Inspired by impressive facial hair and a passion for running, a group of forest managers channelled the classic film Forrest Gump when they ran 42 kilometres in the Rotorua Marathon.

Paul Burridge, Ross Langley, Cam Eyre, Richard Cook and Josh Johnson took part in the Rotorua marathon to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.

“Most of us work in forestry, and some of us have beards. It made us think of Forrest Gump and his running efforts, and then the name, Run Forestry Run, just stuck,” Paul says.

Paul, who is the Head of Export and Regional Operations at Summit Forests NZ Ltd, says the modern work environment can take a toll on people’s mental health and the group wanted to do the marathon to help draw the industry’s attention to the importance of supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

He says the Forest Industry Safety Council has recognised the role they play in supporting the mental health of forestry workers and is looking to add wellbeing into their programmes.

“At the start of every year we have industry Safe Start breakfast events in various regions, which have a strong focus on health and safety, wellbeing and resilience.

“Some within the team have personally experienced struggles over the years with mental health issues, burnout in work and personal life or have seen close friends go through the same thing,” Ross says.

Training together helped with motivation

Regular exercise and working towards a goal made a difference in their lives.

“We trained together as much as possible, even though the sessions were a bit ad hoc,” Cam says.

There were a few injuries and sometimes the snooze buttons were too difficult to resist.

“Before the Rotorua Marathon Richard, Cam and I ran the Pouakai Circuit,” Josh says. “I slept in and I was 45mins late!”

The sleep-ins prompted the team to create Josh’s very own hashtag, “#dontgorunningwithjosh.

Despite missing the odd run and some challenging training sessions, the time together and shared experience drew the friends closer and boosted their wellbeing.

“A cause like mental health kept me grounded,” Ross says. “It gave me new goals and challenges, and it’s a much better way of socialising, rather than catching up with mates over a beer.”

Encouraging others to get involved

Their advice to anyone who is thinking about running a marathon and fundraising for a cause is to “get amongst it”.

“It’s great positive energy in the build-up and on the day the events are amazing. In the modern world, it’s easy to deviate away from team type activities but experiencing a challenge like a marathon as a team is truly revitalising,” Richard says.

And just like Forrest Gump, the five friends plan to keep on running as they eye up future events.

“Never say never,” Cam says.

Find out what other events are coming up that you can join