Romesh Ranganathan says London Marathon training is ‘good’ for his mental health

The actor and comedian said pushing himself outside his comfort zone during training for the April 21 event has been a positive experience.

Romesh Ranganathan is taking part in this year’s TCS London Marathon
Romesh Ranganathan is taking part in this year’s TCS London Marathon

Romesh Ranganathan says he knows how it feels to hit “rock bottom” but training for the TCS London Marathon has been good for his mental health.

Ranganathan, who is patron of the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), said he “wasn’t a runner” before he started training for the April 21 event but has discovered that pushing himself outside his comfort zone has been a positive experience.

He will run as part of the charity’s team which includes Natalie Clements, whose brother Aaron died by suicide, and Luke Remfry who had suicidal thoughts when he felt “lost” following the breakdown of a relationship.

“I genuinely do think that in training for the marathon, it has done something for my mental health,” Ranganathan told the PA news agency.

“A lot of people talk about running and pushing yourself – to ‘get out on the road’. But before this marathon training, I’d never run more than 10km. I really wasn’t a runner.

“And now 10km is something I’m doing regularly, and you realise it’s actually quite good for your mental health – to feel like you can push yourself to do stuff you haven’t done before.

“And hearing stories like Luke and Natalie’s shows you’re doing it for something bigger than yourself, to help save lives, and that will spur me on to finish, even if I have to crawl over the line.”

In an interview with the charity, Ranganathan, who is taking over Claudia Winkleman’s BBC Radio 2 Saturday morning show later this year, said he still does not consider himself a runner but wants to support “an amazing charity that genuinely does life-saving work”.

“There have been a number of occasions during my life that I hit rock bottom, and I genuinely thought about taking my own life,” he said.

“I came very, very close. And had I not sought out help, I probably wouldn’t be here with you today.

“And it’s for that reason that I felt really strongly about getting involved with the work that Calm do.”

Ranganathan, who lost a close friend to suicide, said: “The thing about suicide is that it feels so avoidable.

“I think that it just feels like the course of events could have been turned so easily, and that’s what’s really heartbreaking about it.”

Ranganathan added: “It’s a sad fact that 125 people in the UK die every week as a result of suicide. And it’s something that I couldn’t in good conscience do nothing about. And so for that reason, I am running the London Marathon in order to raise as much money as I possibly can.

“For Calm, I feel incredibly strongly about raising their profile, raising the awareness of their work and letting people know that if you feel alone, you can reach out to someone and get help.”

On April 22, the day after the TCS London Marathon, it will be a year since Ms Clements’ younger brother, Aaron, died aged 32.

Ms Clements, 34, a teacher from Reigate, Surrey, said: “Nobody knew what he was going through, until the day it was too late for us to do anything about it.

“And it’s just sad to think that he went through all that alone. And, again, as a man, he didn’t want to bother anybody with talking, he didn’t want to tell anybody what was going on.

“He just thought he could deal with it himself. And unfortunately, it’s ended up with him not being here today.”

She added that “there were so many things that could have been done to help him had we known”.

Ms Clements said her brother was “loved by so many” and “his ending could have been completely different to what it is”.

“And that’s why I’ve reached out to Calm and I’m here doing as much as I can to save someone like my brother in the future, so that people know that there is a way out, that suicide isn’t the way out for a mental health illness or for anyone feeling low. There is somebody there that wants to listen to them.”

Luke Remfry, 25, from Harlow, Essex, is running for Calm because both he and a friend experienced suicidal thoughts.

His friend had reached out to Calm and Luke, a protection adviser in insurance, said initially it was “upsetting that he couldn’t come to me first”.

“But I can understand why, because I’ve been in the same sort of situation myself.”

After a relationship ended, he “struggled to open up” to family and friends: “I found more comfort in talking to someone that I didn’t know, because they can’t judge me.

“There was the one night that I remember the most out of all of it. I was just lost. And I literally had the phone up and I was going to call Calm, because I felt like I was actually going to do something stupid.

“Just as I went to press the phone, my best mate called me and it turns out he was on a night out. And it’s two o’clock in the morning. And he called me just saying that ‘I’m thinking of you, I’m going to get a cab over to come and see you now. I just feel like I should be there with you tonight, for some reason’. That is such a weird coincidence.”

He added: “When I set up my page for actually raising money for Calm and the marathon, I just put a heartfelt message as to why I’m doing this, and I shared it for the first time.

“That was the first time my mother ever read it, and no mother wants to hear that from their son. But when I got home that day, she just bawled her eyes out and gave me a massive hug.”

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