Q&A with Sean Fletcher
28 October 2020
Sean Fletcher works on a range of programmes on the BBC and ITV including Countryfile, Good Morning Britain and Sunday Morning Live. In 2018 he made a BBC Panorama on the overstretched and underfunded Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and he is an ambassador for the mental health charities Mental Health Mates and YoungMinds.
Why did you start running?
Before 2015 I’d hardly ever run further than 5k. I always considered myself a sprinter. But in January 2015 a producer at Good Morning Britain (GMB) suggested I train for the London Marathon so the programme could follow my progress. I initially said no, but I was eventually ‘convinced’ to enter. And the rest is history. I ran the next four London Marathons, and while my knees might not be up for that distance anymore, I have loved distance running ever since.
What motivates you to run?
Running is such a straightforward thing to do with so many benefits. Of course, it can be hard – you need to have a basic level of fitness, but once you have that you can run at a very slow pace, as long as you keep going. I remember the early runs, training for the London Marathon in 2015 in terrible weather in the middle of January, desperate to give up because I was unfit. But I couldn’t throw in the towel – I was running for Bowel Cancer UK because my mum died of the disease, and GMB was following my progress. I gradually built up my fitness, and started to notice the benefits, for my physical fitness and mental wellbeing. The sense of achievement after a long run was a huge boost. And all you need is a pair of trainers, shorts and a t-shirt.
How often do you go out running?
I now try to run twice a week – one 10K and one shorter faster run. But in reality, when work gets busy, I can’t get out as much.
Celebrate You is all about running for your head and your heart. How has running helped improve your mental health?
The biggest benefit I have experienced since running is the improvement of my mental health. I have a busy life, balancing work and family, and running gives me time to clear my mind. I listen to music and it feels like I’ve escaped to another world. I always feel better for it. If I go for a week or two without running, I start to feel like a caged tiger.
What would be your advice for a first-time runner or someone considering taking up running?
Run slowly and keep going. If you’re getting out of breath, you’re running too fast. And start with short distances, perhaps 3K, and build up to longer distances over the following weeks and months. You may have to start with a mix of running and walking – run 1K, walk 200m etc etc. But as long as you’re reducing the walking each time and building up the distance you’re heading in the right direction.
You’re running the first-ever virtual Vitality London 10,000 this month – why should other people sign up and join you?
It’s so important to have something to aim for. I find running more of a mental endurance challenge than a physical one. Having an event in the diary, whether it’s virtual or actual, is a brilliant way to motivate myself to get out there and train.