Hi, my name is Sarah. And I’m a runner. I think.
In 2012, which seems like a lifetime ago, almost like it belonged to a different girl, I took myself out for my first run. I was am overweight, single Mum of two very young girls and I was going through a divorce and battling with post-natal depression.
So I ran. Not very far, and not very fast. I was completely encapsulated by the idea that the endorphins realised during exercise was a the answer to my decline in mental health.
And it was. Exercise saved my life. It has saved my life on more than one occasion.
In 2014, my daughter Jess was born extremely prematurely. Around that time we, that is myself, my children, my immediate family and close friends, we experienced a trauma. As is the case with trauma, it effects those it touches completely differently, we were all affected to varying degrees. I turned to exercise, I lost weight. I was studying at the time and became complete immersed in nutrition and what food could do for health and wellbeing.
I trained, hard.
The day that I had to call the police for the first time on my ex, I ran.
On the day that I went to court to fight for my right to be her only legal parent, I ran.
On the day that I found out the court case went in my favour, I trained.
On the day that my daughter walked for the first time, I trained.
On the day that things were tough, on the days that things were good, on the days where I was stood up, and on the days where I wondered if I was actually good enough for anything – I ran.
To make something very clear, I loved training. LOVED it. I loved eating well. But I was unwell. Not to the extent of an eating disorder, but I was over exercising and under eating and I was controlled by hunger, thoughts of food, negative body image and intruding thoughts plagued my mind constantly. The only thing I could focus on was what I would eat next and how I would train that day. I was unwell. And that isn’t a healthy place to be, and so I stopped. Just like that.
I was lucky, I snapped myself out of my deepening dark hole quite quickly. But then I was a bit lost, I wasn’t sure where to focus my energy. Exercise was a constant in my life and whilst I knew that I couldn’t continue the regime I was in I had no idea how to function without it.
I fell into OCR (obstacle course running) and the rest is history, with #30for30 and Shark…but along the way something happened. With each challenge I completed and with each race I ran I just cared that little bit less. I enjoyed it slightly less than I had the day before. One very crisp December night last year I stopped in the middle of a race and realised that I had NO idea why I was there.
The motivation upped and left. I didn’t want to run, I didn’t want to exercise, I cared less and less about what I ate and slowly the cycle reversed and I was over eating and under training.
I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it happened, but suddenly I had no desire to pull on my running shoes and train. Every mental conversation I had with myself ended up with me decided that I had no reason to run, why should I.
So what happens when the thing that has anchored you through some of the toughest times of your life is no longer there? What do you do when the comforts and the coping mechanisms you have become so used to relying on to get you through have gone?
Well, the going gets a bit tough. It can take you to some dark places when you don’t have something to turn to.
But it can also be a blessing in disguise. Granted, over the whole 2018 if we’re being really honest I have trained less than I have done in the entire last six years. I have gained a fair amount of happy fat and an equally fair share of ‘Turns out I can’t eat whatever I want without gaining weight’ type of weight.
But it’s also allowed me to really step back, turn a blind eye almost to all the races and the OCR and decide for myself if fitness is actually something that I want in my life, or if in fact it was just something I turned to to help me deal with a couple of shitty situations, too many abusive texts to count and more pizza than you could imagine.
Why do I run? Why do I exercise? Why do I eat spinach and kale for breakfast?
Because I want to. Because I choose to. Because it makes me happy. Because it saves me. That’s why. Not because I can be faster than the person next to me, not so I can have abs, not so I can eat more pizza (although that helps), but because it is part of what makes me me. It’s made me friends for life and given me some of the most amazing experiences.
And so, I have started running again. Just like that. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year, because running is why I am where I am.
Some of you will know what it is that makes you do the things that you do to keep happy, some of you will just be figuring it out, but there is a reason why you do them. There is a reason why you have chosen a career in an industry that you have, there is a reason why you are with your partner, there is a reason why you get up at 5am and go running, there is also a reason why sometimes you just need to stop. And breath.
Whatever your why is, you do have one. When was the last time you thought about it? Because if you don’t understand why you are doing something, then you probably aren’t going to be successful at it. For me, if your why doesn’t spark something deep down inside you, then it’s probably not your true motive. But finding your why, well that’s the key to everything. It’s no more simple or complicated than that. Whatever your reasons are for choosing to run, or not run, don’t ever forget them. Write them down somewhere, put them in your purse and take them out every now and again. WHY we do something is the foundation of which everything else is built around. I hadn’t realised just how much I was taking it for granted. Of how much I needed it, of how much it meant to me, until suddenly I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I needed to stop and breath. Maybe you do to.
The funny thing about time is, it passes. And it heals. And maybe your motivation has disappeared, maybe you can’t imagine ever running again or signing up for another race.
But give yourself time. It’ll come back. Sometimes time is all you need. To figure out who you are, who you want to be, where want to go. And most importantly – why.
Hi my name is Sarah. And I’m a runner again. In fact, I always was.