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Running to Mental Health Part II

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

The second instalment of the blog by our Race Ambassador for Brooksie’s Bash

Since the first instalment a few weeks ago, the profile of the relationship between running and mental health in the public eye has reached unprecedented levels. The BBC's Mind Over Marathon programme and the Heads Together campaign spearheaded by the Royals at the London Marathon have played a big part in this. As a result it's great that more and more people are following Amaris' lead in realising that it is #okaytosay

Meanwhile, Amaris herself has not only been putting pen to paper again, as you can read below, she's quietly gone away and taken her running to another level. Last week she took part in the Lightening Run Endurance Event and ran a whopping 43 miles!

So, here's Part II of the blog.....

Learning to Run

My running, no secret, has a focus on distance; the mental endurance of putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving forwards; a metaphor for life. Mental endurance is what it has always been about for me; the marathon 'race' is just my thing. I don't see the term 'marathon' as a set distance though - it's running outside of the comfort zone. That space that is enduring, physically and mentally; that magic place where growth happens. It might be a jog around the block, an ultra or anything in between.

In May 2012 I ran my first mile without stopping. That's still my biggest achievement in running. It's what it represented that was the thing; I've since learned / trained / figured out how to run more than 26 miles without stopping but it all started with 2012's seemingly tiny steps.

Actually it wasn't even a mile, it started with a single step outside the door. Those first thoughts of moving outside of my condition were the building blocks of what now makes running, even when I don't really feel like it, easy. When you're surrounded by the invisible barriers of anxiety, self-centred fear and internal repetitive darkness, it goes so far beyond just the physical.

I still don't know how I started. I said it before; I have no answers, just experience. I was unhealthy, overweight and I was suffering from mental illnesses; I hadn't left the house on my own for several years, where is there to begin?

Everything I've done in running and in life, has been nothing more than my best guess.

I'm such a lucky person, OK, often annoyingly optimistic and grateful, but given everything how could I not be? I was full to bursting with fear of people, places and things and I didn't know who or where I was and now life's not like that - things changed for me and all I really did was take action on things I could and accepted everything else.

In 2012 I had no one in my life that understood me, where I was going to or where I was coming from but by some miracle, I was gifted with a spark that stayed with me through all the trauma and self hatred that could have engulfed me.

Just do it, no excuses; one foot in front of the other. That became my mantra. It was a simple concept; just do the best I can and quit making excuses; feel the fear and do it anyway. I do like cliches, and I like metaphors; for me, that's recovery and running. I just didn't let fear in. So OK it wasn't really a simple concept, at least not to a fearful, traumatised, over complicator. But I stuck with it and tried to hang on.

My first run was 10 seconds without stopping; amazing feeling! I mostly loved it and I mostly hated it. But that was my starting point because it proved I could do something I'd never done before.

Second run, 30 seconds. I'd tripled my output. Wow!

3rd run, 58 seconds. Double wow; If I can keep this going, I'll be able to run forever!

And so it went on, week after week.

Not easy, it must be noted; a lot of anxiety and uncomfortable feelings, some days that effort was all I had to give, but I'd learned to tolerate being outside the house, on my own, without needing to drink or self destruct. And I can run a mile without stopping! This was a new hope for me.

In May it was a mile, June 5k, July 10k, August 10 miles then in September I entered my first 'race' – a local half marathon. I look back with a rose tint because as hard as it was, it broke down barriers between my inside self and my outside self as well as between me and humanity.

I've not looked back as I haven't needed to because I'm no longer going that way. 12 marathons and a 43 mile 'race' later I'm still learning how to be myself in a world I don't understand. But I do understand that we're all running more or less on the same bumpy road. Running has taken me in and kept me safe because it's such an inclusive sport, there really is a place and a 'race' for everyone. Even me (and you!).

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