A SOMERSET-BASED recovering addict who took to running in his early forties during the last national lockdown is getting set to take on a very personal fundraising challenge to aid young people’s mental health, in honour of the organisation that placed him on his path to recovery.
Rob Jones, 44, from Burnham-on-Sea, will be running the Great Bristol Run this September, and is calling on the local community to help him raise at least £2,500 to fund 100 hours of professional counselling for children and young people in Somerset, to address the emotional trauma that the pandemic has placed on them.
Rob, who overcame acute addiction to prescription painkillers following a severe knee injury, has served as a trustee for Somewhere House Somerset, a charity that provides low-cost therapeutic services to people in need across the Somerset region, for the past three years. Rob also oversees day-to-day operations at the charity’s sister organisation, drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation centre Somewhere House. It was at Somewhere House that Rob, who is now close to nine years drink and drug free, first battled and overcame his addiction.
For Rob and the charity, the pandemic proved to be an incredibly challenging period:
“Covid has been incredibly tough for everyone, but it’s been especially traumatic for young people - and we now urgently need to support children’s mental health and recovery from this period, while they are still children. At the start of the pandemic, we were all very concerned that we would not be able to continue to offer our services to people in need - and were frightened about what would happen to the clients that rely on us if we were forced to temporarily close. Thankfully, we worked through it, but it’s certainly taken a big toll on all of us.”
Rob’s health and overall wellbeing declined during the pandemic, as he focused on looking after others:
“I really resorted to food during the lockdowns; I was too busy taking care of everyone else and wasn’t looking after me. I ended up putting on close to three stone in weight - and in February 2021, when we were in yet another lockdown, I decided that enough was enough; I had to do something as I was falling apart without an outlet or a release. I decided to give running a try.”
While many around the UK embraced exercise as a way to combat the mental health toll that the pandemic was taking, this has been a particularly big challenge for Rob, who suffered a serious knee injury in 2008 and has since undergone five subsequent operations to rebuild it.
“By rights, with my knee, I shouldn’t be running. When I began, I couldn’t run much further than 200m without getting a stitch - but I wasn’t going to back down. Running is something that shouldn’t be possible for me with a reconstructed knee, yet I’ve stuck with it day-after-day and it’s now become a huge part of my routine. I’ve shed over two stone, got fitter than I’ve ever been and it’s given me a massive mental health grounding for the future.”
The Great Bristol Run, taking place on 25th September, will be the first organised, long-distance run that Rob has ever taken part in - and he is looking forward to the opportunity and the atmosphere on race day.
“I’m under no illusions that the race itself is going to be a challenge, both mentally and physically. I am aiming to complete the half marathon in under two hours. It’s a great opportunity to raise loads of money for a cause that I genuinely believe in; supporting the young people who need our help right now will drive me forward to cross the finish line!”
Local individuals and businesses can now donate to Rob’s fundraising page for Somewhere House Somerset: https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/somewherehousesomerset