I was pretty elated when I finished Oxford Half last Sunday. It was a great course around a beautiful city and the weather conditions were perfect. I ran a new personal best and one of the loveliest things was that as I was collecting my post race goodie bag, the person that handed it to me thanked me for running for Mind, the mental health charity I support. Running the Royal Parks Half on Sunday felt like a pretty awful idea on Monday and Tuesday this week. I was very tired and my body was really starting to feel the effects of two half marathons in four weeks and all the training that has gone with it. But right now, I feel just about ready to go again on Sunday. It’s my last race of the year and I’m not going to run too hard. I don’t much care about the time I run. Having the opportunity to run the London Royal Parks half Marathon is a very special one. I can’t wait to run in my favourite city again in a race that will inevitably bring back some memories of running the London Marathon eighteen months ago. It should be a special day even though the weather forecast looks horrible. It’s a day when I intend to enjoy the scenery and the crowds and run with a smile on my face, in the satisfaction that I will have completed a full marathon in Brighton and six half marathons this year.
It’s fair to say that I’m feeling a lot better about my running than I did a few weeks ago when I’d completed my first autumn half marathon in Worcester. This was a really tough race. I wasn’t feeling well because of a cold and just didn’t have much energy. I had plenty of those negative “why on earth did I think I could do this” moments around the time of the race. Overall though, I’ve loved my second year as a runner. Worcester was a tough race but there have been plenty of highlights. Last Sunday in Oxford and completing my third marathon, in Brighton in April, really stand out.
Running aside, World Mental Health Day on Wednesday was a stark reminder of why I run and will continue to talk about mental health. Although it was a massively positive day on the whole, it wasn’t an easy one. I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of my darkest times and also all the people I know and have got to know over the past couple of years whose lives have been touched by mental health problems, often in difficult, frightening ways. We have to keep the mental health conversation going because right now, it’s very difficult for everyone who needs help to get access to it at the right time and that’s something we have to keep trying to change. The consequences of people not being able to access the help they need or feeling unable to speak out about what they’re feeling can be devastating and that’s why days like World Mental Health Day are so important. It gives us another chance to talk openly and continue to chip away at the stigma surrounding mental health. That stigma caused me to be silent for far too long. I felt a huge amount of guilt, shame and lack of self worth about my depression and anxiety and I’m so glad I got to the point where I could open up. My hope is that we can all look out for each other and look for opportunities to show care and love to others who are struggling. Being treated with love, care and respect is so important in helping people struggling with their mental health to take the small steps that can begin the road to recovery. I can speak from personal experience on that one.
So Oxford Half was great and I’m hoping London Royal Parks Half will be just the same, whatever the weather. I’m so grateful to all my supporters and for the support I receive from Mind, a charity I’m immensely proud to support. I’m really looking forward to Sunday and the chance to create some more great memories that will represent my recovery from mental illness.