The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run is open for entries at Greatrun.org/Winter

The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run is returning to Scotland’s capital city at the turn of the New Year, with many of the runners taking part to champion the positive effect that running has on their mental wellbeing.

Inspirational runners took to the scenic Holyrood Park in Edinburgh on Wednesday (DEC 6) to share the positive effect that running has on their mental health and how keeping up their training over winter has improved their state of mind.

The 5k event takes place on Saturday 13 January where 3,000 runners will shake off the January blues to kick start 2018.

The runners and fundraisers gathered at St Margaret’s Loch in Edinburgh to warm up ahead of their challenge and spoke about why they hope to raise awareness to end the stigma around mental health, as well as encourage others to keep up activity over winter.

Leslie Barrell

Leslie from West Linton has suffered with mental health issues since she took a job in the male-dominated motor industry. She felt suicidal and self harmed before seeking help from a psychiatrist.

She is running the 5k for the Scottish Association for Mental Health in the hope that more research is done around mental health and to encourage others to open up about self-harming.

She said: “I have struggled with my mental health since I was in primary school, I was bullied through school and then I went into a career where there was pressure to do everything right.

“I used to hide away and learned to put on a brave face but that came to a head when I started to self harm and became suicidal.

“I am now working with a psychologist and I am on medication to help me cope with situations better. Running has helped me so much with my confidence, I never thought I would enjoy it but it gives me a sense of positivity and achievement.

“Running gives you a lift, even for a short while and keeping my training going for the 5k is really helping me stay positive and motivated through winter when naturally moods are low.

Kristan Caroll

43-year-old Kristan Caroll from Tranent is a police officer and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after suffering several depressive episodes.

This started after her uncle committed suicide and she had to deal with the effects that this had on her family. Kristan has recently returned to her job after starting to run to regain control of her wellness.

She said: “I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety 15 years ago and have battled against it ever since.

“Since my diagnosis I have been through five depressive episodes where I was extremely low and in a very dark place feeling useless and my self esteem was non-existent.

“This year I decided to start running as a way of helping my mental health. I found this kept me focused on myself and even when I felt at my worst, going for a run made me feel grounded and was something I could control.

“I am determined to keep up my winter training and so I set myself a goal of completing the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run. I feel proud that I have managed to help myself by running and take control of my wellness.”

Wahida Yakkub

Wahida from Sighthill is a student at Edinburgh University and moved to the city after going through family problems, which affected her mental health.

She started running to channel out the negative emotions that began to overcome her.

Wahida said: “I started running purely to try and channel out the negative emotions that were dragging me down. I used to live under my duvet a lot of the time and felt completely lost with no direction.

“I realised the only person that could help myself was me. I heard running was a great form of channelling positive emotions and decided to go on my very first run this year, even though I was sure I would hate it.

“It was a gradual process and at first I couldn’t even run 1km but I eventually began to find myself again through running.

“Half a year later I feel like I have regained my confidence and have a new sense of belief and when I get out of bed on a cold winter morning I try to look at myself in the mirror and think ‘if you can run now you can handle anything.”

Nana Barker

Nana lives in Edinburgh saw her mental health deteriorate due to stress when she moved to the UK from Japan.

She felt overwhelmed by her mood and negative feelings and wanted to turn her life around for the sake of her two children.

She entered the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run as her first ever running event to show her children that even if you face difficulties in life, there is always a way to deal with it.

Nana said: “Being away from home, speaking a different language and adjusting myself to a new culture was so challenging from me and I focused all of my efforts on this and it was very overwhelming.

“I didn’t know how to deal with other situations and I didn’t want my mood or negative feelings to be pushed onto my children so I started to run.

“I instantly noticed a positive mood change each time I ran and focusing on breathing and awareness of what was around me helped my mental state even further, so I made sure I continued this in winter.

“I wanted to show my children that even if you face difficulties in life there is always a way to deal with it so I entered the 5k so they could see me complete a challenge and be proud of me.”

The four runners will join thousands of participants to take on the event, which starts and finishes in Holyrood Park and takes participants past St Margaret’s Loch, up Queen’s Drive and around the iconic Arthur’s Seat, offering spectacular views of Edinburgh.

The day is also perfect for the family with the Simplyhealth Junior Great Edinburgh Winter Run taking place in Holyrood Park after the main event.

The shorter 2.5km course is perfect for children between the ages of 7 and 14 years old.

Participants can then watch some of the world’s best athletes take on the hills and mud at the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry, which is televised live on BBC and free to spectate.

The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run is open for entries at Greatrun.org/Winter