Newcastle students cycle in memory of rugby friend

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Three Newcastle University students, who all play rugby for the Newcastle Medicals Rugby Club in Heaton Newcastle, are taking on the daunting challenge of cycling from John O Groats to Land’s End in a bid to raise awareness of mental health in young men – particularly rugby players and students. In December last year the trio were devastated when their good friend and teammate, Marcus Colville, had tragically taken his own life.


Marcus was a third year medical student who had played for the team since arriving at Newcastle University from his home town of Exeter. A talented musician and sportsman, as well as a top student.

No one can fail to be incredibly saddened by recent statistics that report that suicide is now the primary cause of death in males aged 20-49, and it seems to be particularly prevalent amongst the student population.

Giles Themans, a Marine and Offshore Engineering student from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, said “The three of us felt compelled to do something to help raise awareness of depression and mental health and, after learning at his funeral that Marcus had completed this very cycle ride twice, we knew it would be an appropriate challenge. We are using the hashtag #ItsOkNotToBeOk and we’re hoping to remove some of the stigma and get blokes like us opening up about mental health.”

The trio are hoping to raise money in the process and are already well on their way to their £2,000 target – but they are keen to stress that it’s more  about getting the message across to young men, they hope to get cyclists and rugby players to join them for small stretches en route.  “We have been in touch with rugby clubs up and down the country” said Alex Hayton from Porthlevan, Cornwall, who is also studying Marine Engineering; “Our aim is to spread our message far and wide and hope others may cycle with us; we are eager for this to ‘unite’ clubs as a safe environment for young men to discuss mental health at rugby with their teammates. When we discovered depression leading to suicide was the cause of Marcus’ death, we couldn’t believe it. We had always seen Marcus as he was at rugby – a strong, witty and kind gentleman. After talking with more teammates who have opened up and described their own experiences the horrifying statistics become relatable.”

The trio will start their ride on September 3 and expect the ride to take 14 days. We thank you for your support and your donations, and remember – it’s okay to not be okay.

The fundraising page is