Heather goes the extra mile in London Marathon bid

April 2024

26-year-old Heather Currie is running the London Marathon this weekend after joining West Sussex Mind’s Shoreham running group and developing a love of running for well-being. By Heather Joyner

Heather is due to run and walk 26.2 miles at the London Marathon on Sunday 21 April in her first ever marathon.

The 26-year-old secured one of 200 places at the London Marathon from the Richard Whitehead Foundation as a runner with a disability, after joining West Sussex Mind’s running club last May.

Nina Tully, our “Get Active” peer support worker, will join Heather at the marathon as her support runner. Nina hosts our weekly running club in Shoreham and is helping Heather train for the event.

Heather says she first sought support with West Sussex Mind when she was 18 and still at college. “I was really struggling at college and had anxiety. I was new to the area and I didn’t really know anyone. And I was struggling with childhood trauma.

“My teachers picked up that I wasn’t really attending classes, and they suggested that it would be a good idea to get in touch with West Sussex Mind. The young people’s service, BeOk, gave me monthly one-to-one support, and when I felt ready, they introduced me to their groups and I met people who were going through the same things as me.”

When Heather turned 25, she continued to get support for her mental health through West Sussex Mind’s adult services in Adur. When making this transition, she says she initially felt “anxious about getting lost in the system” and not being able to get the support she needed. But she quickly realised that she was able to receive similar help and, after getting one-to-one support, she decided to try a session with the running club organised by West Sussex Mind’s social activities team.

“I only wanted to go to one group at first, and before I went I’d already decided that I’d just try it once, but probably wouldn’t go back,” says Heather. “My mind was playing tricks on me and that was because I didn’t know what to expect. But I went that first week and then kept going back and now I’m doing my first marathon.”

To train for the London Marathon, Heather has been following a 16-week plan starting from the beginning of the year, which she developed with Nina, and which includes advice on food, kit and hydration. During this time, Heather has learned to listen to her body and mind in preparation for the run.

Heather (left) secured her London Marathon place as a disabled runner through the Richard Whitehead Foundation and Nina (right) is joining Heather for the marathon as part of Richard Whitehead Foundation's Supported Runner project

She credits Nina’s support as a running coach for helping her to understand her limits during training.

“When I got my place for the marathon, my first thought was 'What have I done?', but any questions I’ve had, Nina’s been able to answer them, and if she didn’t know the answer, she has been able to signpost me to other people or places that could,” says Heather.

Nina says that Heather’s growth through the running club and marathon training has been “incredible”.

“Heather has grown and flourished since she joined our running club, letting her barriers down and building confidence and new skills,” says Nina. “The London Marathon is going to be a big challenge and she knows that. There have been a few bumps in the road during the training programme, but at each session, we’ve been planning and talking things through and we’re feeling very positive.”

When we spoke to Heather, she had one more 70-minute run to complete before a 30-minute run during the week before the marathon. This 'tapering' part of her training is about getting outside and spending time on her feet but without so much intensity.

Heather feels that West Sussex Mind’s running group has given her the confidence she needs to complete the marathon.

“Being part of the running club has changed my life,” concludes Heather. “It’s a group that I can go to whatever I’m feeling - whether I’ve had a bad day, a good day or something in between. Everyone’s really friendly and we all support each other. It's time for yourself and time to get support if you need it.”

If you would like to sponsor Heather for the London Marathon, she is raising money for West Sussex Mind. Please visit her fundraising page