For part four of our UW Maps series, we talk to Birmingham-based Marlon Patrice, founder of the acclaimed We Go Outside Too and good mates with Phil Hazel, founder of The Liquor Store.
Marlon is a brilliant example of someone who personifies the old saying about how the best forms of creativity can sometimes happen after a period of adversity. Turning something bad into something better isn’t easy – it takes a lot of inner strength to flip the narrative, but with the right kind of idea (and the right kind of people around you) great things really can materialise.
This is most definitely the case with Marlon, who tragically lost his son to knife crime in January 2020. Immense grief, coupled with the Covid lockdown, spurred Marlon on to try and find a fresh, proactive method to help heal the pain. Seeking solace in the natural world helped Marlon pave a new way for himself – and in 2020, he founded We Go Outside Too, to inspire others in the local black community to enjoy, experience, and immerse themselves in the great outdoors.
Marlon Wears; Lancaster Jacket In Blue Space Dyed Fleece, L/S Big Pocket Tee In Sand Recycled Wool Mix SJ, Zip Waistcoat In Yellow Austin Wool Fleece, Kyoto Work Pant In Navy Moleskin
Marlon first started to feel the meditative benefits of being outside back in 2012, when he took up long distance running during a period of unemployment. Smiling, he said, “When I didn’t have the routine of working, I felt like I needed something to kickstart my day. I remember the first run – jogging up to the nearest lamppost, stopping and then walking to the next lamppost and running to the one after that. Gradually, I was running to objects that were further away in the distance, building up my stamina and my strength. I ended up being part of a running club called the City of Birmingham Striders and entering races. Before long I was coaching others to run and even running competitively overseas. Running gave me focus and discipline, but I noticed a positive shift in my mood afterwards in that I was calmer and less anxious.”
We Go Outside Too encourages people of all ages to come together and reap the rewards of nature as medicine. Marlon understands more than most, about how living in the inner-city can make a lot of young people feel disconnected from the countryside. As our towns become more urbanised and green spaces squeezed out to make way for more profitable residential or office construction, the impact is felt hardest in built-up areas and postcodes with a high proportion of social housing.
WGOT (as it’s affectionately known) has made a determined effort to make sure that race or socio-economic status should not be a barrier for anyone who is curious about rambling. Our planet is for everyone to enjoy – equally, which is a sentiment Marlon feels very strongly about. He commented,
“Walking has the benefit of raising awareness of your surroundings. It gives you a new perspective and a genuine sense of accomplishment, because when you’re out on a walk you’re not focused on your task-list or worrying about what’s going to happen to you in the future. We all get so caught up in the mundane everyday chores that we don’t really get the chance to stop and reflect. Hiking up hills or scrambling across rocks means you need to be in the moment, be present and just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. You’re more in tune with your body and your breathing. By coming together as a group, that sense of togetherness gives us insight into the lives of others. That community connection is so important for our mental health and our physical well-being. It brings about a pause in the grind and gives us the chance to revise our daily habits and incorporate change.”
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Modestly, Marlon sees WGOT as a scheme that simply “plants the seed”. It’s a vehicle for diversity that helps young black people to feel more at one with the rural landscapes closeby. Competitiveness definitely has no place on the group hikes. It’s all about taking on the terrain at your own pace, making new friends and memories. Tryfan in Wales is a favourite - it’s one of the most recognisable peaks in Snowdonia. Talking about the trip to the top, he pointed out how, “it’s a proper nice walk that blends a fair bit of clihttps://www.wegooutsidetoo.com/mbing and a grade 1 scramble. There’s times when you’re clinging to rocks which I like - it’s that aspect of connectivity with the land, as well as the views being stunning. It definitely has the wow factor.”
Some of the hikes can be heavy-going, but Marlon doesn’t let that stop him (or the other WGOT walkers). He’s currently reading the self-help blockbuster by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom and has found himself drawn to a chapter called ‘Always Do Your Best’. He puts the lessons learned into his daily work with WGOT and concluded by saying, “If you just do your best, there is no way you can judge yourself. If you don’t judge yourself there is no way you can suffer from guilt, blame or self-punishment. So, at the start of everything you do, whatever that might be, just think, I’ll do my best.” Seems like a pretty good modus operandi to us.