Jess, Run Talk Run

Using running to create space for mental health

Today, Jess is known as the founder and creator of Run Talk Run, an international running group that focuses on mental health. Thanks to her, thousands of participants each month in the UK and around the world have found a safe space where they can open up about their struggles, all while getting a little fitter in the process.

Running and sports wasn’t always something Jess was interested in. In fact, when she started running, she had what many would consider a negative relationship with the sport. Jess recalls growing up quite resistant to sport and running. She struggled with her mental health as well as an eating disorder.

“Ironically, it was that eating disorder that actually led me into running. In the first instance, it was driven by a very negative mindset at the age of about 19. But what I found was very quickly it became something that was not self-sabotage,” she says. “It actually gave me a lot of respect for my body which I had never had before. It improved my self esteem, which made me less reliant on that eating disorder.”

Jen Robson

Founder, Run Talk Run

Running ended up being just what she needed to break out of the negative cycle she was in. By 2017, she realized just how positive of a space running had become for her. She found running with friends or in a group particularly beneficial.

“I had experienced a lot of social anxiety as part of my mental health struggles. Running gave me a space to talk without having to hold eye contact which for me at that point in my life was really key.”

Jess Robson

Founder, Run Talk Run

The realization that running helped provide her a space to open up inspired her to start Run Talk Run. The premise for that first run was simple: It was to be a five kilometer gentle jog open to all abilities. She didn’t even mind if people came just to walk.

“I wasn't focused on performance at all. It was all about having that conversation about how we're doing.”

She remembers the first run like it was yesterday.

“I only had one attendee and I was very open with her from the get-go that I was extremely nervous about doing this,” she recalls. “That really did open up the conversation for her to talk about her experiences with anxiety as well.”During that first year, Jess’s group was the only Run Talk Run group that existed. It started out very small, with some weeks where no one else would attend but Jess. But over time, people began coming out more consistently. The group stayed small, but the small size made it more intimate and allowed attendees the space to open up about the hard things that they were going through.

One year in, Jess received a message on Instagram. A woman who lived about an hour and a half outside of London had found the group on social media and was interested in starting one in her town of Peterborough.

“I said well, you know, why don't you just call it Run Talk Run as well and we can both do this thing together and support each other,” Jess explains. “What I didn't realize at that moment in time was that I had, I guess, set a snowball off for people reaching out and wanting to start Run Talk Run in their own hometowns.”

Five years later, Run Talk Run now includes 150 volunteer-led groups across the UK, the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Though it is expanding across the world, the groups have still remained small. Jess says her group consists of five to 10 runners each week, which she says perfectly suits the purpose of the group.“It suits our vibe and our purpose. I think it'd be quite intimidating if we were one of those really big crews.”

Not only has Jess seen incredible personal growth in herself, but she has had the pleasure of watching others open up and become more confident as leaders of Run Talk Run.

“I was so unsure of who I was in this world, I didn't quite know where I fit in anywhere. So, It's helped me find my people and has helped me find those who care about running and mental health.”

Jess Robson

Founder, Run Talk Run

Jess says Heylo has helped her and the other Run Talk Run leaders immensely since they began using it two years ago. Before using Heylo, the most frequent negative feedback they received was that the app that they were using for signups was constantly glitching and was hard to use. Heylo has provided them with a well functioning, user-friendly platform.

“Not everyone wanted to download an app necessarily, so the fact that Heylo can be utilized on desktop is a huge win for us with our older participants. You forget that not everyone wants to be using apps. It has also made it easier for leaders to be able to edit their runs without having to use some sort of complicated backend process. It's very user friendly for everyone involved.”

She also loves how easy it is for her and for other regional leaders to check in on the groups and see how they’re doing. Heylo has also made it easy for people to find and join another Run Talk Run group if they move or are travelling.

As for what’s next for Run Talk Run? Jess says that she wants to continue to make it more accessible and break down the stigma that still exists around mental health and mental illness. In November 2020, she launched Walk Talk Walk so that people who didn’t want to run could still benefit from the group.

“The Biggest motivator for Run Talk Run has been to make support more accessible. There are still areas of the UK where the stigma around mental health is still quite strong. So my goal is for Run Talk Run to exist in those particular areas where it's harder to get support.”

If you want to find a Run Talk Run event near you, check out the group on Heylo. You can also follow them on Instagram @runtalkrun and find them online at If you are interested in starting Run Talk Run where you live, reach out using this form.