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A Lincoln man battling mental health and multiple suicide attempts is now preparing to follow in his father’s footsteps by running the Pennine Way for charity.
Running helped save Thomas Dunning and has been an important part of his life since he suffered from mental health problems after the death of his brother Will Bonner in 2009.
Since then, he’s been determined to help others and raise mental health awareness. In September 2018, he was named Lincolnite of the Week.
In addition to his 13-year full-time job as a process engineer at British Sugar, Thomas is a motivational speaker, started a local running group and wrote a book about his life story with his wife Amber.
Thomas is now preparing for his next challenge – starting May 31st on the 270 miles of the Pennine Way.
He will travel from Kirk Yetholm in Scotland to Edale in England and finish on June 16th on his 30th birthday.
This came after his father Lea, who is now a retired RAF survival expert, embarked on Britain’s oldest national trail in 1984 at the age of 20. Lea even burned her socks at the end to celebrate the end of his challenge.
The two will run together for the first few days of the challenge before Thomas goes on alone, but he is accompanied by different friends at different points along the way.
He will also find places to camp if he stops during his trip and see his family in Rochdale.
All proceeds from his fundraiser will be donated to RETHINK, a charity that is close to Thomas’ heart. The charity’s Lincoln support group changed his life in 2014 and helped him become the man he is today.
Donate here for his fundraiser
The Rochdale FC fan told The Lincolnite, “Running changes and changes people’s lives and even saves my life. Whether for fitness, weight loss or even just for the feeling of freedom, I don’t run for times or for distance, I just love the happy feeling I get after a run and exercise.
“He (Thomas’ father) is the main inspiration for why I do this. He did it in 1984 and now the circle has come full for me as he spent the first few days doing what the world means with me. I will also see a family in Rochdale along the way and go to the football club.
“I will essentially carry my life on my back for 16 days, camping and mostly exploring on my own, but also with the key message that mental health will never be a restriction on anything we want to do in life. It may make things a little difficult at times – but it will never stop us from being who we are and what we want to achieve. “
After many therapies and psychiatric appointments in his youth, Thomas was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder.
He has given a presentation on his history across the UK and practically in America during the lockdown. He is an international motivational speaker, including at TED events and for ABF, Mind, Rethink, Siemens and NAMI (USA).
Thomas is also a multi-award-winning mental health blogger who received the 2020 “Social Impact Creator” award and is a member of the Brooks Running UK Run Happy Team.
In October 2019, Thomas also started the Run Talk Run Lincoln, which takes place every Tuesday in town for people with mental health problems as it helps them get active and offers a safe environment to talk – download the “My Crew” app Get involved.
On Valentine’s Day 2020, Thomas and his wife Amber Dunning published their new book “Surviving the War on Yourself”. He recounts some of his darkest moments to the reader, saying, “It is okay to be not okay and that you are never alone and have a mental illness.
They even got a letter back from Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, after sending them a copy of the book.
Thomas and Amber have since also started the First Steps Forward program to provide access to running for people with low incomes and / or poor mental health by providing shoes thanks to Brooks Running.
During the lockdown, Thomas volunteered to help users of the NHS service in Lincolnshire and to ensure that the plan is followed when promised something. He has also helped with medicine and food drops for the Royal Voluntary Service.
Thomas attempts to run three times a day and will continue exercising in advance of the challenge with a bespoke program created by his close friend, Laura Jones, who runs We Are Fearless.
He added, “I never want anyone to go through what I did and what I did to my wife. That’s why I founded Mental Health Runner to show that your mental health problems will never be a label or a limitation.
“If one in four people has a mental health problem at some point in their life, there are always three others who can help save a life.”