My name is Martin and I live in Leamington Spa in the Midlands.

The closest I have come to that is working in Krakow, Poland for a total of about 3 months in 2018 where I had an apartment, allowance for expenses and could explore the city at the evening and weekends. I would highly recommend going there for (their parkrun is perfect for a pb/pr) for a long weekend or week away. There are lots of places for history, culture, food drink etc and there is still so much I haven’t seen so I am itching to go back…mainly to beat my time!


I’ve been struggling with mental health for most of my adult life and for the most part have handled it through exercise as a way of managing my stress levels. When I got an injury to my knee whilst playing football, it meant that I didn’t exercise at all due to operations and that’s when my mental health really began to spiral.


Coupled with having a hard time both personally and professionally, I recognised in myself that I was really starting to struggle and had to get help.I spoke to my GP and got access to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies)and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) after being diagnosed with work-placed stress and depression and was on tablets for the next two years.  Since then I’ve managed my mental health by topping up my exercise with running and yoga, coupled with some self taught practices.


Runner Feature - Martin Gitto RunThrough Running Club LondonI can recognise the signs in myself now that usually start with poor sleeping patterns and when that happens I go back to basics – sleep, drinking water, good food and exercise. When people are depressed or low, it’s not always something that can be seen and no two people have the same experience – for me it manifests in a number of ways. I go quiet, get headaches and tight with tension.

It can often be interpreted as moody or miserable – I know it’s more than that, and now, I know to start my process of seeking help, telling the people who need to know like my manager and continuing with my fitness and therapy. Most recently I started experiencing what I now to be anxiety and some of the signs were my heart racing and sweaty palms which got confused with signs and symptoms of Covid.This has been a really hard time for lots of people, but for me, I became anxious about catching it and passing it on which led to almost a fear of the outside coupled with a calf injury, it meant I couldn’t run, so I lost my coping mechanism too.


I grew fearful of the changing rules and restrictions and have been diagnosed with COVID health anxiety (also now known as COVID Anxiety Syndrome) and I’ve recently started therapy for coping strategies and I have been having them virtually for over 12 months .


It’s about challenging my own thought process, my responses and ultimately moods and behaviours. So far, so good and it’s something I’m passing on and sharing with others to try when they are feeling overwhelmed. Now when I can feel the stress or anxiety building up I turn to exercise, usually I go for a run, sometimes in a socially distanced group for the company,  which also helps.


I am currently running distances between 5k to half marathon and most of the time it is more about getting out for the run as it is one of the only times in my day where I am not anxious, not stressed and can process what the day had in store, my feelings or emotions in a healthy way.When I am finished I feel lighter and better than when I started.


I am running parkruns regularly and currently I am at 33 parkruns and the running community is incredibly supportive. I have completed multiple 10k races, most recently the run through event Northampton 10k and by far the toughest race, due to a car crash 7 weeks before it, was my first ever half marathon in Coventry but loved every moment of it!I am more resilient than I know and each run and race reminds of this.There are however some days where I just have to ride it out and accept it’s not going to be a good day, but tomorrow is a new day, and that is okay.


I make the people who need to know aware and, as I said before, return to basics, put good things in my body, exercise and try to get my sleep under control. What works for me is reading before bed anything from science fiction, autobiographies, psychology and leadership  – no gadgets or devices which over-stimulate my mind and keep me awake.

I take a break from my laptop everyday and get outside for a walk or run – that and eating healthily and plenty of water is helping me to feel like I’ve taken control and self-managing.

Runner Feature - Martin Gitto RunThrough Running Club London


If I could offer any advice for anyone who feels like they are not coping or starting to feel overwhelmed and in need of support – recognise that you need help. There is no shame and you’ll soon find out that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Asking for help is the hardest step, but, once it’s said you’re already on the road to recovery.And my advice to colleagues, employers and friends is, just be kind. Treat people how you’d like to be treated, in fact, treat them better.


It takes less than a minute to say ‘are you okay?’ and even if they say yes, ask the next day and the day after that…take the time to understand how they might be feeling and remember words have power, they hurt and for someone already feeling vulnerable, throw-away remarks cut deep. We’re not all resilient, some of us need a bit longer to deal with change.


It’s scary and makes you feel out of control and vulnerable. Knowing you’re in an environment where people care, feel safe and can talk openly might just make all the difference to someone’s recovery.