Why Running Is My Tonic

For something that is essentially just putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, running has filled my life with great things.

I have had many people in my past and present life tell me that running is addictive, running helps with depression, running just makes you feel less stressed, blah blah blah. I didn’t take it up because I necessarily believed any of this – even though I wanted all those things. But now that I am a runner I can absolutely say that yes, running does do all of those things. And more.

It’s a bit like when people say “treasure your children, they grow up so quickly”. You nod and be pleasant but you don’t really listen – until your kids do grow up quickly and then you pass on the message to other people who don’t listen either.

It may just be a coincidence but my life improved when I started running. I was in a place of early turmoil recovery when I started to run, I’d recently had what I’d now class as a fairly significant mental breakdown and I had many voids in my life. I was like a broken person that had been put back together with the wrong sort of glue. Together, but not right.

I still claim that discovering my love for running saved me. From myself. I was very lucky that I had all the makings of a wonderful life – loving husband, four amazing children, a comfortable financial situation and supportive friends and family. Yet when you are internally malfunctioning like I was these things can only soothe you and you are the only one who can fix the source of the problem.

Which is a bit crap really. Like being told to go and fix the motor in your car when you aren’t a mechanic. It’s really, really hard.

Running gave me back lots of things. My confidence, my self esteem, my body! But best of all, it gave me back my self worth. All the three things I’ve listed above combined together put me back on the right path and enabled me to view life from a healthy mind/body perspective.

When you feel as bad about yourself as I once did, your self worth is zilch. I ate, drank and isolated to cope which in turn affected my appearance, my weight and then my self esteem. When you are in a place when you feel dreadful and look dreadful it’s very hard to find anything nice about yourself to work for. It’s a dark tunnel to try to crawl out of. I really hope this isn’t coming across as a vanity exercise because it isn’t what I am trying to say.

My brilliant therapist who I talked about yesterday has also repeatedly said to me “Self care, Stephanie. Self care. It is VITAL, I cannot stress that enough”. Again he was right. As usual.

When I started running, we are seriously only talking 50m at a time. I could only run the distance of two London lamp posts. It sucked. I was out of breath, tired and irritated. I really don’t know why I persisted with it but after a week I could run an extra lamp post and it followed on from there.

Once I’d reached my first 5km without stopping (which I’ve always claimed was my biggest achievement to date!), I stopped getting puffed, I stopped getting stitches. If anyone reading this is wondering how we run the distances we do – it’s not always painful. Starting out is the hardest, it’s why so many people give up because in the beginning it reeaaaaalllly hurts. You just have to keep going back.

And here I am now – running my second half marathon in a couple of weeks. All less than two years since I started counting lamp posts. It’s a miracle.

I’m sitting comfortable doing a minimum 15k training runs at the moment and this week my long run was over 18km. It’s my feet that hurt at the end, not my lungs. I find at around 3km I start to feel really good and it just gets better. I really mean it when I say I love being out running, as strange as that sounds. It’s not always the afterwards that I feel good, it’s during it. No other exercise does that for me.

I think about things rationally when I run. I feel all my resentments slip away and I feel calm. I feel good about myself and best of all, it gives me time for me.

Self care, Stephanie. Self care.

I am a better mother, a better wife, a better friend and a better person with running in my life. I don’t feel empty any more and whenever those old feelings of self loathing re-appear, I put on my trainers and off I go.

It has given me back me. No gift is greater than that.




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