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Matt Downton, Tonic volunteer and fundraiser, writes about running the Brighton Half Marathon with TonicSteppers.

TonicSteppers at the Brighton Half Marathon


Mind over matter. Foot over step.

It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, but sometimes that first step is the hardest. My on-and-off relationship with running is a good example.

At the moment, this is the hardest step to make… the first one. I was going to run first thing this morning, but made a load of excuses as to why not to! This is quite ridiculous, as the benefits of running – getting fit, fresh air – are well known. I also like running. And I like how I feel afterwards.

The excuses today have been:

  • the postman might come with deliveries that I don’t want to miss and then need to collect later

  • it is raining (I don’t mind the rain when running, so not a valid excuse)

  • it is cold (it isn’t, so not valid)

  • the company I am talking to about a new job might call (they could leave a message, so not valid)

  • I can’t run (I can, but even it not fit, I can start, so again not valid)

I have been running on-and-off for long enough to know how good you feel after a run. It doesn’t have to be far in distance or long in time, but just the action of getting out there and doing something active is a benefit both physically and mentally.

The first step…


We recently arranged the first TonicSteppers event where five of us joined up as a team for the Brighton Half Marathon to raise funds for Tonic. I hadn’t been able to train properly, so was not looking forward to it – having run the race a few times when fully fit, I knew that taking part without proper training would be very tough. I normally set a target time to hit, but this time I had no target other than to finish. I lined up with the others on the start line, wondering how it was going to go!


There was no pressure to beat a target, so I just got going and hoped everything would fall into place. The first 10k was fine, but I was a bit tired at the 10k point. I knew I had run too fast, as I was ahead of three of the team who had trained well. I stopped to film them for Facebook Live and wish them well. Yes, I know what you are thinking, and you are correct… it was just an opportunity to get some rest. Off I went again, did a couple of miles, stopped, filmed, had a rest, and on it went. Miles 10 to 13 were the hardest, and mainly consisted of me trying to stop any cramp coming on, while running/jogging/walking like RoboCop, so nothing seized up. And then came the finishing line. It looks just like that step out of the front door, but much easier to get over. It also comes with a medal and a banana.

I’d made it, I’d enjoyed it – an achievement of mind over matter and not putting too much pressure on myself to beat my PB or come in below a specific time. Apart from the stiff legs, I felt amazing. I had an almost overwhelming sense of achievement – the first TonicSteppers event had been a success, the team had all run fantastically well, and we had raised awareness and funds for Tonic.

Running, walking, or any exercise (believe it or not) gives you an amazing feeling when you’ve finished, even if it isn’t easy at the start or while you’re doing it. Your body releases chemicals called endorphins that generate a positive feeling in your body, whilst also helping to reduce the perception of pain during exercise.

A good walk or run in the fresh air always clears my head. It gives me some positive time to think without distraction, as well as an opportunity to listen to music.

Eating chocolate may also give the same feeling, but probably isn’t as good for you in the long term as exercise… everything in moderation!

In 2022, we hope to be organising a few more TonicSteppers events over various distances, so please look out for those on Tonic’s social media channels, and get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

If you don’t follow TonicSteppers already, then please do so:

Twitter – @tonicsteppers

Instagram – @tonicsteppers

Facebook – TonicSteppers

Strava (club page) – Tonic Steppers

Right, let’s do it. Get over that step. I am going for a jog. The aim is 3 miles.

27 minutes and 6 seconds later… a tough muddy jog around the South Downs, but I feel very good for it.

Your turn.

I forgot to mention that all good runs and walks end with a coffee and slice of cake. Those are the rules!

Matt Downton



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