When I got to mile 11 of last Sunday’s Royal Parks, running three half marathons over a five week period seemed like a pretty rubbish idea. I was shattered. This was the last race of the three and I had got to that point in the race when I just didn’t want to run another step. Then I saw and heard Mind’s cheering team and this is the point that running the races for the mental health charity Mind really made a difference. It was by no means the first time I’ve experienced the effect that these guys can have and I had already benefited from their great support on a couple of occasions during the race. To have them shouting, cheering and clapping you with their off the scale level of noise and enthusiasm is just the best feeling and absolutely inspiring. They gave me such a boost that I got to the end and even managed to speed up again for the last mile. Sunday’s race was a very special one and although I found it quite a tough one, I loved running it. The route around Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park was beautiful and the support around the course was amazing. It reminded me how great it is to run on feel, not necessarily going all out for the fastest time you can, but just enjoying the course, the support and the whole atmosphere of the race.
Sunday’s race reminded me of the biggest thing I’ve found since I started running a couple of years ago. I love the physical and mental health benefits of running. They’re a massive part of why I enjoy running so much and why it’s become such an important part of my life but I’m sure it’s the people that I’ve had the great privilege to meet along the way that are the main thing. The welcome in the Mind charity tent both before and after the race was wonderful. My experience is that, as a member of Team Mind, my efforts to fundraise and raise awareness of mental health are really, really valued and to meet other runners, supporters and the Mind staff at races really emphasises this. Exchanging messages with people through email and on line is good but being able to have a chat in person really makes a difference. One example from last Sunday really stood out for me. In the build up to the race I exchanged tweets with a lady who was “voluncheering” for Mind. She wished me luck for the race and I said I’d look out for her around the course. I didn’t see her during the race so I was so pleased that she took the time to introduce herself to me and my family in the Mind tent after the race. It was a huge privilege to have a chat for a few minutes and thank her in person for her support because that support is worth so, so much when you are building up to a race or out there running it.
All of these conversations mean something because by sharing time and a few words with others we have the chance to open up the discussion about mental health and help to break down stigma. I’ve been so lucky to meet so many amazing people since I’ve been running for Mind. I feel incredibly fortunate to have chatted either in person or electronically with people who have done and continue to do amazing things, often in the face of really difficult situations. It inspires me to keep talking about my own mental health journey and to keep on running. I have often said that whenever I run a race, I take back some of the times I have lost to depression and anxiety and I still think that. But now I realise that I’m doing something else too. I’m making memories that I can take forward into the future. It’s as though running the races and the people I meet along the way help me to build up a whole load of positive thoughts and feelings that I can then switch back to when things get tough. This week has had its ups and downs. At times I’ve felt on top of the world and I’ve had moments I’ve felt so fragile it’s as though I could break at any moment. When I’ve been low this week, it’s been great to think back to last Sunday and what a privilege it felt to run such a beautiful race with such great support and meet so many amazing people.
Thank you Royal Parks and thank you Team Mind. Time to put my feet up a little bit before training starts for Brighton Marathon next April.