Cambridge woman runs marathon for mental health

Julia prepares for the London Marathon

Julia prepares for the London Marathon

A Cambridge woman completed her first ever London marathon to raise money and awareness for Richmond Fellowship after the charity helped her husband get back on his feet after a vicious mugging left him with severe anxiety.

Julia DeCesare ran the London Marathon to raise money and awareness for mental health charity Richmond Fellowship who helped provide practical and emotional support to her husband Andrew in a time of crisis.

Richmond Fellowship work to make mental health recovery reality for people with mental health problems and operate over 120 services throughout the country.

Julia, 39, from Cambridge, completed the gruelling 26.2 mile race in an impressive 4:10:37 describing it as an “overwhelming and amazing experience” and has so far raised over £1,145.

She said: “I had wanted to find a way to thank Richmond Fellowship ever since we had need of their support in 2009 when my husband experienced a complete nervous breakdown.”

Andrew first received support from Richmond Fellowship following a vicious mugging that left him with severe anxiety that increased further following the loss of his job as Julia explained: “Over the course of 18 months he deteriorated from a confident and competent man to one plagued with crippling anxiety attacks, extreme mood swings and terrible depression. He struggled to sleep, he barely ate, was frequently tearful and incapable of even finishing sentences.

“The loss of his job left him eroded of confidence, vulnerable, feeling socially isolated and unsure of how he would find employment again. It’s a desperate thing to witness someone you love in a perpetual state of fear and distress, and you wonder frequently whether you will ever get the person you love back again.”

It was at this time that Andrew was introduced to Richmond Fellowship through his GP. Richmond Fellowship helped Andrew regain his self esteem through a series of courses which led to him undertaking voluntary work in the community to rebuild his confidence, social skills and sense of self-worth.

Julia said: “He’d always come home from his sessions with Richmond Fellowship and from his volunteering work happy, invigorated and positive. The voluntary work connected him with new people from across the community and through all walks of life, giving him the chance to gradually get his self-esteem back and feel valued again.”

Andrew’s recovery was also helped by joining a local initiative to get people into running with the target of completing 5km.

“Andrew had enjoyed evening jogs before becoming ill, but I was never much one for running. To get him out and fit, and knowing the importance of activity to promote good mental health, I signed us both up to C25k,” said Julia.

“We continued running together and a year after he’d become ill we ran our first 10k together and by our first wedding anniversary he was off the medication and by the Christmas of that year he’d found employment again.”

Julia's medal and running number

Julia’s medal and running number

It was at this time that Julia decided to run the London marathon to raise money and awareness for Richmond Fellowship and to recognise the work they do to help people like Andrew on their mental health recovery.

She said: “Training for a marathon is an emotional journey, but nothing prepares you for how much of an overwhelming and amazing experience the race itself is, running amongst 37,500 other people requires concentration and awareness and the energy and noise from the crowd leaves you dizzy long before you hit that inevitable 18 mile wall.

“It’s not called an endurance event for nothing! It’s your mind that keeps you going long after your body is spent of fuel. Mental toughness is something you develop in the weeks and months of training and from the knowledge that you have people around you willing you on and willing you to succeed, an appropriate analogy for the work Richmond Fellowship does.”

Reflecting on the marathon with sore limbs and a huge sense of pride, Julia says that her memories of training with her husband and running to support people on their recovery journeys helped her through: “The memories of the hours that Andrew and I spent together these past few months chatting and laughing on freezing winter Sunday mornings as he trained with me got me through those difficult final four miles.

“None of these things would have been possible without the work Richmond Fellowship do. For that I am exceptionally grateful.”

Julie Chivers, Locality Manager for Richmond Fellowship in Cambridgeshire, said: “Everyone at Richmond Fellowship is very proud of Julia for taking on such an incredible challenge.

“Richmond Fellowship work everyday to raise awareness of mental health and to tackle the stigma surrounding it and there is no bigger stage than the London marathon to help this aim.

“We’re incredibly proud of Andrew for coming so far on his recovery journey and it goes to show how vital it is to have the right personalised support to help tackle mental health problems and make recovery reality.”

You can still donate to support Julia’s fundraising. Click here to support her

Click here to find out more about our services in Cambridge and how they supported Andrew.

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