Chester-Le-Street Man Finds a Whole New Community through Running

The 2023 AJ Bell Great North Run will have the privilege of hosting Sir Mo Farah’s final competitive race. While his professional career has enthralled and inspired millions around the world, his personal story also demonstrates the power of running to change lives.

Like thousands of those lining up alongside him, running has had a truly transformative effect on his trajectory. At this year’s Great North Run we’re uncovering the stories of ordinary people whose lives have been changed by running in many ways, big and small, to inspire others to take the first steps on their own running journey.

Al Hagar from Chester-Le-Street lives with severe anxiety and depression. He took up running on the recommendation of his GP and feels it gives him purpose and focus – allowing him to live in the moment. After starting his Instagram account @person_al_best he has received support from runners around the world. He’s fundraising for local mental health charity If You Care, Share.

Al explains, “I’ve only been running for a year. Before that I couldn’t run from lamppost to lamppost without getting out of breath.

“I got into running for my mental health. I’m suffering from clinical depression and anxiety and every medical expert I talked to all praised the mental benefits of exercise and running.

I would try anything to feel better so Parkrun became my goal. Can I run enough to eventually run none stop over a 5k distance?

“Running has had a huge impact on my life. I set up a running instagram page to keep me accountable and hopefully meet other runners. That turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I set up @person_al_best and soon realised that while I can’t compete with some of the serious athletes on there I can be me and be real.

“I’m open about my battles, I’ve laughed and cried on there and through my humour and openness I’ve connected with so many people. The running community is amazing and supportive and I no-longer felt isolated and alone. People from my town would see me always running along on my own but no, I wasn’t alone. What they didn’t see was the running community running with me every step of the way.

“I’ve been told I’m inspiring and been thanked for my ability to talk openly about my battles. I want to normalise talking openly about these things and that hopefully helps others.

If through my personality and humour I can bring a smile to someone in sometimes this dark world then that in turn lifts my mood.

“Depression is always taking me back to things that have happened in the past and anxiety makes me worry about the future. But running keeps me focused and in the present. Able to enjoy where I am at that moment and appreciate the wildlife and scenery around me.

“This year I’m running for Ifucareshare, a local charity from my home town whose aims are prevention, intervention and supporting those bereaved by suicide. I wanted to run my 1st Great Noth Run  for a reason I believed in.

“I started running to save myself and so it seems fitting to now take on this run to save others.”

Al will be taking part in the 42nd Great North Run on Sunday 10 September alongside 60,000 other runners, making it the biggest half marathon in the world. The iconic course starts in Newcastle city centre and finishes 13.1 miles later in the coastal town of South Shields. Many runners will be taking part to support worthy causes, raising an estimated £25 million pounds for charity.

The event will be shown Live on BBC One from 10am until 2pm.

For more information click here.