Running for Mental Health
Let me tell you a little story......
Many years ago, when I was at university, I was diagnosed with depression after a particularly terrible attempt at killing myself. I tried a lot of things to help, medication, therapy, drinking the pain away, all the usual, until a doctor suggested I get some exercise. I laughed at him, but a few weeks later, for some reason, laced up my converse trainers and ran a mile down the road. It was agony. But I felt a tiny bit better. A few months later, I entered a 10K and completed it, although is almost killed me. I was wearing a hoodie, tracksuit bottoms and those trusty converse. Pro. I felt invincible. I slowly realised one of the only things that could help me keep the monsters at bay, was running. You can't be sad when you're running (well you can if it's raining and you've been on your feet for 16 hours but that passes...). You can't be anxious when you're running; when you run you are free and in control. When I run, I feel like all the darkness drops out of the bottom of my feet with every single step. You are empowered. You feel the physical pain, and overcome the mental. I decided to have a crack at the London Marathon in 2013. I did it in 4 hours and 2 minutes and that's when it REALLY began.
I'm not saying running has cured me, because it hasn't. I still have terrible days. But I have way more glorious ones. Running is my medicine. It helps me to understand that I am strong, resilient and capable of achieving the physical and mental challenges that long distances present; that I am capable of living a glorious life, full of experiences and that I have a lot to live for. Since 2013, I have run about 70 marathons and ultra marathons and done thousands of miles in training. My first aim was to get to the magic 100 before I reach 40, an aim that is totally within my reach and remains to this day, but my focus has changed. I have run some of the most epic challenges imaginable - from Sierra Leone Marathon to the Thames Path 184 (equivalent to 4 marathons in 7 days). I have done back to back multi stage ultras along the Jurassic and Atlantic coasts; I have raced 85 miles through the Rushmore estate and, again, come first woman. I've run up Mount Snowdon and down the other side, across the Purbeck's multiple times, round the edge of the Northumberland coastline and through the centre of Berlin achieving a marathon PB of 3.36.48. In October 2017, I completed my first 100 mile non stop race at the Autumn 100. And in June 2018 I ran my second. I managed both in under 24 hours, which was beyond anything I thought myself capable of. Then, in January 2018, I became the first women in history to cross Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia on foot, running almost 100 miles across the second largest body of fresh water in the world at temperatures of -47.
My focus has changed from numbers to experiences and passing on my experiences to other people who also struggle with their mental health and self belief. I want to experience everything. I want to see the world on my own two feet and encourage other people to do the same. I want to empower women and men through sport, and show them you can do anything you put your mind to, and in doing that you can actually change the way you perceive yourself and the world. You can give yourself confidence and you can make some of the best friends you will ever have. Running will change your life for the better and is something almost every person can do.
Every year I choose a charity to run for, and in the past 5 years have raised over £10,000 for the charities including War Child, the Mental Health Foundation, Shooting Star Chase, Breast Cancer Care, Action Aid and my 2017 charity, Street Child. My charity for 2018 is Mind Hackney - a charity very close to my heart, supporting people with mental health issues living in my area of London. The work they do is mind blowing, and having suffered a breakdown last year, I feel like I need to do something to raise awareness of the the tireless efforts they put in to looking after the people of Hackney.
I keep a blog of my highs and lows here. I know it has helped a lot of people to understand my side of the illness, but everyone if different. Be aware, parts of this are quite upsetting (sorry mum)! I've also put together a few websites that you can go to if you feel you need help. If anybody wants to reach out to me directly to talk about their experiences, click on the contact button way up there somewhere. And lace your shoes up, and get outside.