Could running change your life ?
I haven’t always been a runner but over the last few years, running has truly changed my life. I have run early in the morning and late at night. I've run in the sunshine, rain, wind and snow. I've run in 14 different cities around the world. I've raced through the streets of London at midnight and last year I completed my first marathon.
Ten years ago, I didn’t even own a pair of running shoes. I was a professional dancer and I was performing in a musical in London’s West End. Dancing was my passion growing up, I went to classes after school, competed in competitions and I made up my own routines to Destiny’s Child and Michael Jackson tracks. After training professionally, I auditioned for many shows before landing a part in the musical, 'We Will Rock You'. During my years as a dancer, I also met my husband Rob, and not longer after getting married, we found out that we were expecting our first baby. I was twenty two years old and life as a young newly wed was great.
Not long after celebrating the start of a new year, Rob and I moved house and we were starting to make plans for our new arrival. I was still performing in the show and one night after work I called Rob and asked him to pick me up from the train station. I was nineteen weeks pregnant by this time and I was starting to feel a little bit tired. Once we got home, I had a cup of tea and toast and we went to bed just like any other night.
I will remember that night for the rest of my life, because that was the night that I saw Rob have a seizure for the very first time. That night Rob suffered a spontaneous brain haemorrhage. Prior to this Rob was perfectly fit and well, he was 29 years old, with no history of ill health or trauma. The doctors and neurologists were unable to find a cause or a reason for the bleed on his brain, but they told us that he was very lucky, and hoped that he would make a full recovery.
Over a number of months Rob did recover but developed epilepsy as a result of that night. We spent months going to outpatient appointments at the epilepsy clinic as well as attending baby scans and antenatal appointments. Our son Jude was born that summer and he brought much needed joy into our lives. Jude was only 8 months old when Rob had his next seizure. Being a new Mum is challenging for many reasons but this time was particular tough for us all. I felt so lost and so afraid. Our family and friends were so amazing and supportive throughout all of this. I will never forget their kindness and generosity.
I remember feeling very anxious about leaving Rob and Jude alone. Whenever I would pop out to the supermarket, I would look at my watch the whole time and I would rush back as soon as I could. I was fearful that Rob would have another seizure and I wouldn't be there. I woke up one morning, got out of bed and felt like I really wanted to start exercising again. I didn't want to go to the gym and leave Jude at home. So I decided to go out for a short run instead. The first run I ever did, I was only out for about fifteen minutes, but it felt so good to be to be outside in the fresh air and to have fifteen minutes to forget about it all. That run was as good for my mind as it was for my body. I wasn't out running to lose weight, burn calories or 'get fit'. I was just running to breathe and escape.
Since then, running has become a huge part of my life. I have become a part of a global community of runners, I take part in road races around the world and I encourage others to give running a go too. I honestly wish that I had started running sooner, it would have really helped me at those times that I felt overwhelmed and stressed.
So how could running help you?
According to scientific research, running can reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety, improve symptoms of depression and promote better quality of sleep. I used to struggle to fall asleep at night, especially as Rob's epileptic seizures were always nocturnal. People would suggest sleeping tablets, which I tried for a while, or recommend that I have a large glass of wine before bed to help me relax, which was not an ideal long term solution. Running really helped me to get back in to a healthy sleep pattern and also to sleep more deeply.
The great thing about running is that you can go for a run anytime, anywhere. You can fit it in around your own schedule. I love running early in the morning when it feels like the rest of the world is still asleep. I encourage my friends and social media followers to join the 6am run crew.
So why don't more people run?
Often when I ask people if they like running, I get the answer 'I'm not sure, I've never tried it.' Sometimes people think they are not going to be very good at running and they have an idea in their head of what a runner should be. After running with hundreds of people of different ages, abilities, shapes and sizes that anyone and everyone can be a runner. It doesn't matter how far or how fast you go. Initially, each runner may have a different reason or motivation to start running but once running becomes a part of your life, it becomes something that is hard to explain in words. It's a universal feeling described by many people as 'runners high' or the 'running bug'. It is a feeling like nothing else.
I am so grateful that I am able to run and that my body is healthy and strong. Rob now takes daily medication and he is able to enjoy living an active lifestyle too. Last year we completed the great south run together, he is much faster than me but I did my best to keep up.
I know that running could help so many people. Life inevitably has many challenges whichever road you take. Running is so much more than a physical action. Every run challenges you, over time it will transform your mindset and it will help you to build confidence and self belief. I never knew that I could become a marathon runner but we never know what we're capable of until we try.