I’ve never been a runner. I’m unashamedly competitive and have always thrived on endorphins, so if I’m exercising, I’m happy. But until recently, you’d be more likely to find me on a bike, in a gym class or playing a team sport.
I never would’ve anticipated how the pandemic has affected me. Between working from home full-time and barely leaving the house, losing a family member to COVID and dealing with other personal trauma, I’ve found myself increasingly anxious, struggling to focus or sleep, and desperate to regain some control.
I went running for the first time in March 2020 and wanted to stop after less than a mile. I couldn't see how anyone could enjoy pounding the pavement on the regular and although I kept it up, it wasn’t until I lost my uncle to COVID that it finally clicked.
I ran my first 10k not long after he passed. It was the longest I'd gone without thinking about it or crying or just generally feeling completely overwhelmed. Since then, running has become pretty fundamental to my routine, especially as the pandemic has dragged on and my mental health has taken a bit of a battering. Running is when I do my best thinking, or sometimes no thinking at all.
As someone occasionally guilty of obsessing over physical fitness, running has shown me how important staying active is for my mental health, too. Exercise has always boosted my mood but running helps me to overcome some of my day-to-day anxiety and has inspired me to prioritise my mental health like never before.
Running has been one of the only things I have been able to rely on throughout the National Lockdown, after having half my final school year cancelled, put on furlough and unable to see my friends and family. Running gave me a positive daily routine where I could challenge and motivate myself and I found the ability to discover new routes and areas around where I live a satisfying distraction from the negativity in the news and around the world.
My photo (below) is me (left) and my dad (right) pre covid after our Nuclear Obstacle race :)
My daily worries escape when I go for a run. Ok, so it might be down to your mind solely focusing on the mantra ‘this is a silly idea’ (leaving the warmth of your home, at some unsociable hours), but this soon passes, and good vibes take over. After 15 minutes of breathing in fresh oxygen, it feels like the air inside me has been recirculated and replaced with new energy. And in turn with the serotonin feel-good chemical, I’m happier, healthier and am already focusing on the good things to come.
It’s been difficult for me not to physically interact with friends or family during lockdown, but virtual runs have helped me to keep the motivation flowing. Creating a date/ time when we’d both run, what we’d focus on, a text 'are you ready' as I lace up my shoes and then a call/ message post, to see how each other got on. Always a buzz to learn and adapt new way of doing, just the simplest of things.
Keeping the pace light on all my runs helps me to look after my body, greet other runners/ passers-by with a wave and allows me to appreciate my surroundings. I still then have enough energy to stride up those hills and sprint for those segments. But I know many that can be put off from running, as others make it look 'too hard'. However, you need to remember, it’s only as hard as you make it to be.
For me running is the one constant in my life. I’ve run competitively for nearly 40 years; much has changed over the years, but not my need to get out and run.
As someone who has struggled with their mental health running has been vital for keeping me centered and focused. When I run nothing else matters, just where I’m next putting my feet and which direction I’m going in: it forces me to live in the moment and puts everything else into perspective.
Not running for me would be like not breathing or eating. It’s an addiction, but in my view a healthy one. Nothing beats a runners high!
I like this quote "Remember that running isn't a punishment, but a privilege and a gift".
Running, particularly over the last 2-3 years, has changed my life. I’ve gone from being overweight and an erratic, inconsistent runner to being running obsessed.
In the process, I’ve lost weight, got fitter and stronger and my energy levels are high. By running regularly, I feel less lethargic and more focused, I keep my weight under control and I’m generally happier and more relaxed.
I no longer have a favourite time of day to run; different times of the day offer different benefits. I also mix up listening to music with podcasts and audiobooks and sometimes run with nothing.
How and when I run tends to match my mood. So, early mornings are for clearing my mind, or working through a problem or a plan I need to resolve or listening to a self-development podcast that motivates me for the day ahead. Lunchtime runs are for getting away from my desk and getting outside. Taking a complete break from work, turning up my music and just moving sets me up for the afternoon and makes me more productive and focused. Evening runs are best after long or stressful days, they are the perfect way to shed the day and clear my mind ready to relax or get on with some of my other hobbies.
The other thing that running gives me is a sense of progress and achievement, of moving forward. I need a training plan with an end goal to keep me motivated and I’m very aware of what I’m working towards but also the mini goals I achieve along the way – it could be that a session feels easier one day compared with another, or I see a consistent increase in my pace, or I run a longer distance for the first time. I believe in the power of incremental gains and nothing in my life gives me such a tangible way to see and measure these gains.
For me, running consistently has been a game changer that has helped me improve in all areas of my personal and professional life. I am run obsessed and the way I feel when I don’t run motivates me to get out in all types of weather.
It was back in 2014 when I found myself in a rut, drinking a fair bit and piling on the weight. A good friend of mine saw this and challenged me to run the Berlin Half Marathon which was to take place a week after my 39 birthday, the rest they is history.
I was very unhappy at work so quit and put all my time in making myself fit enough to complete the distance. I ran the course with a huge smile on my face and haven’t stopped since, I ran my second half 2 weeks later, I’d caught the bug. Other than when I’m training for races, I find running a great way to start the day and also if I’ve had a bad day it’s a great way to clear the head and forget about the day I had.
I’ve now competed 11 marathons and in a crazy 5 weeks in 2018 ran 3 and a few months later ran 2 in 5 weeks. Running has more than become a part of my life.
Running - for me it's a lifestyle.
I have been a keen distance runner for 21 years, it's my life, my job and it's how I met my wife, through the love of running. I have run 100s of events over the years, from the mile to 52 miles, road, track, trails and has given me the opportunity to have travelled to some amazing places all over the world.
One of the biggest benefits of running is the friendships that I have formed over the many years. Friends from the running industry, events, social platforms like Strava, and the Run club that we have in store, they are now a big part of my life.
As I have got older and (wiser) and more experienced, I have a far greater understanding and appreciation for running, I mean the health and wellbeing benefits. This past year has been no exception, getting out and running has definitely helped keep the head clear and focussed. Running virtual events during lockdown has kept me motivated and in contact with my running friend's and running community.
Running I find is a great stress relief, as a morning runner it sets me up for the day and fills me with energy, releases those endorphins and a clearer state of mind and helps elevate my mood.