Category Archives: Ponderings

Running and my mental health

I’ve often considered composing a blog about how running has helped or affected me mentally but never actually had the nerve or wherewithal to sit down and write it.

But since it’s World Mental Health Day there’s no better time I suppose.

Then again, who cares about what I think? Who set me up as some sort of ‘expert’ on the subject? Who even do I think I am? You get the picture … they’re questions that get to the very core of who I am or, at least, give an insight into my own opinion of myself.

Full disclosure … I’m not a fan of myself. I’ve never been and I doubt I ever will. I constantly fear that I come across as full of my own self-importance, that I’m big-headed, that I’m needy, that I’m lesser than everyone else, a failure.

Earlier this decade I went through 16 months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy until I was unceremoniously dumped by my counsellor. No warning, no gradual winding down of the sessions, she even gave me ‘homework’ at my last session – a pretty intense task as well – only to abruptly end them, not even in person but hiding behind my GP’s secretary, and for a long, long time that sudden ending to my weekly sessions really hit me badly.

I just couldn’t handle it. She was a professional, she was paid to listen to me but even she couldn’t stick me. If she wasn’t prepared to do it, then why should anyone else?

Then I discovered running. What a revelation! What a change it has made to my life!

From my first tentative steps in putting myself through the NHS C25K programme to my first marathon running has given me the chance to escape all my worries. When I’m out running my only immediate concern is my next step, my next kilometre or my next mile.

Running has allowed me to process the current issues in my life, quite often bringing clarity to a situation where none existed beforehand.

Running has opened up so many wonderful things over the past two-and-a-half years that I would never otherwise have experienced. I have met so many amazing people and felt things I never imagined possible … the sense of euphoria at crossing the finishing line, the pushing of another boundary, the smashing of another glass ceiling.

I have all my medals, 40+ and counting, on the wall beside my desk but deliberately just out of sight. Looking straightahead at my monitor typing this I can’t see them, but turn my head a little to the left and there they are, in all their glory, reminding me what I’ve done and what I can do. I always get a little lift seeing them there.

I’m chronically shy. I withdraw in a crowd of people. I lack the confidence to engage with others. I worry (no, I know) this makes me appear aloof and unwelcoming when the polar opposite is the case … but my own insecurities stop me from being any different.

Yet, because of running, I joined my local club. That in itself was a huge leap on my part. I’m slow, I’ll always be slow and I really worried that I’d be like a fish out of water amongst the rest of them. A little fat 46-year-old alongside these athletes.

But, in less than a year, I now look after the club website and the majority of press relations. I often worry that I don’t do a decent job, that I’m only in the position because no-one else wants it yet when I get positive comments (oops, remember what I said earlier about being big-headed?) I’m on cloud nine, I feel like my very existence and presence is vindicated.

I can go to club sessions on a Monday night and feel I’m amongst friends. For a notorious loner that is a huge thing. I can go to races and be guaranteed support simply because of the shirt I’m wearing. That is massive.

I still worry myself sick before each and every run, even a short training outing. What if I’m even more useless than normal? What if I can’t do it? What if someone sees me and mocks me? I favour running in the dark or running in quiet areas for those very reasons.

However, I keep doing it, I keep putting myself through it even if sometimes it takes me all day to work up the courage to go out.

Why? Because running has really helped me develop as a person. It has taught me that no matter the hurdle or challenge in front of me I have the strength buried deep within to handle it, to face it head on.

I guess that’s the point of this blog.

Running is much more than putting one foot in front of another, it has instilled within me a belief in myself that I never realised existed before.

I’m not fixed or cured. I’ll never be that, but I am a much ‘better’ person because of running.

Apologies for the length of this post, and well done for sticking me out until the end, but thank-you for doing so. I hope I’ve helped or inspired you in some small way.

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Broughshane 10k

I went into tonight’s Broughshane 10k not really expecting much. Despite my best intentions I’d only run once since last week’s jaunt up to the Brighton Marina so I knew tonight would have been quite the struggle … or at least I feared that’d be the case.

