Runners tackle world’s biggest half-marathon for The SHINE Fund

Posted: 07/09/21

Paul Sams in his Shine Fund tshirt

This weekend 9 determined runners will be tackling the world’s biggest half-marathon, the Great North Run, to raise money for The SHINE Fund, a charity supporting people receiving support and treatment for mental health problems and disabilities.

The SHINE Fund is the official charity for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), the NHS Trust which provides mental health and disability services across the North East and North Cumbria.

Money from The SHINE Fund is used to provide the ‘little extras’ that make a big difference to peoples’ recovery and mental wellbeing. It often funds day trips and activities for patients, as well as vocational and educational activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic ‘lockdowns’ it enabled CNTW to provide craft materials, music equipment, games consoles, puzzles, and more to keep everyone happy and well throughout isolations and visiting restrictions. (You can learn more about the SHINE fund here.)

Paul Sams is running to raise money for The SHINE Fund for a second time this year. Paul now works for CNTW, and has been supported by mental health services in the past, so he knows first-hand the difference that money raised for The SHINE Fund can make.

“Especially in my role as a Peer Supporter at CNTW, I’ve seen what a positive impact those funds have, especially for people on inpatient wards.  I can say with confidence that every penny makes such a difference.”

Paul Sams running in a race through woodland

Paul talks openly about his own mental health, and how running in particular helps him to stay well.

“I go on so much about my running that people might think that me doing a half-marathon is ‘no big deal’, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“A lot of people don’t know I was badly burned when I was 15. I’ve been through more than 30 surgeries, and came close to losing my left leg on a couple of occasions after surgery failed to stabilise my situation.

“Thankfully, three operations between 2015-16 help me turn a corner; I got out of the brace I’d been using for over a decade, and after intensive physiotherapy. I started running, and I was able to complete the Great North Run for the first time in 2016.

“I run regularly now, and I’ve needed far less surgery since embarking on this journey. I do still walk with a limp, and I’m in severe nerve pain most of the time. But running helps me in so many ways, and I’ve felt this most keenly during the pandemic.  After I began working from home, my runs became a way of switching off and returning to home life after work, something my commute had previously offered me.

“I also practice mindfulness while I run – I experience the environment, the sights, sounds, and smells, and focus on my breathing and heart rate. It’s a really powerful experience, especially as I live on the coast, so within a minute of leaving home I can experience the incredible coastline, the sea, birds…and the weather! I feel so lucky to be able to run in such a way.”

Caroline Hurt taking a selfie while out on a training runCaroline Hurt, who works for CNTW as a Clinical Skills Trainer, is also motivated by seeing the difference The SHINE Fund makes. “I’ve been employed by the NHS for 30 years, working with patients with mental health and learning disabilities, so I am really aware of the difference that all the little extras that come from The SHINE Fund make to our patients, and how valuable it is in aiding their recovery. I hope that by completing the Great North Run I can encourage others to get involved and spread the word about what The SHINE Fund does.”

Adrian Edwards works as a Specialist Occupational Therapist for CNTW, and remembers watching the Great North Run from his grandparents’ house, which overlooked the finishing line in South Shields where he grew up. “I always wanted to do it, because it looked like a lot of fun for the runners, and now I’ve managed to do the Great North Run a couple of times over the years.

“This year, I’m definitely looking forward to running for the SHINE Fund. Something I’ve appreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic is the ‘little extras’ in life, and if I can support The SHINE Fund to give those to the people using our services, it feels very worthwhile.”

Abi and Alex taking a selfie together on a windswept beachAbi Stewart and Alex Austin, whose sister-in-law works for CNTW, are running to give back and support the NHS after the challenges of the pandemic. “We’re very excited for next weekend – even on our staycation in Bournemouth we kept up with training, running up to the pier and back down to the sand banks!”

Ailsa Miller, Patients Finance and Cashiers Manager at CNTW, said: “After so long being unsure whether this year’s Great North Run was going ahead due to COVID-19, we are thrilled to have several runners taking part again this year.

“The thousands of pounds which our runners raise through the Great North Run are vital for enabling The SHINE Fund to provide activities and equipment which enhance the care and opportunities we are able to provide.

“We are incredibly grateful for the fundraising efforts of all our runners, and we wish all of them the best of luck on the day!”

You can donate to our runners featured above using these JustGiving links, with all money donated going to The SHINE Fund: