A Croydon man who has fought a personal battle with anxiety and depression ran a marathon while wearing a facemask to help raise awareness about the conditions and how animals can help alleviate their impact.

Ashley Middlewick has already raised hundreds of pounds for the Croydon Animal Samaritans charity with after he ran a marathon wearing the now near-ubiquitous face mask that helps stop the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.

On Ashley’s GoFundMe page, he described how volunteering with the charity massively helped him cope with anxiety and depression after they hit particularly hard during the previous lockdown earlier this year.

“This year has not gone to plan. I’ve been struggling with depression/anxiety since the lockdown. This resulted in me quitting my job and struggling to find motivation to do anything,” he wrote.

Having since completed the Race on the Chase’ Marathon in Wiltshire, Ashley went onto describe how running had been a useful coping mechanism for him after losing his job, with the 26-mile distance being a significant jump from his standard outings:

“Running as always has been a great coping mechanism, as has being around nature. At times even a 5km run was a struggle. With events cancelled and even Parkrunning not an option I needed something to aim for.

“The virtual Second Sunday 5 runs have been great as it gave me a reason to get out and do 5 miles and post my times online once completed/see how the other runners got on. I’ve done every monthly virtual SS5 and will continue to do so,” he said.

While running has helped Ashley cope personally, he later found that volunteering with animals was also extremely beneficial.

His experiences volunteering with Croydon Animal Samaritans ultimately drove his decision raise money for them and in doing so highlight the positive impact they can have in cases like his own.

“I started to feel a bit better at the start of August and started volunteering for The Croydon Animal Samaritans,” Ashley wrote.

“Working in the shop and especially in the rescue cattery has been wonderful - looking after the cats has been extremely therapeutic and working in the shop dealing with customers and being a part of the team has certainly helped boost my confidence.”

There is a lot of evidence to support Ashley’s experience of animals helping those going through mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

The UK’s Mental Health Foundation advice for the people on this issue says on their website:

“Pets are a great motivator for people. Dogs especially are great at encouraging owners to get exercise, and this can be beneficial for those suffering from depression.

“Pets can also have calming effects on their owner. Just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet can give a chance to relax and calm your mind. Caring for a pet also gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement. It also helps you feel valuable and needed.” To donate to Ashley’s fundraiser, go to: tinyurl.com/yxmrd7cn