Neal Guest: Mental Health Awareness Week/My Run Story
My running story goes back to school days at the age of 11 when a Maths teacher told me I had been picked for the school cross country team despite not attending any trials or ever doing a long run before! That first run was cold, wet & across muddy fields, but I was immediately hooked.
I ran my first 10k in 1986 for the Sports Aid Africa Famine Relief, not quite the same as Live Aid but running in a large event for such a good cause it was amazing. Sadly, regular running events were just not available at the time like they are now. But running became a part of my weekly routine until the children came along & injury prevented me from getting out from time to time.
When the first Birmingham Half Marathon in 2008 was announced, I jumped at the chance to sign up and give the longer distance a go. I followed a training plan in preparation and set my mind on a 2 hour finish time. My finish time was 2:02 47 seconds and when I met up with my family afterwards and they congratulated me, I was nothing but disappointed with my time. I tried a couple of more times over the next two years and got even closer to the 2hours but still didn't achieve my goal. Then in 2010 due to a Mental Health breakdown brought on by stress at work, I stopped running. In fact, any sort of exercise just seemed impossible, getting out of bed some days seemed impossible.
Then I remember one day my daughter asking me to take her out for a run and I agreed. One of the best decisions I ever made, running itself became my motivator and also my stress reliever. I forgot about how fast I was running or how far, but just enjoyed being out of the house and in the open air. Since then, I set myself running goals, but never get disappointed if I don't quite make it. Without this extra pressure, I think I am actually a better runner, it took until March 2017 to finally run a half marathon in under 2 hours but, by then I realised that time is not the most important thing.
I really enjoy being part of the Arboretum Running Club and sharing your success stories. All those that are struggling with times, pace or distance my advice would be just enjoy your running.
Stay safe everyone and I look forward to seeing you all back at running club sometime soon.