Personal trainer’s solo marathon effort in memory of lost riders

  • A personal trainer who specialises in working with riders is setting out on a solo marathon next weekend (May 1-2) to raise money for two equestrian charities.

    Former eventer and freelance groom Katie Bleekman will be tackling the 26-mile run for mental health charity Riders’ Minds and the Injured Jockeys’ Fund (IJF).

    While many marathons have been cancelled because of the pandemic, Abbotts World Marathon Majors, which runs the world’s “big six” marathons, have been encouraging people to undertake “virtual” marathons, where they run individually wherever in the world they might be.

    Katie, who is based near Cullompton in Devon, plans to run a route taking in portions of the coastal path between Dawlish and Exeter, setting off on either 1 or 2 May.

    “I was meant to be running the Manchester marathon but because of Covid it changed to the autumn,” said Katie, who has already run several marathons including Amsterdam and London. “I will be doing this one as part of an Abbots World race — they give you a race number and you submit your time, which helps with keeping accountable.”

    Katie was inspired to raise money for mental health charity Riders’ Minds, and the IJF (who have recently launched an initiative with clinical psychologist group Changing Minds) following the deaths of former jockey James Banks and Riders’ Minds founder Matthew Wright.

    “I met James once or twice through having some of the same circles of friends and the news [of his death] hit me quite hard, it’s very sad to lose someone at a young age,” Katie said. “Then there was also Matthew’s passing, as well as Liam Treadwell last year.

    “While everyone struggles, I particularly wanted to do this to raise awareness of men’s mental health — it seems men in their 20s and 30s find it difficult to talk about what they’re going through. It’s a huge issue in the equestrian world.”

    She added that she also felt the charities were good choices as they worked directly with governing bodies of the sport.

    “Horsey people have a habit of plugging on without stopping to think about themselves and they don’t always realise how bad a place they’re in,” she said. “I like to do things that challenge me and takes me out of my comfort zone. I don’t enjoy running marathons while I am doing them but running 26 miles alone is nothing compared to someone who is really struggling through mental health problems.”

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    Katie has already been on one 20-mile training run and although she has suffered a “bit of a knee niggle”, hopes to be on target for the marathon next week.

    “I’m hoping I can persuade a couple of people to run a few miles with me for a bit of support,” she said. “When I did Amsterdam and London the atmosphere was incredible, so it’s going to be a very different experience.”

    Katie is hoping to raise £5,000 for the charities, which will be divided 50/50. Donations can be made via JustGiving.

    Katies’s progress can be followed via her Instagram.

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