17th May 2023
One of the RunningSpace groups, including founder Jacky at the front
Running to champion life and beat suicide
A running club set up by a suicide survivor has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2016.
RunningSpace uses ‘running as a platform to champion life and beat suicide’.
The club was set up in Bexhill-on-Sea by Jacqueline Youldon, herself a suicide survivor.
“I tried to take my own life several times,” reveals the founder Jacky. “I learned that suicide isn’t about wanting to die, it’s about needing help to live, and that’s something all of us can do something about.
“Although we often see suicide as a clinical issue, suicide is much more of a social and community issue.
“RunningSpace works with community, faith, and public sector partners, including healthcare, working to create networks of safety. I believe every single life can be saved.”
The running club is based on three principles inspired by the World Health Organization protectors against suicide – using running to build faith, resilience, and relationships.
Each RunningSpace session includes an hour of activity, outside, in a supportive group.
After a warm up, there’s the main activity which is based around building strength, speed, or endurance, followed by a cool down before returning to the community-based venue for refreshments and chat.
Some sessions are followed by prayer/ reflection, for those of any faith or none who wish to join in.
RunningSpace coaches are England Athletics qualified, and, crucially, trained in safeTALK suicide prevention and awareness through RunningSpace, to recognise anyone who might be struggling with thoughts of suicide and direct them to further help.
“We are not mental health experts, although our many experiences have made us experts in life”, Jacky explains. “We are not qualified counsellors, although we refer to, and receive referrals from our counselling service partners.
“We are not physiotherapists or elite runners. We are simply people who love to run shoulder-to-shoulder together as we share our stories, before heading back for a well-earned hot chocolate.”
The club is for all abilities, whether you are a seasoned runner or haven’t worn a pair of trainers since school days. Sessions are structured so that no one is left out and no one is left behind.
RunningSpace first launched in Bexhill-on-Sea, but it has now expanded to Ore, Sheppey, and Sittingbourne, with new RunningSpaces set to launch in Hastings, Eastbourne and Shoreham later this year.
In recognition that financial adversity is a main driver of suicidal thoughts, RunningSpace is free to all, with no eligibility criteria, and no commitment, necessary.
The charity works hard to remove barriers to participation so no specialist equipment is needed. Participants can just turn up with comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.
They even have running-specific buggies for families with young children, donated by Active Rother and East Sussex Women of the Year.
Jacky adds: “Running is a great leveller. Not only is it physically good for you, but you always feel better after a session.”
If you would like to find out more, visit runningspace.org