Kilometres & Coffee: The Belfast men using running to highlight mental health

Raymond Gregory and Aaron Coulter started their YouTube channel to document their running journeys
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

Towards the end of last year, Aaron Coulter said he found himself in a "dark spot" due to his weight, which had reached 23 stone. He started a mission to get into shape, and decided to start running with a work friend, Raymond Gregory.

Fast forward a few months and Aaron has lost six stone, and discovered a new found love for running, which he and Raymond document through their YouTube channel, Kilometres & Coffee. In each video, the friends will pick a running route in Northern Ireland, give it a go, track how they feel, and enjoy a treat in a new coffee shop afterwards.

Aaron said they're able to chronicle the physical and mental health benefits gained through running, and that plenty of people have already been in touch letting them know how much of a help their videos have been.

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Speaking to Belfast Live, Aaron said they're doing all they can to showcase the benefits of running and do their bit to help anyone who may find themselves in a tough spot.

He said: "I'm actually from Scotland, but I moved to Belfast when I met a girl over here about six years ago, then Raymond and I met at work, we work on the ferries.

"I got into a bit of a dark spot because I ended up being almost 23 stone there at the end of last year. I spoke to Raymond and we decided we would start running and get to the gym.

"I'm now sitting at around 17 stone, so I've lost almost six stone since we started. But we decided we would video the process of me losing a bit of weight.

"We were having so much fun with it that now people are staring to click on to how good the videos are and people are really enjoying them. Raymond has had people come to his door telling him how much the videos are helping them.

Raymond and Aaron enjoying a coffee after a run
Raymond and Aaron enjoying a coffee after a run -Credit:Submitted

"People at work come and ask me about how to get into running, and telling me how much the videos have been helping with their mental health as well.

"Losing six stone has helped me so much, and because I know how good it is to feel when I'm running, and going for a wee coffee afterwards to just chill out, I just want to help others realise even something as simple as that can help you."

Raymond and Aaron are setting up partnerships with a number of mental health organisations throughout Northern Ireland in a bid to help as many people as possible. So far, they have started a partnership with West Wellbeing and the Black Mountain Shared Space Project.

The friends are also fundraising to help people interested in getting into running get their own running shoes to make the sport even more accessible.

Aaron said: "We've started a partnership with West Wellbeing so it means if anyone ever comes to us with problems, we've got somebody we can send them to. If someone came to me with a problem, there's not much I can do. But now being partnered with West Wellbeing, it means we've got somewhere we can branch out to, we can send people there for some help.

Aaron and Raymond have started a partnership with West Wellbeing
Aaron and Raymond have started a partnership with West Wellbeing -Credit:Submitted

"We've set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise funds to buy enough trainers for around 25 people to get them into running, to get them out running and create a community. We will be working with Black Mountain Shared Space on this as they'll be able to put us in touch with the right people to give the shoes rather than just handing them out.

"We're so motivated to try and help others especially due to how many people coming up and saying how much our videos are helping them - we weren't really starting out to focus on that. We started to try and bring my weight down and record it all for the videos, but we started to realise it really does help people.

"If there's anything me and Raymond would love to do, it's to help as many people as we can. Even if we only help one person, at least it's better than better than nobody."

As for how running has helped him over the past few months, he said: "You don't realise how bad you are until you're good. Before I started running and I was at my heaviest, I was so grumpy at even the silliest smallest things throughout the day.

"I would drop a pen and be raging, but then once you get your fitness right it really helps improve things with your mental health too. You realise those silly wee things are just nothing."

Aaron said he hopes people can watch their videos and become inspired to start running as a form of exercise, self-care, and a way to build community.

"With our videos, because we're not long into running ourselves, there's definitely a beginners feel to it," he added.

"My favourite running video we've done so far has been our 8K run around Belfast, it was just getting to all the big sights. I love running in the city as you forget you're running, you just feel like you're flying.

"There's so much going on around you, and the sights in Belfast are gorgeous. I just love this city so if I can possibly help it, I'm all for it.

"We always tell people 'if your head's fried, just go and run.' You'll never know how different it might make you feel until you try it."

You can find Kilometres & Coffee on YouTube by clicking here and donate to their GoFundMe fundraiser by clicking here.

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