“I knew that in order to loosen the hold that mental illness had over me, I needed to physically move my body: I needed to run” | Paul’s Story
Expedition Leader Paul is no stranger to the debilitating impacts of mental health issues, having experienced depression and anxiety in his life.
However, in 2012, he made the first step in a journey that began to clear the fog: that journey was running.
Read on to discover Paul’s story.
For me, the antidote to low mood and depression is running – a journey that started in 2012 and which has changed my life for the better.
In 2012, I turned 41 years old. Having experienced depression and anxiety in my life, I was looking for something to kick start a change within me. Through the fog, I knew that in order to do this, I needed to go outside my comfort zone. I knew that in order to loosen the hold that mental illness had over me, I needed to physically move my body. So, with little more than hope for change, I headed out the door for that first run.
Of course, I found it really hard going – I think as pretty much everyone does! But I felt something; I felt good for having run the small distance I managed. So, I tried another day, and another, then again… and since then I haven’t looked back.
Running soon became an opportunity to get outdoors often in nature, burn some calories, gain some feel good endorphins and get a sense of achievement ticking off each run. Although it didn’t come naturally to me, I saw it as an activity that I could progress at my own pace. Building up confidence, distance and pace, I’ve since run many races and distances (the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run is a firm favourite).
I want to add though that there is often no ‘quick fix’ for mental health. At least for me, it is an ongoing process that requires building healthy habits and regularly checking in with myself mentally. Running helps me to keep feelings of depression and anxiety at bay, alongside other changes in my life that began as a sort of ‘chain reaction’ since that first day.
It’s never too late to start taking steps to tackle poor mental health. If you’re feeling stuck, low or struggling in some way, I’d recommend trying a new activity. While running helped me find my mojo in life, there might be other activities out there that are better suited for you – crafts, volunteering or other sports, for example. Try to build up gradually and consistently but be kind to yourself, progress isn’t always linear but small changes lead to bigger achievements and create healthy habits.
I can’t wait to run the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run 2024 this year with my teenage daughter (it’s her first 10k!). With 7 weeks to go from the start of January, we’re having fun training together when we can (our running schedules don’t exactly align, as just like most teenagers, she deserves an Olympic medal in lie ins!)
I hope that my story has helped to inspire at least one person to make a positive step towards battling mental health issues. Even if you don’t believe it now, a better future is out there and I believe you can achieve it.
Thank you Paul for sharing your story, and we wish you and your daughter the best of luck at the event this year!