The reality was a bit different. Beforehand. I had two objectives, namely don’t come last and be relatively pleased with my performance. With that in mind I suppose I can write tonight off as a guarded success.

Weather wise it had been an interesting day. Lots of thunder, lightning and heavy rain earlier in the afternoon and more forecase for exactly the time of the race but, come the start, it was a glorious summer evening, a perfect night for a run.

The start was also the most picturesque I’ve experienced to date, beside a river and in landscaped grounds, befitting of Broughshane’s status as the ‘Garden Village of Ulster’.

It was also uphill. Ok, it was only a little rise but it was still strange to run uphill at the start of a race … thankfully it then dropped quite steeply before going onto the main road through the village.

Of course that meant I went off far too quickly – my fastest opening kilometre since I started measuring runs with a Garmin …. and we all know what that means. True to form I felt the pace after the first mile and, perhaps, my lack of running recently came home to roost.

I ran with a group of ladies from the club for a while, which was good, but the pain in my legs meant that I wasn’t quite able to keep up. I had them in my sights all the way round the course but I just couldn’t catch them.

However, after a couple of miles, I was joined by Mairead – one of the two tailrunners – who offered to run with me the rest of the way. I was most appreciative of this because the company was good, and the chat kept me focused on something else other than my legs, comparing running stories and experiences.

She also kept me going when otherwise I might have stopped plus there was the added incentive of the other tailrunner encouraging a couple of others behind us … they were about a minute further back, but we could hear them and there was no way I was letting them catch us!

The course, as it left Broughshane, turned into a bit of trail which was a new experience for me but, at the same time, was a bit of fun.

After a short while we were back on good old tarmac but then the heavens opened! And how they opened! It was torrential – and there was some good old thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure – but I didn’t mind, not really. In fact, I had more sympathy for the poor marshals being stuck out in it waiting for us slow coaches to pass.

Up to a certain point quite late on in the run I was on course for a PB. It didn’t happen due to a couple of quite steep hills that I just walked up but, as I said at the outset, as long as I was happy with my performance tonight then I wasn’t going to worry too much.

By and large I was happy. Maybe not because I went off too quick but, timewise, it was amongst my quickest competitive 10k, and faster than my last three races, although still someway off my PB.

Well done to everyone who ran tonight in those conditions, and many thanks to Mairead for helping me round. I hope I didn’t complain too much!

Relive my run

Thank-you

Time to wrap up my London Marathon fundraising for Asthma UK and to say quite a few thank-you’s!

First of all, the amount raised (inc. Gift Aid) came to just over an amazing £2050 – and there are still donations trickling in so that’ll rise a bit over the next few weeks.

A huge thank-you to every last one of you who donated via my Virgin Money page, attended one of my fundraisers or donated because they couldn’t, took part in my Virtual Run, contributed via easyfundraising, slipped me a few quid when they saw me out and about, gave me items to raffle and auction or supported me in other ways.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have forgotten someone but here goes, in no particular order …… Sheila, Michelle H-T, Ros and Wally, Barbara, Stephen, Johnny, Thomas, Sam, Leslie, Joel T, The Front Page Bar Ballymena, Stephen, Michael, Mairead, Dawn, David (Irish FA), Danielle, Isobel, Chris (ClubSportNI), Kyle (Playing Style), Agnes and Steppin’ Country Linedancers, Michelle, Alastair, Andrew (NI Football League), Cake and Crust Bakery (Paul), Roy and Linfield Football Club (Official), Stephen and Cliftonville Football Club, John and Ballymena United FC, Mark H, Jennifer S, Elaine and Mid Ulster Ladies FC, Jonny, Louise, Sam and friends, K&G McAtamney Butchery & Deli, Style N Sport, Stirling Trophies.

I’d also like to publicly thank my anonymous supporters – I know who some of you are so I hope I thanked you privately but also those whom I haven’t a clue about, one in particular …. all I can say to you is wow!

I really, really hope I’ve left no-one out, sincere apologies if I have. You have all helped raised a fantastic amount for a charity and cause that affects so many people, including a few very close to me.

Thank-you all from the bottom of my heart.