Alastair Bridgman, Operations Manager, Reading, UK
Running changed Alastair’s life; it even led to him meeting his future wife at a local running club. Now he shares his story in the hope of inspiring others.
After struggling to complete a jog around the block in 2011, Alastair decided to lace up his running shoes and start making running a part of his everyday life.
Within months, metres had become miles, with the fresh air and open pathways giving Alastair an outlet to work through the difficulties he was experiencing at home. He now braves four marathons a year, and embraces his inner superhuman to compete in gruelling 100km ultramarathons, even crafting training plans for other budding runners when his own feet aren’t pounding the pavement.
Alastair’s reinvigorated lifestyle has helped his mental health, and now he promotes health and well-being through his work too. Alastair plays a key part in supporting ISG’s ‘Choose safe. Choose health’ programme, introduced alongside its charity partnership with Mental Health UK, and champions the initiative’s drive to harness the collective power of everyday choices, bringing more awareness to how they affect not only safety, but health and well-being.
He’s even picked up a pen to inspire others with his own story – quite the journey since that first jog around the block all those years ago.
Running. Torture for some, all-consuming passion for others. For Alastair, what started as torture has become an all-consuming passion which has left an indelible mark on all areas of his life.
Alastair has shared his journey to becoming an ultramarathon runner in a selection of short stories for Chipmunka Publishing, an initiative established to get people talking and reduce stigma around mental health issues, while promoting positive well-being by highlighting the link between physical exercise and improved mental health.
Alastair’s story centres around taking on the Haria Extreme, a punishing 100km ultramarathon in the Spanish island of Lanzarote. Alastair describes the difficulty of the challenge, how it pushed him beyond his limit, and his inability to quit despite being injured. The race’s cancellation as a result of driving rain, gale-force winds and freezing temperatures would have left many disappointed, but Alastair was proud of how far he had come on his running journey and how far he could push himself, even in the most extreme conditions – attributes which he has harnessed to achieve more success in his challenges since.
“Running has played a huge part in my life. It has helped me through the bad times and made sense of issues, and allowed me to move forward."
- Alastair Bridgman
The story takes the reader on a journey along not only the marathon route, but Alastair’s own emotional journey; he now travels with his wife and family to complete multiple marathons and ultramarathons a year, all the while supporting charities and other budding runners.
“What I try to do is support organisations and individuals by using my experience and time to encourage others to take up running through local clubs, and dispel some of the myths that people hold about this form of exercise,” he says.
The local running community champions Alastair, and he relishes the opportunity to support them, encouraging fellow runners as they seek to improve. When he’s not out running himself, Alastair volunteers, gives talks about marathon running, and shares insight as to how to achieve a personal best, even developing training plans for other runners – a far cry from the man who could barely make it around the block in 2011.
Alastair also runs with his wife, a fellow runner who he met at a local club, and he is actively tackling his bucket list of bigger challenges – the Mont Blanc marathon in France, Cape Wrath in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and the South Downs Way 100 in England – to name a few. Alastair’s pride stems from finding his true character in extreme situations of endurance, challenges which have helped keep his mind calm and taught him to process his emotions.
A framework manager at ISG, Alastair applies the methodical nature of his work to his running, an approach which has led to pushing himself to limits he previously considered unimaginable. The mental health connotations have been monumental in his own life, and the well-being cause is something he’s able and empowered to champion through his professional life too.
Alastair plays a key role in supporting ISG’s ‘Choose safe. Choose health’ programme, introduced alongside a new UK charity partnership with Mental Health UK, which aims to harness the collective power of everyday choices, bringing more awareness of how they affect the safety, and health and well-being, of its people. Going beyond the typical approach to physical safety on sites, ‘Choose safe. Choose health’ provides the tools and conditions necessary to support a culture of empowered people working together.
The programme includes the ‘I’m all ears’ campaign, in which ISG’s mental health ambassadors identify themselves as being on hand and available to lend a concerned ear and advice to those experiencing challenges, as well as signposting further support through the employee assistance programme.
“What I try to do is support organisations and individuals by using my experience and time to encourage others to take up running through local clubs."
- Alastair Bridgman
ISG’s ‘More for you’ benefits programme also encourages its people, like Alastair, to support their own well-being alongside regular fundraising activities for Mental Health UK and ISG’s other partnerships across the globe.
With his never-give-up attitude, and his mind set on the next ultramarathon challenge, Alastair remains ultra-focused on spreading his passion for running, and recognises its impact on his own life.
“Running has played a huge part in my life,” he says. “It has helped me through the bad times and made sense of issues, and allowed me to move forward. I always say that running is an honest companion – it will not give you anything you do not work for, and doesn’t allow you to hide behind teammates or rely on others. But if you respect it, it gives you so much, in sporting rewards and life itself.”
With Alastair’s mind now set on the next ultramarathon, he remains ultra-focused on spreading his passion for running. If you would like to read the selection of anecdotes by Alastair and his fellow runners, the book entitled ‘Ultra Marathon Running’ is available to buy from Chipmunka Publishing, with proceeds going towards mental health awareness.