I’m writing this post on a Wednesday evening. By this time next week, all being well, I will have completed my third marathon. I’ve said before that I didn’t think I would ever run one. Right now, I’m feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement and this week is all about getting the mental preparation right which basically means keeping my emotions in check so I don’t go off too fast on the day. On one level, I’m looking forward to the race but on another, I’m feeling really, really scared. In simple terms, the marathon is a very long away to be running. Huge statement of the obvious there!
I’ve completed my training. I did my last gentle 3 mile run this morning and won’t run again until Sunday. On the whole, the training has gone well. It’s taken in RED January and along the way I’ve met some great people, both in person and on line through the RED January and Mind London & Brighton Facebook groups. These are a huge source of support, inspiration and encouragement and really make me feel like I’m part of a team.
The marathon race has become something very significant for me. I love sport and wanted to run London since I saw the first race on TV in 1981. Running my first marathon in London last year was so special and I’ve loved learning about the history and heritage of the marathon, going back to Pheidippides and his epic run culminating in running from Marathon to Athens. This history gives the marathon so much significance and it is brilliant that those of us who complete the distance create a link to that history and heritage for ourselves.
Running the marathon is something of which I’m incredibly proud because it is such a huge challenge. I often find it strange that, as someone who has suffered with my mental health, I should deliberately put that kind of obstacle in my way – something that will test my body and mind to the absolute limits – but when I think about it, in many ways, it is absolutely right because I love this sort of challenge. The outcome is uncertain and you have to respect the distance completely because at some point in the race, you will struggle. I’ve had these moments in both of my marathon runs and I’m sure they will happen again next Sunday. But I know I have the mental strength to get to that finishing line, however long it takes. I’m looking forward to meeting and chatting with other runners too. We all have a story to tell and my experience tells me that few people run a marathon without a powerful, compelling reason. Brighton has a reputation for amazing crowds and support and I know I’ll love all the waving, high fiving and cheering with the possible exception of anyone who shouts “nearly there, only 9 miles to go” at mile 17. I may not be responsible for my actions!
Getting the mental prep right involves planning my race carefully, getting an understanding of the route and visualising myself running well and enjoying myself. No thinking about tripping on pavements or falling into hedges this week although my natural clumsiness means this is always a possibility. I also spend time in the week before a race revisiting the reasons why I run and particularly why I run for Mind. It’s a special charity for me because of the struggles I’ve had with my own mental health.
Alongside the love and support of friends and family, running and exercise has been the best medication I’ve found. I know that I don’t have to face up to my mental health problems alone and that’s helped me develop my confidence and sense of self worth and purpose no end. I’m lucky to be in this position and I’m very aware that far too many people still battle alone, trapped by stigma and feeling unable to speak out about what they’re going through. This is why I’ll keep running and raising awareness of mental health. It doesn’t end next Sunday. No way.
in spite of the nerves and fear I am looking forward to next Sunday’s race and will wear my Mind t shirt with great pride. I’d like to take this chance to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 18 months since I started my journey as a runner. Your encouragement and donations to my fundraising for Mind are really, really appreciated.
Last year, when I ran London I talked about taking back the times I’d struggled with depression and anxiety with each mile. I’ll be taking back some more of those on Sunday.