I chose sweat over tears.
April 2016, waking up to a familiar headline in my local newspaper. And reading facebook posts that have started to look like they are just being copy and pasted from months or years before.
Another young lad, in his twenties, someone else I had known, had taken his own life!
This would become the 10th guy in as many years that I had known, who had committed suicide!
Was it me? Am I some sort of bad luck charm, boring people to death (quite literally).I wouldn't like to think so. In fact, most of these guys weren't all my bestest closest friends. Some where just guys I knew from the local pub. Some attended the same school as me and some where just a friend on Facebook because we shared a lot of mutual friends and mixed in similar circles. Does that mean it meant
any less to me? Not at all! These lads had been regular guys, popular guys! And yet their deaths where always a complete surprise. And would leave me thinking, if
I had even half of an idea of how they felt, if I could of dropped them a message asking how they where.
Fast forward to July, and I am watching the Ironman in my home town of Bolton. Men and women of all shapes and sizes completing a triathlong consisting of a 2.4 mile swim. 112 mile bike ride and then a full marathon, 26.2 miles.
So that was it, the lightbulb moment. Only days before I had stumbled across a charity that campaigned to raise awareness of suicide and mental health.
And now I could see how these regular men and women where competing in this monsterous race, so I could easily run a half marathon to raise money
for the charity! Right?!
So that's when, and why I decided to run. And boy was it harder than I thought! I quickly realised that I couldn't run a half marathon of 13.1 miles and that it would require lots of training and also I may want to enter some smaller races at shorterdistances, so I booked my first 5k run.
I finished somewhere towards the back, I was nearly sick at the finish line, but I had acheived something. I had got my first medal and I felt great about it!
Having found the race difficult I knew I needed to be running more at home, but I always struggled with motivation, and that has never changed! But something was happening. I've struggled with various things over the years, no more than most
people. But things would often weigh me down, and I found that things where becoming easier to deal with.
Running, that "me time", the fresh air, the fitness. It was all making everything else fall in to place. Often I wouldn't plan a route I would just head out of the door
and see where it took me, and it could be half an hour. An hour. These days I try to run much longer. But the feeling is always the same when I get home. I feel great! Absolutely knakcered! But great! It was months after I started running before I actually read about it's positive effects on mental health, but I had been feling the effects first hand.
Many of my mates won't take the plunge no matter how much I try to persuade them to run. And I guess I don't blame them, because it is hard. And many
people decide to give up after their first couple of runs because they don't feel like those god like athletes they have seen on Instagram, running double figures with
their sunkissed legs without breaking a sweat.
If I thought like that I would of given up too, I come through that door every single time, red faced and gasping for air and swearing at my partner to fix me a drinkand get the shower on whilst I crawl upstairs to peel off my running kit.
"The running community"
Now this is something that really fascinates me. Those weirdo runners, living off salads and water. Running morning and night. Those strange folk that I wouldn't
necessarily have anything to do with. Well some of those weirdos have become great friends, great mentors and a great support network.
The good thing about running is that anybody can do it! You don't need any fancy equipment or clothing. Just put one foot in front of the other and you're on
your way! And everybody is made to feel welcome. I attended my local Parkrun (search Google for your local Parkrun they are a great way to get fit and meet new
people, for free!). I also set up an account on Strava, an app to record my running activites and set up a new Instagram page. And suddenly I found myself in the
middle of this running community. People I didnt know, or haven't even met in many cases. Even people from overseas! Offering encouragement and support.
I often think of myself as Batman or some other alter ego. I have my normal self who goes to the pub with my mates or to the football. Plays om the Xbox. Goes
on family trips with the misses and the kids.
And then I put on my running kit and enter running races with other like minded people. And I have benefited from this in a way that I have learnt to engage with both sets of friends more. I talk to my old mates more and use the running as a platform to help me talk about mental health to them, and they back me all the way and often sponsor me for my races. They may not want to run but they know they can talk to me about stuff when they're struggling.
And that is why I keep running. I have had people message me on facebook for advice or sometimes just to talk. And often to just talk about anything at all,
because they feel that other people may judge them or dismiss their feelings.
I am not a shrink, I can't help people out with financial difficulties and I very much doubt I can rekindle your relationship but I can show you that it isn't the end
of the world no matter how down you feel, and I generally think that running has given me this strength to want to help others.
first 5k, and the half marathon (which I forgot to mention that I did complete!) I will show up, take it one step at a time and I am determined to reach the finish line.
And if I can do it, so can you. Dream big, but start small and you can achieve anything in time.
Thanks to Ash Lee for sharing this story. As part of #MilesForMind we want to raise money for Mind and also awareness of mental health issues.