‘I Run Because’ is a series of inspiring stories from other runners. New stories published every Wednesday.
I Run Because.… By Andy Wells
"Growing up I remember watching the London marathon and never really being able to grasp why people would do it. Running all those miles for all those hours never made sense to me. Obviously I knew some were doing it for charity but not all.
Fast forward to 2013 and the birth of my 3rd child, Ethan. Little brother to Harry and Leah. Having two other children meant his mum and I knew what milestones he should be hitting but then, at around 9 months old, he stopped making progress. Countless GP visits finally got him referred to hospital and at 14 months old he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was doing well on treatment until he developed pneumonia and passed away in November 2015 aged 2 1/2.
He needed 24 hour care while he was with us so after he had passed I felt almost guilty for having spare time and I wanted to put it to good use so I took up running.
My first run was a half hour plod around the block in January 2016 and I remember feeling pretty good after. I set my sights on The Great South Run later that year, raising money for charity in the process. It was a little daunting being surrounded by so many people at the start (I'm a bit of an introvert) but I soon settled in and by the end I had caught the bug for running events. I ran it and other events again in 2017 which then lead to me throwing my name in the ballot for London 2018. Unsurprisingly I didn't get in, anxiety got the better of me and I didn't run much that year.
I had entered for London 2019 though and to my shock I got a place. Little old me, being one of those people I watched all those years ago, running one of the biggest marathons in the world. I set up a donation page, pushed it a bit in social media, was blown away by people's generosity and raised just under £2000 for Naomi House and Jacksplace. I nearly cried a few times on the way round just from people cheering me on.
Next year I get to do it all again but this time it will be in Tokyo! Seeing as the furthest I've traveled is Spain it's a hell of a leap.
Running has helped me find a purpose after the loss of my son, it has helped me say thanks to those who assisted us after his passing and I know it has inspired a few people to enter London next year"
A special thank you to Andy for sharing his very personal story. I can't begin to imagine what he and his family must have been through over the last few years but I think what he has have done in terms of fundraising and using running as a focus and a way to raise money for a cause that means so much, is something he should be incredibly proud of.
If want to share your story please write no more than 500 words entitled ‘I Run Because ’ and send it across to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Run Because….. By Andy Thompson (My bro)
“I first remember running at school, bleep tests, cross country and sports days. Going to a grammar school and thinking I was less than able academically I thrived at sport and running because there was an expectation I would be good at it. This sense of expectation had come from accidentally placing quite high in my first school cross country, where I had run as fast as I could for as long as possible and realised that most people couldn’t keep up. This sense of expectation was imaginary to start with, I was just scared of my teachers being angry that I hadn’t tried, but it evolved to an expectation in myself that I should always try my best.
As I grew more confident I ran town cross country, county athletics and eventually ran 400m at the national championships. Running became part of my identity. It was something I knew I could do, that I could be proud of. When you’re young and you’re trying to orient yourself it’s powerful to be able to point to something and say ‘I can do that’, it makes you fit in somewhere. It gives you confidence in yourself.
I moved away from running toward football as I went to university but lots of what I learnt running stayed with me. The sense of competition with yourself and others, the drive to keep going when things hurt, the concepts of practice and improvement. The most powerful thing I learnt was the feeling of agency. That if you put effort into something and try really hard, you are capable of getting better at it, whatever it is. Don’t be scared to try.
I got back into running after university, initially doing some half and then full marathons. Through the training and racing I remembered what running felt like, reacquainting myself with the voice in my head that tells me to keep going and the serenity of being alone with your thoughts. I also remember my brother signing up with me for his first half marathon. Little did I know what would running would come to mean to Pete after that!
I lost interest again until Pete started his challenges. I’d do the odd bit of training and a race then nothing for months. I’d created a barrier that didn’t exist. If you can still run a half marathon every now and then it means you’re not getting fat and old and that’s ok. Pete running around Europe had a huge impact on me. It totally blew apart my conceptions about what was possible and what I should be satisfied with doing.
Pete’s example, whilst I can’t come close to it, showed me what I was missing out on and I’ve since run a sub three-hour marathon and completed long distance triathlons. More importantly, I train most days doing something I really enjoy, that gives me a sense of focus, purpose and the agency that I first felt at school. Re-discovering that passion is a great gift.”
