These activities encompass various forms of strength training and occasionally incorporate yoga sessions. Strength training helps me build muscle – especially at my age as I am pushing 70 – increases my overall strength and improves my posture. Yoga allows me to enhance my flexibility, balance and mindfulness. By engaging in a diverse range of physical activities, I not only challenge my body in different ways but also prevent boredom and ensure that I target different muscle groups. This variety adds excitement and enjoyment to my fitness journey."

What one word would you use to describe how running/activity makes you feel? And how do you feel when you don’t run?


"When I don't run, I feel a sense of stagnation – running/activity empowers me both physically and mentally, so without it, I may experience a lack of drive and vitality. It's as if I am missing a key element that fuels my motivation and sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel empowered, strong and capable, allowing me to overcome challenges and boost my confidence. When I don't engage in running/activity, I may feel a sense of inertia, decreased energy and a longing for that empowering feeling that it brings to my life."

Have you encouraged others to run/take part in activities to aid their own mental well-being?

"I have actively encouraged others to embrace running and engage in physical activities for their mental wellbeing. Starting with my kids, we trained and crossed the Finish Line together at the 2023 TCS London Marathon as a family. Now, I continue to inspire more individuals to take up running and join our team. Through sharing my experiences and advocating for the transformative benefits of running, I aim to empower others to prioritise their mental wellbeing and embrace the joy of an active lifestyle."

Former political prisoner Anoosheh Ashori before running the TCS London Marathon

Anoosheh Ashoori

Laura Hughes

"I am Laura Hughes and I am the sister of Colin McGinty, who was sadly murdered in 2001 at the age of 21 in what Merseyside Police describe as 'a terrible case of mistaken identity'.

"I have formed a running community of more than 200 runners who all run and fundraise in Colin’s memory. #kNOwKnifeCrime is a positive movement that wants to raise awareness of the negative effects of knife crime and which fundraises to pay for youth anti-knife crime projects such as KnifeSavers bleed control packs. What happened to Colin was horrific and it sent shockwaves throughout the community. Fast-forward 20 years and knife crimes are becoming more frequent, victims are getting younger and the stories are becoming more tragic.

"Our team’s vision is to be able to fund lifesaving KnifeSavers bleed control kits and see them installed in communities right throughout the country. I ran the London Marathon in 2021 in memory of Colin and have campaigned for improved education for young people on the lasting impacts of knife crime and the dangers of carrying knives and other weapons."

How important is running/activity for your mental health?

"Running for me is so important. It’s the activity that has allowed our campaign #kNOwKnifeCrime to grow and is what has got people involved in running with us and for us. From a mental health perspective, nothing comes close to or beats the runners high. The best feeling ever is finishing a long run on a Saturday morning and coming home for a hot cup of tea and a good nosey at your Strava to see how you did!"

Why is running/activity important for your mental health?

"The simple answer to this is running is important for your mental health because it gets all the feel-good hormones going. I usually do my long run with my running pals and the mental health benefits of doing this are huge. We typically have a good moan about all the things that are bothering us and then hatch a plan about how we can fix it all.

"A Saturday morning long run with friends is not only good for the mind but also good for the soul!"

What aspects of running/activity best support your mental health?

"I love running outdoors and through nature where there are lots of things to see. The best kind of runs for me are the ones where I am distracted. I tend to find when I am focussing on something else other than my pace, I end up with a PB anyway!"

What do you most enjoy about running/activity?

"I have many highlights from all the running experiences that I have had. One of the best ones was when a small team from our youth anti-knife crime campaign ran the London Marathon. We were dressed in costumes that school children from across Merseyside designed for us and when we ran past the Stephen Lawrence mile marker we had lots of support and encouragement. This gave me so much strength to continue not just the marathon but our campaign after the marathon."

How many hours per week do you take part in physical activity?

"Currently, I run three times per week and I do Reform Pilates two times per week, so all in all probably around six hours per week."

What physical activity do you partake in apart from running?

"I absolutely LOVE Reform Pilates and it's my new favourite hobby. I also walk to and from school daily with my youngest son and two dogs which is about three miles each day."

What one word would you use to describe how running/activity makes you feel?


Have you encouraged others to run/take part in activities to aid their own mental wellbeing?

"Originally, our campaign in Colin’s memory started off with me, my husband and my two brothers. Our campaign has since grown and we now have lots of people from all over the country running as part of our youth anti-knife crime campaign."