By Luke Power
Paul Bainbridge is a man on a mission. It’s a gruelling mission, but it’s one worth its weight in gold.
The County Durham firefighter is aiming to run three miles every day for a year. When we speak, he has already ticked off 316 days; days in the beating sun, days in the freezing cold, days when his calves screamed at him to stop.
But Paul hasn’t listened to his calves and has, so far, raised over £3,300 for his chosen charities. The If U Care Share Foundation support those who have suicidal thoughts or are suffering from a bereavement due to suicide, while The Fire Fighter’s Charity provides psychological and physical support for firefighters and their families.
Fighting the battle against mental health problems has been important to Paul ever since his football friend, Daniel O’Hare, committed suicide out of the blue in 2005. Every year, Paul and some friends commit to a different charity challenge, and they had been hoping to participate in the Great North Run last year until Covid-19 got in the way. Yet this hasn’t put an end to Paul’s enthusiasm for clocking up the miles.
“I will admit: not every day has been easy, but I’ve never reached a point where I thought ‘I can’t do this,’” Paul tells Palatinate. “Sometimes I do wake up, look outside and think ‘that’s not for me’, but once you’ve had some breakfast, you’re good to go. You just need to get up and do it.”
“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. The hardest step is admitting that you’ve got a mental health problem and getting help. There’s a stigma, especially with men, but there are always people to talk to. You don’t need to pretend that you’re alright, not to yourself or to other people.”
Earlier this month, Paul completed a half marathon with Durham University student Jiggsy Mcleod, who told Palatinate in October about how running has turned his life around. Not long before, Jiggsy had been on a bridge, contemplating suicide, until the hand of a policeman pulled him away. That day was a low point, but running has improved his life remarkably since then, and he is now “on cloud nine”.
“Jiggsy’s a nice lad, isn’t he?” begins Paul, and Palatinate agrees. “At school, his way of coping was being the smiley character, the jokey character, but when he was getting home, he wasn’t like that. It proves that it’s not always the people who are quiet and look sad that are suffering from mental health issues.
“Running is his way of coping with what he needs to cope with and it’s great to see how he has turned his life around and is now inspiring others.” Ultimately, that’s one of the goals for characters like Paul and Jiggsy: to inspire others. Paul has had comments from people telling him that, seeing his efforts, they’ve also left the house and are finding brightness in the winter months.
Ultimately, that’s one of the goals for characters like Paul and Jiggsy: to inspire others. Paul has had comments from people telling him that, seeing his efforts, they’ve also left the house and are finding brightness in the winter months.
On March 31, Paul will finish his challenge, and he’s right to say that he’ll take a break on April 1! But he is quick to add that “I’ll always run as long as my body allows. I feel better in myself because of running.”
With such an intense training schedule, there seemed one unavoidable question. Will Paul be setting his sights on an Olympic gold medal? “Not at 46,” he replies, laughing, “and certainly not if I was racing Jiggsy!” Yet while the likes of Mo Farah may seize glory on our television screens, in his own way, Paul is equally a champion.
IfUCareShare offer support to those affected by suicide or who are feeling suicidal. If you feel like you need support, you can contact them on 0191 387 5661 or text ICUS to 85258.
You can donate to Paul’s charity efforts here: Virgin Money Giving | Running 3 mile everyday for a year.
Featured image courtesy of Paul Bainbridge.