I ran my first 10K in 2008. I remember it well. It was my birthday, and while I came last out of my group of friends, the sense of achievement and the feeling of excitement, was better than any present I could have received, particularly as a few months earlier I could not run to the end of my street.
Since that first race, I have run numerous 10Ks, a couple of half marathons and even one full marathon. Quite ironic for the girl who used to live in dread of the annual school sports day, and would find any excuse to get out of the summer-term athletics classes! I was well known for being one of the slowest runners in my year and not much has changed since. I am still not a fast runner and continue to finish races towards the back of the group, but the big difference is that I now love it and really look forward to upcoming runs.
There are many things I enjoy about running, but the main thing is the positive effect it has on, not just my physical, but also my mental health. When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Most people have heard of OCD but do not realise the debilitating impact it can have. At my worst, I found it extremely difficult to leave my house. Even being in my house caused me all sorts of anxieties. It felt like there was a broken record in my head, making me anxious about everyday things and asking constant ‘what if’ questions. What if someone gets injured as a result of my actions? What if I, or someone around me, fall ill because I haven’t washed my hands again? And even though I knew how far-fetched some of these thoughts were, I was still unable to stop myself from carrying out the actions that, in my head, would stop my worst fears from coming true – just in case.
Whilst my OCD is much better now, it still affects me on a day-to-day basis. Over the years it has made my world significantly smaller, restricting me in the things that I am able to do. Running has helped me so much in this respect. It does the complete opposite and has expanded my world by getting me out and about, exploring new places and taking in the world around me. When I am running I feel better able to put the anxious thoughts that are going around in my head to one side, and I feel like I am part of my surroundings again rather than on the sidelines watching. Whilst it does not get rid of my anxieties completely, running helps me escape from the day-to-day thoughts going through my head and experience the beauty in the world around me instead. When I participate in an organised run, I feel no different from any of the other runners – except that they are probably much faster than me!! The sense of camaraderie and our common desire to get to the finish is fantastic and makes me want to just get on with it. At that moment, nothing else matters. And the added bonus is that I feel physically fitter than I have ever been which makes me feel so good!
I am currently in training for the London Marathon in 2015 where I am hoping to use the opportunity to raise some awareness for OCD, as well as continuing to keep myself mentally and physically fit. I have decided to share my journey in the hope that it may help or inspire someone, and on occasion make them laugh. Unlike the school sports day, I’m really looking forward to the marathon and, who knows, it may even help me fulfil my dream of running a bit faster.