FIRST EVER RACE: CHESHIRE 10K April 2016
Sunday 10th April 2016 (my late, Dad’s birthday). A day that I’ll never forget. Why? It was the day I ran my very first organised 10k race: The Cheshire 10k at Arley Hall. There are a million different reasons why this was a life changing day and I could spend hours writing about them, but the point of today’s blog is to try and share with you how running can change your life, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
When I was 14 years old, I would make myself physically sick or feign an asthma attack to avoid the dreaded ‘Cross Country’, ironically, something that I now love doing the most. I loved athletics at school and even during Primary school, I had always represented my town of Winsford in Cheshire. I was never a long distance runner though. It was a 100m runner and at the age of 15, I was selected to compete in the Hurdles and High jump at County level.
There’s a much longer story behind this and maybe one day, I’ll be strong enough to share it, but for a number of health and emotional reasons, I didn’t pursue my dream of becoming an athlete and instead, after A ‘Level completion, I went off to Uni to study Linguistics and English Language.
When you discover the party scene as a young and naïve 18-year-old, it’s very easy to be sucked in and any healthy habits are tossed aside. You don’t eat properly; don’t exercise enough and spend most days in a drunken stupor (well I did anyway)!
For the following 10 years, I fell in and out of love with exercise, doing it for a month here and there and then giving up because it was ‘too tough’ or ‘I couldn’t find time’ or ‘a million other more interesting things to be doing.’
When my dad died in 2012 (following a very short battle with cancer) and I was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease of the spine the very next day, my world was shattered into a million pieces.
Following cortisone injections and the contraction of a nasty spinal infection, I was told that I’d never be able to run or do high impact exercise again. Things hit an incredibly low point and I felt life ebbing away. The following two years were spent in a haze of partying, doing stupidly crazy things and trying to escape from what I had let myself become. I went out to every pretentious bar and club on the scene, wanting to be part of something; seeking acceptance; attempting to numb the pain. I would get so blind drunk that I’m ashamed to say, many weekends, I wouldn’t remember how I got home, if at all. It was a vicious circle of self-perpetuated misery. Everything around me was breaking down: my mental health, my body and my marriage.
October 2014 and I was admitted to hospital (for analysis in the sleep clinic, following 10 years of severe insomnia). What followed, possibly changed my life forever. At 2.05am, when I had finally drifted off, the emergency crash team burst into resuscitate me (or so they thought). My heart was wired up and being monitored. Apparently, my heart rate had dropped to 15 bpm and Doctors feared it was going to stop. Prior to this moment, if I’m truly honest, I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I had a broken heart for so many reasons. Following weeks of walking around with a heart monitor attached to my body, results were inconclusive and there was never an actual heart diagnosis given.
HEARTSTOPPING WAKE-UP CALL
This really was a stark wake-up call and I knew that things had to change. Was life shit? Yep, it was at that point and then to be diagnosed, as a high functioning severely depressed person on top of this, wasn’t exactly what I needed to hear. It was a do or die moment I guess and if I was going to live, I had to make some serious changes.
2015 and the entire year was spent doing some mega soul-searching, power-walking and running down the River Mersey in South Manchester. Gradually, my mind started to feel stronger and my body didn’t feel as fatigued. Although the physical pain from my spine was excruciating, being down by the water soothed my brain no end and finally provided the sense of escape that I had been longing for. Life changed drastically when my marriage finally collapsed and divorce ensued. I felt like a complete failure, but I knew I could never make anyone happy until I finally found some element of happiness within myself. It took 18 months to build up enough strength and courage to enter my first race, but when I saw that the Cheshire 10K was going to be on my Dad’s birthday, I knew it was a sign. Dedicated training and taking running seriously had become my lifeline. I swapped party shoes and the soulless nights out, for fresh air, nature and the sense of achievement that running gave me. It saved me from myself. The fulfilment that came from running, far exceeded any pleasure that I thought I was getting from my binge-drinking, partying weekends! Although I run alone, the support of the running community was phenomenal and people go genuine.
ONE RACE, ONE LIFE
That one race changed my life. Achieving a PB of 44.09 gave me a sense of satisfaction like no other. I felt complete. My confidence grew and I caught the bug, met the love of my life, married, featured in the top 5 woman ‘The Body 2016’ competition in UK Women’s Health magazine and now marathon training!
So far, I have completed 9 organised races, including 2 half marathons and this Sunday will be my 10th race back where it all began back at the Cheshire 10k and almost 12 months on, I’m hoping to smash my PB with my 2 biggest fans: my mum and hubby cheering every step of the way. More details of the RunthroughUk events and Cheshire 10K can be found www.cheshire10k.com.
When you hit rock bottom, just remember that one tiny step forward can change your whole entire life.
Following my new found happiness, this year, my next challenge is to become a fully qualified running coach, in the hope that I can help others find happiness through running. Watch this space!