I’ve always run. Childhood street games, soccer, school athletics. These forms were an unconscious pleasure. Competition, teams, winning. The sadness lies in how these die away as we age, eventually leaving the conscious dilemna, to run, or not to run?
There’s only really one answer to that question of course, that’s the easy bit, but what propels you forward? In my case, it was and is the battle for my soul, health, and happiness. Literally.
One day you’re a happy, vibrant, and energetic young man.The next day you’re staring into the abyss, the blackness of nothing. At least that’s how it seems the first time depression lands on you. Hindsight and experience proves it’s more of a creeping than landing. I’ve never forgotten the day I fell apart, my soul and spirit crushed, gone. I couldn’t find the words, any words for that matter. Unwanted tears streaming down my face, stinging the last of my pride. I got sent home from work that day, and didn’t return for months. How does a man reach that point? Reduced to a mere shadow. It felt out the blue, but wasn’t, the warning signs ignored and dismissed, petulantly.
The road out of darkness was the long and winding road McCartney famously sung about, but it led out. The initial crawl was tough, sloth-like, fighting through treacle, eventually standing up, if only in defiance. They say time heals, but this is only part of the process, what you do in that time acts as the multiplier. I ran.
Nothing, not medication, not counseling, I repeat, nothing, has had as positive effect on my mental health as running. What started as a rebuilding program, developed into so much more. It is meditation. It is hitting reset in a world of too much information, and misinformation. It is stillness and calm while all around the storm rages. It is a force for good. The physical effects are well written about, endorphins endorphins endorphins. The mental and psychological benefits are unlimited.
When you embrace the running world, you find a whole new almost hidden society. The running community has a camaraderie like no other, and time and time again it inspires mankind. It is this community, that brings a sense of belonging that motivates me as much as my health. April 2013, Boston, Massachusetts. I remember watching the aftermath of the terrorist atrocity, and what stayed with me were the scenes of those helping. Fellow runners, spectators, as well as the emergency services all coming together as one. Many heroic stories emerged from that day, most epitomised by the actions of Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat whose image was beamed across the world on the news networks. The most fitting tribute came one year later, when Meb Keflezighi became the first American in 31 years to win the race.
In 2012, a London marathon runner, Claire Squires, sadly passed away after collapsing mid race. Claire was running for a charity that helps people in despair, ‘The Samaritans’. Post race, Claire’s fundraising page went viral on social media, leading to an influx of donations that stopped only when near the £1,000,000 mark.
The kindness and warmth of strangers within the running community and beyond is inspiring beyond belief. Keeping depression at bay is a task made easier when you belong.
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