Former cop who suffered from PTSD prepares to take on 24-hour marathon

John Clarke spent 12 weeks at Woodlands after he tried to take his own life. he is sharing his recov

John Clarke spent 12 weeks at Woodlands after he tried to commit suicide. - Credit: Archant

A father-of-three who struggled with his mental health following almost two decades fighting crime on the streets of Ipswich is preparing to take on his biggest challenge yet. 

John Clarke, aged 40, was medically retired from the police force in 2019 after a suicide attempt and being sectioned by his colleagues. 

He spent 12 weeks at Woodlands, a mental health unit based at Ipswich Hospital, and has since used physical exercise as a way of recovery. 

John Clarke, 40, is preparing to tackle a 24-hour marathon.

John Clarke, 40, is preparing to tackle a 24-hour marathon. - Credit: John Clarke

Now he is just hours away from taking on his biggest challenge yet — a 24-hour marathon around Suffolk. 

"I'm really excited, I just want to get going," said Mr Clarke.

"I quite look forward to the bits where I struggle as I know they are going to be a challenge."

Mr Clarke will be setting off on his challenge from his home in Ipswich at 12pm on Saturday. 

He will head to Woodbridge, then Aldeburgh, Thorpeness, Leiston, Saxmundham, Framlingham and then back towards Ipswich.

John Clarke is undergoing CBT as he continues on his road to recovery after suffering a breakdown an

John Clarke pictured with his three children. - Credit: Archant

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Depending on how long the route takes he may also go out to Felixstowe, and he hopes to get as far as he can within 24 hours.

Speaking of the challenge, he said: "I use exercise to help with my mental health and I do a lot of running, so I wanted to set myself a big challenge.

"When I was ill I wasn't mentally strong, so now I am doing this to prove I can be that strong and can keep going.

"I use running as a form of meditation. If I have something that is bothering me by the time I have got back from a long distance run those sorts of thoughts have settled down and I feel a lot better. But if I don't exercise and I get into bed often my mind is going ten to the dozen."

John Clarke has been out training at night in Ipswich, where he lives

John Clarke has been out training at night in Ipswich, where he lives, ahead of his challenge raising money for four charities. - Credit: John Clarke

Mr Clarke said running has helped him feel "in control" and has stopped him doubting himself.

"It helps me feel like I've achieved something," he said.

"For a long time I was really self critical and really down on myself and although I didn't want to leave the police I kind of had to because my mental health was so bad.

"Being able to achieve through exercise makes me feel more positive about myself."

Mr Clarke is raising money for five different charities; PTSD UK, Mind, Suffolk Family Carers, Young Minds and Police Care UK, and has already reached more than £2,000. 

He has been training for the last 16 weeks and said the mental aspect of the challenge is what is difficult to prepare for. 

Breaks will be limited to a minimum, and he will have a support team following him in a car behind.

To support Mr Clarke you can donate here.

John Clarke

John Clarke has been training ahead of his 24-hour marathon challenge. - Credit: John Clarke

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