Men on a mission: The Ugly Boys Running Club is running an unofficial half marathon in Queenstown today to raise money for Movember


A group of Canterbury uni students on a mission for mental health aren’t letting the postponed Queenstown Marathon stop them in their tracks.

Originally set to go ahead tomorrow, the marathon’s been pushed to March because it couldn’t run under Level 2.

But about 20 blokes, part of The Ugly Boys Running Club, have still travelled from Christchurch to run their own iteration of the half marathon today, fundraising for Movember, which supports men’s mental health, prostate and testicular cancer.

‘‘We weren’t willing to give up on our mission,’’ Ugly Boys organiser Sam Watkins says.

‘‘So we thought those who are still available to do so are going to go down on our own accord and run the race anyhow.’’

To replace the extensive health and safety that’s usually in place, Watkins says members of their group will act as ‘‘marshalls’’.

‘‘They’ve got heaps of hydration, they’ll whip round in their cars, and make sure the boys are safe.’’

Watkins, who’s originally from Wānaka, is mapping out a route similar to the official Queenstown half, but sticking mostly to off-road tracks to keep the boys clear of traffic.

On a mission: Lads Without Labels president and The Ugly Boys Running Club organiser Sam Watkins

The club, which has about 40 members, is an offshoot of a wider University of Canterbury-
based charity, Lads Without Labels (LWL), which Watkins is president of.

‘‘A couple of years ago, sadly, one student took their own life in a Hall of Residence — that was in 2019, and then recently there was an incident on campus as well.

‘‘So we recognise the growing need for not only male, but student-led well being initiatives, by students, for students … so we set up the charity Lads without Labels,’’ Watkins says.

As part of wellbeing initiatives led by LWL, The Ugly Boys Running Club was set up to provide mental health services through mental fitness.

It’s about running the ‘‘right way’’, not for performance.

Watkins says the most impressive thing is watching the group of men realise its OK to talk about mental health.

‘‘We’ve seen some really big changes to how guys [are] approaching that conversation … I was on a run the other day and one of the boys just started talking to me about his studies and anxiety it’s been causing this year, and they’ve just felt really weak at times,’’ Watkins says.

‘‘Without having that group and being exposed to that world where it’s normal, where the conversation’s encouraged, he would have never felt like he could open up.’’

Watkins hopes the running club will expand into more sports and more universities in the future.

So far, it’s raised almost $3500 for Movember.


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