Skip to main content

#TeamCardiffCardiff ConnectNews

My Cardiff Half for neuroscience and mental health research – Professor Neil Harrison

4 December 2023

Neil Harrison is a Clinical Professor in Neuroimaging based in Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC). In October he ran Cardiff Half Marathon as part of #TeamCardiff to raise funds for neuroscience and mental health research at Cardiff University. Professor Harrison shares his Cardiff Half journey and the difference fundraising makes to early career researchers.

As an academic psychiatrist, I’m fascinated by how the immune system and the brain interact to alter our mood, motivations and thoughts, how this contributes to common mental illnesses, and how we can use this information to design new more effective treatments for conditions like depression and schizophrenia.

I’m lucky enough to have seen first-hand how #TeamCardiff’s fundraising supports the next generation of neuroscience and mental health researchers. It helps with the funds needed to follow up on scientific hunches that can often launch entirely new areas of research, as well as giving them the opportunity to present their work, enhance their training, and form the scientific networks that will support them throughout their careers.

My own love of running has always been there, albeit shorter runs as a form of relaxation and stress-relief. It was actually a complete accident that I got into longer distance running. I got lost running around Harrogate when I was there for a conference and instead of doing my usual 20-30 minutes, ended up running for nearly an hour and a half!

I realised it actually wasn’t so bad though, and when I saw the call for applications for Cardiff Half Marathon, I thought I’d go for it. It seemed like a great opportunity to fundraise for the excellent neuroscience and mental health research being done at Cardiff, and my chance to support the early career researchers that I see coming through the University.

Training was a bit of a rollercoaster with some definite highs and lows. I enjoyed setting time aside 3-4 days a week to go running, and it was fantastic seeing some real progress by doing it regularly. The downside was making sure I didn’t push myself too hard. It’s easy to get carried away but that’s when you start picking up injuries – and I definitely had a fair few of these. I learnt my lesson and would say listen to the advice, take it slowly, and build up gradually.

I was also lucky to have a whole cheer squad behind me during my training and fundraising. Friends, family – they were all really supportive, even my younger brother, who couldn’t resist rubbing in his way better PBs (usually about half the time of mine)!

Race day itself was a blast. I really enjoyed it – well at least the first half! Being at the start line with thousands of people, the buzz in the air, and the camaraderie was amazing. Hearing people cheering your name when you’re struggling definitely helped keep me going. And a big shoutout to the guy at Roath Park with the sign that read “Beer in 1 mile!”

Memory is great for erasing the painful bits, but I really enjoyed the whole process and I look forward to future runs (and getting at least a little closer to beating my younger brother’s PBs!)

Interested in running Cardiff Half Marathon in October 2024 for Cardiff University neuroscience and mental health, or cancer research? Applications are now open for #TeamCardiff’s charity places.

Or if you fancy taking on a bigger challenge, we also have limited charity places to run the APB Newport Wales Marathon on 28 April 2024. Find out more.

#TeamCardiff fundraising supports Cardiff University’s neuroscience and mental health, and cancer research. By supporting the next generation of researchers, you can help accelerate life-changing discoveries to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for people living with a wide range of conditions. Find out more about fundraising at Cardiff University.