Primal Roots, a social enterprise in Kent, are showing how fitness & nature can replace alcohol & drug addiction to build a better future for people.
“Apart from a life of crime and addiction, I knew nothing else, I had nothing else. I was only going down a very dark path that would’ve ended in me killing myself.
“Then I was given a second chance with Primal Roots, and they showed me a different way to live. They gave me my life back again.”
I was sat opposite Tony, one of the newer members of Primal Roots, listening to his story.
It’s fair to say Tony wasn’t given a fair chance at life. His parents were addicts, and he grew up in a life of drugs and crime. It’s all he knew, and he bounced around from prison to prison, often finding life easier on the inside than the outside. That’s until his probation officer suggested he try the Primal Roots program in Kent.
It’s quite hard describing what Primal Roots are all about, but I’m going to give you a flavour of what they do in this blog post.
They describe themselves as a social enterprise, but they are so much more than that. They are a community changing people’s lives.
Based in St Margret’s in Kent, Primal Roots was born out of a frustration.
Often addicts are told to join Alcoholics Anonymous, or follow the 12 Steps, or to mix and match a number of different programs on the road to recovery.
However, recovery from addiction isn’t a simple process though, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next.
That’s why the guys set up Primal Roots. They wanted a different way of getting over addiction, one that works specifically for them.
They wanted to replace their addictions with fitness and nature, and they haven’t looked back since.
Alcohol and drug addiction isn’t a disease. It isn’t something that you can cure; it’s something you manage for the rest of your life. That’s why swapping drugs for fitness has been proven to work. You get a natural high from endorphins, opioids and serotonin; the body’s feel-good chemicals. It’s swapping bad drugs for good chemicals.
It was amazing talking to the guys at Primal Roots hearing how taking heroin would initially make you feel good, followed by days of feeling bad. It would suck you in, and every time you’d want that little bit more, only to come crashing down again even harder the next day.
Swap that with fitness, and it initially makes you feel bad, followed by days of feeling good. There’s a reason why they call it the “runner’s high”. It feels damn good.
It sounds simple, but it works. That’s the beauty of it.
Running along the White Cliffs of Dover
I spent the day with Primal Roots to learn more about what they do.
After meeting people like Tony and hearing a few of their stories, a group of us went for a long trail run along the White Cliffs of Dover in the Kent Downs AONB.
I really got into running a lot more during lockdown 1.0. As much as I love running in London, it can get claustrophobic and boring very quickly. So, being out somewhere as beautiful as the White Cliffs of Dover was completely invigorating for me. It’s hard not to fall in love with the place when you’re running along the clifftops.
We started off in St Margret’s, ran through a forest and along the clifftops to Dead Man’s Bay, a very secluded beach beside the port of Dover.
As someone who trains by myself, I’d almost forgotten what it was like running with other people, but there’s that instant friendship when you’re all in it together. It was also great chatting along the trail and hearing more about how the body can replace synthetic drugs with natural chemicals. We all agreed that feeling when you finish an extra long run was pretty special.
Time to get physical
From Dead Man’s Bay, we ran all the way along the clifftops to the monument overlooking St Margret’s beach. Here we met up with the other group from Primal Roots and joined in with a tough PT session.
It was here that I learned more about the social side and community aspect of Primal Roots. Everyone who’s a member of Primal Roots is in it together. They are a support network for each other, and when one person falls, someone is there to pick them up again.
It was so inspiring and empowering seeing this group together. And when you’ve got one person saying “this is how I recovered from addiction”, and they’re willing to pass on that knowledge to someone else, it snowballs. It becomes something bigger – it becomes a movement. I can’t tell you how great it was seeing that in action.
How you can get involved with Primal Roots
Obviously going for a fitness session or spending the day trail running isn’t for everyone, I get that. But when it benefits those around you more than yourself, that’s something so unique.
I genuinely loved spending my day with Primal Roots. It was so fascinating hearing how fitness isn’t just for the body, but for the mind too. It made me look at my own relationship with fitness and how maybe I take it for granted – after all, it’s not something everyone can do.
To get more people involved, Primal Roots are looking at hosting some trail running and fitness camps later on in the year. Not only will you get to see what Primal Roots are all about, but you’ll get to go running along the White Cliffs of Dover too. It’s worth it just for that.
There will also be meditation sessions and nutrition talks, so it’s a holistic approach to health and fitness. And when you see some of the journey’s these guys have been on, it’s so inspiring too.
For me, it was incredible a social enterprise like Primal Roots, a social enterprise that’s actually changing people’s lives. It doesn’t get more worthwhile than that.
Where to stay near St Margret’s
I stayed at Chilton Farmyard B&B, a really charming B&B that felt a million miles away from London.
Just a short 15-minute drive from Dover but in the countryside of Kent, this was a really lovely place to stay that’s perfect for families to a group of friends on a running retreat.
There are three converted buildings on the farm. One is perfect for couples with a double bed, one is perfect for a family with a double and a couple of singles, and the third room has two double bunkbeds and a single to sleep up to 5 people. I think this room would be ideal for a cycling or hiking group looking to explore Kent.
As you can tell from the name, Chilton Farmyard B&B is a working farmyard, and they are very hands on. I love getting stuck in so it was great fun feeding the cows and rubbing the necks of the horses. Kids and families would absolutely love it here. Also, the breakfast in the morning was absolutely top notch. Just what you need when you’ve got a long day ahead of you running along the White Cliffs of Dover!