It's easy to look at his achievements and think that think that Robin is some kind of modern-day action man. And the truth is, he probably is, but the road to get there wasn't at all easy. In 2014, the teacher from Greater Manchester was hit with some rather major mental health issues including depression and anxiety. Not one to stay defeated, Robin used running and fitness challenges as form of therapy to build his mental resilience, increase his confidence and maintain a healthy mental and physical wellbeing. Here, Robin tells you his fitness journey in his own words.
Could you give a bit of background about yourself and what has led you down the path of taking on fitness challenges?
My love for running started in September 2012. Whilst enjoying a couple of beers at a barbecue in Qatar, I was asked by a friend if could I help get him around the Dubai Marathon. Despite having never run a marathon before, I naively agreed. Four months later, we completed the marathon and achieved a time of 5 hours 33 minutes. Over the next two years, I moved out to Dubai and attempted the marathon two more times, eventually getting my time down below 4 hours.
Unfortunately, it was when I moved back to the UK that I started to struggle mentally. Having to come to terms with working in a completely different environment triggered bouts of severe anxiety and depression. My illness left me needing time off work and receiving professional counselling. However, I found running to be my best form of therapy.
So as not to fall into a cycle of peaks and troughs, which can arise when suffering from depression, I needed to improve my resilience. Running challenges offered me the perfect opportunity to push my body, toughen my mind and build my resilience. As a result, I have since completed 25 full-marathons, several ultramarathons, and even completed over 2,000-miles in 2020.
Towards the end of 2020, I was starting to fall out of love with running and worried about falling back into depression. So, whilst surfing the net for challenge races I stumbled upon Rokman. The rest, as they say, is history...
Why do you do it? What makes you push your limits?
Other than it helping with my depression by building up my mental resilience, I find a challenge always brings out the best in you. I'm constantly surprising myself with what I can achieve. It's very rewarding. I would never have thought I could do a mile in less than 7 minutes again at the age of 50. And trying to complete the Murph was something I would never even have contemplated 8 months ago.
What impact does taking part in challenges have on your health, wellbeing and life?
It has built my confidence by helping me realise who I am and what I can achieve, whether it be great or disastrous. With Rokman challenges, there is simply no failure. The only person you battle against is yourself. If you've given it your best, then job done.
I have even taken the confidence I have built through the challenges into other challenges. Recently I plucked up the courage to go skydiving, and later this year I am independently running around the 16 main bodies of water in the Lake District. I am also working through running a half marathon distance in all 51 counties in England, 16 down. It will take a while, but that’s not the point anymore. It’s all about the challenge and the journey that are important.
How much value do you put on the Team Rokman group and how has it helped in terms of your challenges and goals?
The Team Rokman Facebook Group has been really important to me as the people within it are so supportive, no matter what you achieve. It is quite weird to think you have a group of friends that you have never met, but they are all doing the same challenges, going through the same pain, and thinking the same thing about Terry, lol. It's a proper family feeling, and I look forward to posting my efforts as I know the feedback will be positive, and sometimes hilarious.
What’s been your favourite Rokman challenge and why?
My favourite challenge was the Crab Crawl challenge in The Unit Challenge Series. I made a complete arse of myself but loved the whole experience. In the past, I would have got frustrated, but now I have the confidence to accept I can’t be good at everything. I embrace the moment for what it is and just laugh at myself. This is something I hadn’t done for a long time due to my depression.
The most positive experience was the elevation challenge in High Walk Challenge Series in January. I got to trudge up and down our nearest hill with 20kg on my back in the snow and beautiful sunshine. The views and whole experience was fantastic. The comments from other hikers were great too, lol.
What’s been your most challenging Rokman challenge and how did you push through it?
The most challenging for me mentally was the Adapt & Overcome. For someone who suffers from anxiety, I like to have things planned and know what’s ahead. The thought of receiving each week's brief on short notice stressed me out. So to come through that unscathed mentally was a real achievement.
What’s your advice to someone who is thinking of taking on a Rokman challenge?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Thanks to the support of the community, the series are fun, challenging and completely different from anything you would normally experience.
Being part of Team Rokman has been an extremely positive experience for me. It has also meant I now have different items of equipment on my Christmas and birthday list, to help improve my experience!