In this blog post, Joe describes his discovery that running was noticeably improving his mental health, where we came in, and how this led to a key event in his “life-enhancing journey” whereby he completed the RunThrough Tatton 10k for us on Sunday.
Joe has raised over £650 for us in the process and we would like to say a huge thanks to him for this.
A Blog About How I Got Myself Into Running 10K For Stockport Mind
As I sit myself down at my laptop, showered, rehydrated, and still aching from a strenuous but triumphant RunThrough Tatton 10K, I feel that now is a good time to reflect on how on Earth I got myself into this. How on Earth did I become a bona fide runner?
It’s not that I’ve ever been especially unfit: my avid interest in football has ensured that I’ve dipped in and out of playing five-a-side for most of my adult life, and my diet has always been relatively good.
However, despite being privy to the benefits of exercise for exercise’s sake – not least on one’s mental health – it’s not something that ever appealed to me as a prospective addition to my life. Especially not running. I mean, running: Literally rushing around for a predetermined amount of time. I saw it as aimless. It was early May this year that my dismissive attitude changed. I suffered a relapse of Generalised Anxiety Disorder and found a remedy in an unlikely place.
In the interest of staying on topic, I won’t delve into the details of my illness, but here are the basics required for the purpose of this post: It was my third bout of GAD; it was caused by a toxic concoction of overwork, a bereavement, the house move from hell, and supporting loved ones through sickness; the main symptoms were crippling panic attacks, which at their most vicious, prevented me from leaving the house. On with the story.
As anyone who has been kept off work with a long-term illness will know, daytimes can be lonely. Contrary to what some people may believe, there’s no novelty to be enjoyed from binge-watching Netflix, not getting dressed, and having the fridge all to yourself.
The fact is, for me and for many others who have been prevented from going to work due to illness, there is a woeful and palpable sense of worthlessness and loneliness. With a partner more incredible than I could ever wish for, the best friends I could conceive of, and a supportive family, I am starkly aware of how blessed I am. However, when it’s 2pm on a Tuesday and all the above are at work, illness becomes solitary confinement. I needed to escape. In fact, I wanted to run. So that’s what I did.
It didn’t start well, and it wasn’t pretty. Drawing on the stubbornness you probably detected above, I decided to ignore all the advice about taking it slowly and not over-facing myself that my girlfriend had given me. Instead, I did quite the opposite. After trying (and failing) to sprint for five minutes – red-faced (in more ways than one), exhausted, and defeated, I downloaded a Couch to 5K App. The next day, my journey began.
There is now a wide selection of Couch to 5K and 10K apps available for Android and Apple. The concept of these programmes is that you start by running for as little as one minute at a time (punctuated by a few minutes of walking either side), and gradually build up your strength, ability, and will-power, until you can run 5K (approximately thirty minutes) in one go. I know – half an hour of running: ‘Ridiculous’, I thought. Yet here I am, four months later, having just run double that distance.
Now, I won’t lie to you, getting started isn’t easy. For me, there were barriers to smash, opportunities to seize, internal motivational talks to be spoken, and faith to be kept. But it really isn’t as difficult as you may think either. In my opinion, choosing the most suitable running app for you is of great importance; people need different levels of guidance. I opted with Couch to 5K by OneYou, which allows you to select a celebrity trainer to galvanise and inspire you with their pre-recorded podcasts of enthusiasm. With her dulcet tones and encouraging soundbites, including anecdotes of her own running journey, I found Jo Whiley to be a great choice.
As expected, progress was slow at first, and there were a few occasions when I doubted that I’d ever be able to make it to 5K. Fortunately, I was able to persevere. After all, if one of our nation’s finest broadcasters was saying I can do it, who was I to disagree?
Before I knew it, the consistent minutes of running were adding up quickly, and soon I wasn’t just enduring them – I was often enjoying the experience. It was around the four-week mark that I began to acknowledge a great sense of purpose which my runs had created.
My mental health was noticeably improving, and I suppose it’s little wonder why. Not only, was I getting out of the house and exercising at least three times per week, the goalsetting and development aspect was incredibly beneficial to my sense of worth. I was rushing around and enjoying it. The only thing missing was a tangible aim. That’s where Stockport Mind came in.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Stockport Mind, they are an independent charity who offer support and services to people in the local area who are experiencing mental health problems. During my darkest days, they were instrumental in ensuring I got the help that I needed. They have also been there during times of desperation for a handful of people I know.
With NHS mental health services under strain, maintaining charities such as Stockport Mind is more crucial now than ever before. It was for these reasons that I met with Marcus and Leah, staff at Stockport Mind, and asked if I could raise some money with my newfound hobby and liberator that running has become.
Since setting up my JustGiving page just over a month ago, I have genuinely been overwhelmed by the response from friends, family, and even acquaintances. The target I set myself was £500, and thanks to the deluge of generosity that has hit my page, I have beaten my target – raising £655. I am profoundly grateful for the kindness of everyone who has donated, and the life-enhancing and remedial journey that I have been on over the last few months.
I suppose I can add ‘runner’ to the middle-class millennial checklist, alongside vegan, liberal, and artisan coffee-drinker.
If you would still like to sponsor me, it’s not too late, and no amount is too small – donations will be received gratefully and used to do brilliant things. You can donate here.
Thanks for reading,