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Miles For Mind - Keep Going by Megan Al-Ghailani

I haven’t always been a runner, nor have I always been interested in the idea of running. The compulsive need I now have to put on a pair of trainers and get outside purely for the joy of running crept upon me slowly.

 

My running journey began in 2015 when my Uncle encouraged me to sign up to the Manchester 10km run to raise money for a charity my family and I had set up a few years earlier. At the time I was living in Bangor, a tiny City in North Wales situated between the mountains of Snowdonia and the Menai Straits. I was an avid hiker always stomping the ground of Snowdonia, the mountains were constantly calling me. You may think because I had a beautiful landscape to run around to train for that first 10km run was easy breezy. I will honestly tell you that to this date, it was the hardest run I have ever done. I didn’t train well (or sensibly) which meant I practically limped my way around the course, but the atmosphere was incredible and that is what stuck. For a while, that was the end of running for me. I occasionally would meander around the valleys near home for a jog but with no intention of running far. Just to get outside.

 

In 2016 I graduated and celebrated my 21st birthday with my family and friends, it was a wonderful time. I got a job at a bookshop which I really enjoyed and was well on the way to saving some money for some grand post-university adventures. At the end of the year I went away to Spain to celebrate an anniversary, the night before we left to fly back home he broke up with me. I’m a sensitive person, I will proudly admit that, but I’ll also admit that it broke me completely. I remember flying back home, watching the sun rise above the sea painting the sky in shades of pastels, introducing the world to a new day. I thought of how beautiful the world looked but only feeling emptiness and darkness within me.

 

In the months that followed I was not myself. Around friends and family, I would put on a smile and went about the day as I would. But in those quiet moments between conversations I knew that I had lost the person I loved in myself. The positive person I once was now lacked motivation and drive. The dreamer that I was, was now gone. Though I had the most supportive friends and the most caring family around me I felt so lonely. It’s difficult to explain the state of your mind when you don’t even understand it yourself.

 

Looking back at that relationship, I know now that I gave up part of myself to be with someone who was most definitely not for me, not even worth a part of me. But it wasn’t just the break-up. At University I lost myself in that relationship, but also in excessive drinking, stressful essays and late-night parties. Too many students find themselves in limbo land after graduating from University, not sure what they want to do or where they want to go so they simply move back home to figure it all out. When I came home after graduating I found myself in this place but unable to recognise who the person was looking back in the mirror and had absolutely no clue where I was going.

 

I found peace in the outdoors. I would listen to the birds sing and would take many a hike through the muddy fields. I would follow new paths that would wind up and down hills, through forests and past rivers. I would watch the water flow. Quite quickly I started to fill the darkness that had grown inside of me. As I watched the water meander past obstacles in

the river, I would think that we are all like the water. We will face walls, rocks and pebbles but we will always fight our way past and continue moving onwards and upwards. Hiking became my remedy but running soon became my cure.

 

I don’t quite remember what made me go for a run but I went and thank God I did. I dug out my trainers and got out in the rain for my first 10km since that last horrendous one I did. Was it the rain? Was it the run? I’m not sure but something switched inside my head. That night when I looked in the mirror I saw a glimmer of myself again, a new me, an upgraded version of me. I kept going. At first it was just once a week but rather quickly I began to run regularly. I would never run with an aim of time or pace, I would run for half an hour or maybe an hour just to get out and do something. I always felt a difference within myself, the endorphins were always evident. I started to see physical changes in myself too, toned legs, strong hips, clearer skin. Who knew that running could make such a difference? Everyone could see it. It made me feel alive, new, fresh and vibrant.

 

A few months after the darkness filled my heart, I had finally ran it away. I was my own person again and I had my friends, family and running to thank for that. I had dreams and ambitions, I had goals set to achieve. I found my optimism and ran to keep that optimism alive. My darkest winter had passed, and I ran under the sunshine again. Funnily enough, the most wonderful person wandered into my life shortly after and came to support me as I ran my first ever half Marathon in Chester. I dressed up as a zebra and flew around the track and that glorious feeling I felt at the end of the Manchester 10km returned as I completed the Chester half Marathon. Almost immediately after that I signed up to the Manchester Marathon. Having that consistent goal kept me motivated and moving.

 

The day before the marathon was a blur of apprehension and adrenaline that appeared as a storm of tears. Was I scared? Was I nervous? Was I excited? Maybe I was all three. At the start line I found myself dressed as a zebra again but this time I was panicking, and the storm of tears reappeared. That wonderful person who supported me a year before was still supporting me now in the most amazing way. He reminded me that this was a mind game. He reminded me that your body can handle pretty much anything, it’s your mind that will stop you. Your mind can be your worst enemy or your best friend, you can choose which one. It’s great to have support of friends and family, but when it comes down to it, the greatest support is the support you give yourself.

 

The first 20 miles felt comfortable and my aim was to high five as many people as I could, the crowd was just so utterly incredible, and I felt so proud to be a Mancunian. Mile 20-24 were tough though. My body was curling in on itself and I could feel everything, every niggle and nuisance in my body felt alert and alive. I looked at the phrase I had wrote on my arm a few hours earlier and chanted it to myself ‘KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING MEGAN’. Rather than thinking negatively I thought positively. I dug deep and everything came back to me. The darkness, the light, the person I was and the person I have become. The cheering crowd returned and roared so loud. Maybe because I was dressed as a zebra and perhaps because I was so emotional, but they cheered me on and they got me to the end. As I approached the finish line I felt everything fall off my shoulders and I cried. What a relief, what a sensation, what a feeling! Running really has changed my mind for the better!

 

What now then? Well, I have set myself a mighty mission. In June I will run from John O’ Groats to Land’s End completely unsupported in 40 days, making me the youngest, fastest and only hearing impaired woman to complete such a challenge. I am raising money for an incredible charity called School In a Bag, their aim to provide School Bags packed with tools and utensils to poor, orphaned and disaster affected children across the world, enabling them to read, write, draw, express their imagination and above all, to learn. The charity have provided over 83,500 School Bags to children across the world, but so many more still need our help.

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Thanks to Megan for sharing her running story and we wish her all the best for LeJog in June this year.

You can follow Megan's story on her website: www.megan-al-ghailani.com and across social media platforms:

Instagram (meganalg)

Facebook (KeepGoingMegan)

Twitter (KeepGoingMegan).

You can also donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/KeepGoingMegan

Happy running!

Team Runr.

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