Finishing that first marathon in 2012 with my best friend at my side was one of the most incredible experiences. I thought I would be a ‘one and done’ when it came to the marathon distance, but 13 x 26.2 miles later and the reason I run has changed.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I addressed my own mental health issues, coming to a head in 2019 as I juggled writing my dissertation and finishing my dietetic degree, handing in the final draft of my cookbook, COOK EAT RUN, and dealing with some online trolling.
I hadn’t achieved my sub 3.30 goal at the Edinburgh Marathon and after pushing so hard to run a certain time, I needed to step back and run for pure fun again. To enjoy chatty miles with friends, travel to races to explore new places and earn a medal for my efforts, and most importantly, to remember why I run in the first place.
For so long my ‘why’ has been to remember my friend, Vic. But in the last 5+ years, running has become a solace when I’m feeling overwhelmed, a time to reflect, cry, drift off to a podcast or audiobook. It has become a tool to handle my bouts of anxiety (alongside therapy) by simply removing myself from situations, turning off the computer/TV and focusing on breathing, my surroundings and simply putting one foot in front of the other.
I always come back from a run in a better headspace than when I set out… (even if I don’t quite hit those interval paces, or the route was a little bit hillier than I’d remembered).
But why exactly do we feel so good after a run, and what mental health benefits are there beyond the obvious feel-good factor? It turns out, there are numerous reported benefits, with some pretty solid science behind them…