I am an August baby. This means that I was a year younger and a year smaller than some of the kids at school. I am also just really small! I was a head shorter than the next shortest person in my class, and because I was so small I was not encouraged to do sports, at all, ever. I thought I wasn't good at sport. Nobody taught me to do it for enjoyment, regardless of whether I could beat anyone. I was just the weakest link on the team.
I was 24 when I ran my first mile. I thought I was going to die and my knees hurt! I tried again in my early 30’s and found a club that was casual enough to not care about my stop-start jogging efforts. I started running regularly.
Then I was raped. Yes, I was wearing a sexy dress and yes, I had been drinking. No, I was not asking for it.
I fell into a deep dark ugly emotional pit and developed post traumatic stress disorder. I had panic attacks and I was anxious all of the time. My life literally stopped. I couldn't work, I couldn't watch TV, I couldn't listen to the radio. I struggled to eat and I was scared to drink. But I could run, and I had to. I had a 6 year old daughter who needed me to get better.
That was the moment in my life when running became a necessity, rather than something I did to keep fit. I started running more, and it gradually became easier. I was running further and faster, and my knees no longer hurt.
With every step along the trail, I ran my anxiety and depression away. Every breath of fresh air in the woods calmed my mind back to the point of being able to cope. The endorphins that running gave me stopped me from giving up and crawling back under the covers.
For the next six years I ran regularly, but never really pushed myself too hard. Then the pandemic struck earlier this year, and many of the people around me turned to alcohol to cope. I decided to focus on running instead.
Before lockdown I was a very social runner, but now all the local running groups were cancelled. I had already signed up to take part in the Amsterdam marathon, but hadn’t started training. I was initially quite nervous about running on my own as I thought I’d lack motivation, but in fact the opposite was true. I have learned to love solitary running, and the lockdown gave me a reason to train hard.
My training program has given me focus and I am fitter and stronger than I have ever been. I like following a schedule which tells me what to do each day and how far to go. It takes my motivation, or occasionally lack of, out of the picture. When I'm tired but my diary says run - I run. And when I'm stressed and I really want to run but my diary tells me not to, I rest.
At a time when people’s mental health has been challenged by coronavirus, I have felt positive and mentally strong. This is entirely due to the power of running.
The marathon has been canceled, but my flights and accommodation have not, so I'm still planning to go. I will run my own marathon on the day. If we go into another lockdown and I can’t go, I will find a way to run my run. I’m determined!
Facing the man who raped me in court was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When he was acquitted due to ‘lack of evidence’ it was like a hammer blow.
Running got me through the hardest part of my life, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of Devon Rape Crisis. They gave me unconditional free support and my therapist came with me to the court case. I will never forget how she held me. She gave me a ladder and told me how to climb.
Although he was acquitted, I’m glad I took him to court. Because of news coverage of my case, two more women found the courage to come forward and reported him. He was arrested again. He’s not getting away with it, even if he isn’t in jail.
I am running the marathon to raise money for Devon Rape Crisis. If you'd like to help me say thank you for the support that I received from them, please click here to donate:
If you'd like to follow my marathon progress, you can follow me on Instagram @rebel.running.