Larne dentist runs across Scotland for mental health charity

A kindhearted dentist from Drains Bay took on a gruelling 500-mile run across Scotland in 12 days to support the work of a charity which helps people experiencing mental health issues.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 4:09 pm

Ryan Stewart took on the ‘Running Scotland’ challenge from John o’ Groats to Gretna Green alongside colleagues Stuart Campbell, Derek Marner and Paddy Watson to raise funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) charity.

Speaking to the Times, Ryan, who now lives in Edinburgh, said: “I have been doing running events for 14 years. I was a member of Larne Athletic Club when I lived in Larne. Mountain running is my main discipline.

“I have never done a multi-day running event like ‘Running Scotland’ and prior to this event, I had only ran the marathon distance on two previous occasions. I had to run an Ultra marathon on 12 consecutive days (daily distances varying from 45km to 74km) to tap out this Scotland run, so I was very much in uncharted waters for how my body would cope.

The kindhearted dentists have raised £12,000.

“It was a 12-day consecutive effort from September 29 to October 10. We actually originally intended to cover the distance in 10 days, but a month out from the event we added in an extra day. If we had done 10 days, our first day was going to be a 96km run. Thankfully we caught a grip of ourselves and split this day into two.”

The former Larne Grammar School pupil continued: “I had two really low points during the event and was very close to throwing in the towel on both occasions.

“We lost a member of our team, Derek, on day five. Derek unfortunately succumbed to swollen ankles and a knee sprain. Losing a team member made that day really hard to deal with and at that point we were all suffering from various muscle and joint pains. Doubt was creeping into the mind, but the other lads kept me laughing and going. I’ve never seen so many selfies on one trip, but my goodness it was needed to distract from the pain

“The second point I nearly chucked it in was on day eight. We had planned to run 75km this day and arrive in Glasgow. The previous day, Paddy was really struggling with knee pain and was moving a lot slower than me and Stuart. We had decided to let him start an hour early giving Paddy the chance to pull out and safely return to our support team (Sandbaggers) prior to me and Stuart starting the day.

Ryan (front) with his 'Running Scotland' teammates.

“This section from Inerarnan to Balmaha was unsupportable for 21km and we were concerned that Paddy might not be able to get off the terrain safely. So a wee test of the knee was given. Amazingly, Paddy recovered well overnight and managed to actually fly along the route.

“By the time myself and Stuart reached Balmaha, Paddy was near Milngavie (about 18km ahead of us). With the group so splintered now, the decision was made to stop Paddy and allow me and Stuart to catch him. It was also evident that with me and Stuart’s later start, we had no chance of making Glasgow in daylight.

“Our support team made the decision to stop us all short of Glasgow in Drymen which meant our challenge would need another day added on. Getting this news of an extra day put my head in the bin. We also passed a lovely bar just after this information (Balmaha Inn) and I was very close to going in to get a pint and then get a train home to Edinburgh. We finished this day with the lowest spirits and we were arguing over how it went so wrong, but our mega support, Sandbaggers, sat us down, knocked our heads together, and thrashed out a new set of routes to finish on a twelfth day. We had broken the back of this challenge and to pull out at this point, as tempting as it was, would have been a real shame.”

Detailing why the team decided to support the work of SAMH, Ryan, who left Larne in 2009 to go to Dundee University to study Dentistry, explained: “During the first Covid-19 lockdown, myself and many others struggled having our lives tipped upside down.

“Running has always been a way of release for me in managing daily stress and I wanted to encourage others to try running. Our mantra for Running Scotland was ‘One run can change your day, many runs can change your life.’

“SAMH is a super charity doing great work for people suffering from mental health across Scotland. Improved mental health and running go hand in hand. SAMH were our perfect match and we hoped to raise awareness and funds for their work.”

At the time of going to print, the generous runners have raised over £12,000 for the worthy cause. If you would like to make a donation, click here

Thanking everyone who has backed their charity effort, Ryan added: “Myself, Paddy, Stuart and Derek can’t thank everyone enough for raising such a large sum for a great cause.

“It was truly refreshing and humbling to see how many people were willing us on to the very end. It was a very emotional journey and I’d have 100 per cent chucked the run a good few times if I hadn’t been engaged with by so many wonderful people. It was honestly so energising to read the comments from the hundreds of donations and we would scan for these during the run regularly to lift the spirits.

“Keep your eyes peeled to see what the ‘Running Scotland’ boys get up to in the future. We aren’t done with our running and fundraising yet!”


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