Running, mental health and zen-like qualities

Post by Barry S Picture of Barry S
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I’m enjoying this run.

Unusually I was running on my own, but work and home commitments sometimes conspire that way.

I had completed a 16.5-mile training run at the weekend, quite a distance, but still 10 miles short of the marathon distance. 

It was daunting. 

So, I’d opted for a short 5k and to do it fast. 

One thing I miss on the long training runs is pace. I’ve always liked pushing myself over shorter distances, and the mix of pace makes for a good training plan.

It’s dark, as usual and wet, as usual. But I feel good. 

My heart is beating, and the solitude allows my mind to drift through a myriad of memories and thoughts.

I start thinking of when I went to go and see exactly why I'm raising money for The Donkey Sanctuary. This was a real boost...

Herd of Donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary

One of my friends from The Donkey Sanctuary, Jenifer, suggested I go and visit their Manchester holdings, near Gorton.

I took my mum, as it happens, a lifelong supporter of the Donkey Sanctuary and subsequently quite approving of my quest.

I thought we’d just have a look around with all the other visitors but everyone seemed to know we were coming. It was a lovely experience. We got to see feeding time and chat to all the volunteers, a very committed bunch who know everything about donkeys and knew everything about each individual donkey in their care. 

They described their personalities, as individual as people. We also chatted about their Donkey Assisted Therapy scheme, which seems very successful in helping vulnerable children and adults.

Donkeys have a unique presence, a zen-like grounded quality. We’re using their abilities as sentient facilitators and encouraging them to be an equal partner in the session.
Caron Whaley
Director of Donkey-Assisted Therapy, September 2017



Their scheme helps to develop life skills, specifically self-esteem, empathy and managing emotions in vulnerable children and adults, helping them to develop the emotional and psychological capacity to deal with challenging and stressful situations in the real world. You can find out more about this scheme on The Donkey Sanctuary website.

Donkeys have an innate emotional intelligence, and can build an empathic relationship with people which can be beneficial for both, and provide some mental balance.


Donkey Assisted Therapy at The Donkey Sanctuary

My mind wandered on.  

A friend in my running group is a GP. Mental health is a common theme in her work.  

She puts her race medals on racks in her consultation room, she advocates running to her patients - “healthy body and mind”. 

She lent me a book on psychosomatic illnesses, where there is no organic cause for an illness, but it can sometimes be in the mind. A traumatic event can be hidden away in the subconscious, this can cause physical symptoms. 

We need to look after our minds as much as we do our bodies. 

Equally as fascinating. 

We’ve always talked about the benefits of running in the group, not only on our bodies but on the mind. 

There’s the social aspect of chatting with friends, and the post run cup of tea. 

There’s the benefit of the ‘runners high’ which is our own home-brewed opiates called endorphins.

There’s the benefit of time alone with our thoughts in an otherwise busy world.

We sleep well. 

We achieve.

Running and the Donkey Sanctuary. A marriage of wellbeing!

As we're racing toward 26th April, the day I run the London Marathon, I would love some help from you to raise money for The Donkey's Sanctuary's amazing causes which include their donkey-assisted therapy. Any funds raised will be matched by Ixis before my race. To donate, please visit my JustGiving page.


Barry S

Operations Director

Managing Ixis Operations, and our Chief Information Security Officer.

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