For those that don’t know Stuart like we do, let us explain.
Stuart is a Personal Trainer originally from Aberdeen who served 10 years in the RAF as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) and Parachute Jumping Instructor. Since leaving the RAF he’ll be the first to say he hasn’t had it all his own way. Life’s thrown up some pretty big challenges with some tough, tough obstacles. High highs and low lows, amongst other things, resulted in Stuart suffering from mental health issues a few years ago and within the last year, he’s also had to witness four of his friends losing their partners and going through their own mental health struggles.
Stuart is relentless. In the year that he turned 40 he decided to set himself the challenge of an Ironman Triathlon and a 138-mile run retracing his childhood around Aberdeenshire where he grew up. Not a man to sit still and always a man to help others, he set about thinking of his next challenge. When on his way to work he heard the Proclaimers’ song – I’m gonna be (500 miles). Now residing in SW London, the cogs started to turn, ‘what is 500 miles from here?’ His Girlfriend Sara was the answer. With her, and some of his family and friends being 500+ miles away in his home county of Aberdeenshire, the #TheRunOfGratitude was born.
The challenge was simple; show how grateful he was for the help he’s received through his own challenges and raise awareness and donations for the mental health charity MIND. The Run of Gratitude consisted of 17 days, an average of 35 miles a day and a £10,000 target for MIND (also one hell of a pair of Ride ISO shoes). On the 30th July 2018, Stuart set off north from Surbiton, West London to Oyne via Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Harrogate, Darlington, Newcastle, Otterburn, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.
As the Northern Technical Representative for Saucony I couldn’t let him run through my territory alone, so I headed to Nottingham to meet Stuart at the start of day 5. Stuart has been supported through this challenge by Up & Running and had chosen to run to and from each store where he could. Day 5 started with Rob, in Up & Running Nottingham, and finished in Up & Running Sheffield. This day would go down as a very, very hard day.
Upon leaving Nottingham the tone of the day was set - rolling hills. To my surprise I wasn’t the only one that joined Stuart for the first part of his run. Every day to this point and after it he’d been joined by SRG runners, store staff, friends and social media followers. I couldn’t believe it when people that had never met Stuart before but follow him on social media, and as a result had lost life changing amounts of weight, were turning up at the side of the road to say thank you and share their gratitude for what Stuart had done for them. It was amazing. I ran my bit with Stuart and team, turned around and headed back to the store before, what Stuart classed as ‘cheating’, catching the train to Sheffield where I was joined by the welcoming committee for that day.
Joined by another team of runners we ran back along his route to meet the main man as he concluded his days’ running. We were greeted by even more people! Instead of seeing a lone runner trudging his way up one of the many hills that make up Sheffield, we saw a small group. This was amazing. We had a brief stop, exchanged packs, said hello and made our way back to the store.
As we neared the store, Stuart got emotional. This was a considerable landmark for him, once he was in Sheffield he told us he felt like he was in the North of England and that he’d completed a significant milestone in his head. Overwhelmed with emotion he broke into tears and I was so close to joining him. I’d heard some heart-breaking stories on this day and it had really hit home how important this challenge is as 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health issues in the UK.
The next few days were better. Over the hills of Sheffield and up towards North Yorkshire, Darlington and his birthday in Newcastle. Buoyed on by this we made great progress, often sharing a laugh a minute, but always being reminded why he was doing this. The messages on social media have been flooding with stories of others that had fought their own battles, had friends that had lost their battles and of how this man’s actions had helped them and their loved ones. This was the point, Stuart wanted to show how strong we all are if we talk and help each other.
I must tell you about RAF Leeming. Back in 1996-1998 Stuart was based here as a PTI and through the power of social media we were going back. We worked out that the route passed the base in North Yorkshire and a late-night plea on Facebook had resulted in someone offering to take us around the base and of course we said yes. They couldn’t have been happier to help Stuart shout about The Run of Gratitude. On arrival we were whisked straight onto the tarmac where we were greeted by an immaculate Hawk jet, the base’s Media Officer and a photographer. After this we were given a police escort around the base, popped in to see the gym that he’d worked in and then headed off to carry on the run to Darlington and a huge Up & Running Social Run Group waiting for Stuart.
During the time I joined Stuart and The Run of Gratitude it was a rollercoaster of emotions but It opened my eyes to so much that running can do. It united strangers, helped families and got so many people to a better state of mental health. Stuart sat on the step of that store in Sheffield and told me that he never thought about quitting, he knew he’d get there, he just didn’t know how he’d do it.
Saucony supported Stuart on this challenge with our White Noise collection of running shoes. A collection that embraces the meditative effects of running. Stuart ran the 550 miles in 16 days wearing the Ride ISO White Noise Edition.