A big thank you to my better looking and more articulate brother Andy for sharing what running means to him. He is someone who has impacted hugely on my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am without him. I love him very much and am looking forward to proudly watching get married this weekend.
If want to share your story please write no more than 500 words entitled ‘I Run Because’ and send it across to email@example.com
I Run Because.... By Jamie Thornby
"I run because I want to be someone who runs.
I run because I have young boys and when I come back from a run they want to go.
I run because running with my boys is one of the best bonding experiences we have and it's great family time together.
I run because I have a more positive image of myself if I've been running. It might be superficial like the way I look, or it might be that I respect myself more for having done something and put in some effort.
I run because I am lucky to be able to run, some people can't and I was reminded of that recently.
I run because I have a sense that we are ruining the environment a bit so me running to work must be better than the other options... but I get a plane on holiday and for work so I'm a bit of a hypocrite.
I run because I like hanging out with your brother... before and after the run... not during, I'm behind him during"
Thanks to Jamie for his I Run Because Story. Jamie is the best man at my brothers wedding in just under 2 weeks so next Wednesday I will be sharing my brothers story too, and potentially more pictures of the happy couple. I mean Andy & Jamie, not the Bride to be Alix.
If want to share your story please write no more than 500 words entitled ‘I Run Because ’ and send it across to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Run Because…. By Charlie Paradise
"I was always very active as a kid and into my early 20's, however injury suddenly stopped all this. I soon found myself becoming gradually more inactive. To begin with I didn't think it would be a big problem, I was generally healthy and a good weight, but that was before I really understood how good exercise was for my mental health.
Life through some challenges at me and without exercise to help me, my mental well-being quickly became affected. It took me a while to realise that exercise was key to me staying well both physically and mentally and getting back into it was a major challenge. Lack of motivation and drive made running even 1k seem impossible.
To overcome this, I set myself several major challenges, so I couldn’t "runaway" this time. My most recent is aiming to travel 1000km in 400 days to support mental health awareness. I am nearly 900km into this with 4 events to go https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/1in4
I run because without exercise I wouldn't have an outlet for stress and my mental well-being would suffer, I run because running is great for mental fitness."
I think many of us could relate to elements of Charlie’s story, myself included, and am very proud that she has not only recognised that running positively supports her well-being but that she has acted upon it in the way she has. Good luck for the last few events Charlie and thanks very much for sharing your story ❤
If want to share your story please write no more than 500 words entitled ‘I run because ’ and send it across with a few pictures to email@example.com.
I Run Because.... By Mehdi Chamkha
"I was never really an athletic person. I’d tried many sports growing up but never stuck with them for very long. Running however was different.
Like many people, I started jogging from time to time, more to follow the trend and to feel better about myself. At the time I was going through a difficult period of my life and it felt like no one really understood me. The sad thing was also that I was somehow getting comfortable being in that place.
It was easy to blame others and complain about what was happening to me. I was in a pretty destructive spiral and I needed a way out. For me this came when I decided to enter a marathon in my home city. I started running more seriously, forcing myself at first just to get in shape, let things out & get rid of those negative thoughts.
However those old doubts and gremlins were sticking like glue in my mind & didn't just disappear overnight. I started thinking “what if I quit?”, but something stopped me this time. This time I knew I needed to challenge myself and prove that I was able to do it. Even though it would be one of the hardest things i'd ever done for once I wanted to taste what it felt like not to give up, not to back down, not to let go.
Six months later I was lying on the floor exhausted, but with a huge smile on my face, a medal around my neck and that taste of victory. For the first time in a long time, I was deeply happy. I had completed my first marathon and more importantly proven something to myself.
I have since kept running, with the new found belief that I can achieve more than I think. I have started to test myself at greater distances, explore new places, meet new people, and discover my limits.
If someone told me just 3 or 4 year ago, I'd be running marathons I would have laughed at them. It was so far away from the person I was or what I thought I would enjoy. I'm now excited about what the future holds and running is a huge reason for that. It has helped turn that destructive spiral into a upward one."
Thank you very much to Mehdi for sharing his story especially as English is not his main language. Also for his support during my challenges and showing how running can provide a catalyst for positive change in our lives.
I Run Because.... By Sarah Dunn
"I have always enjoyed running, whether it is the cold air in my lungs on a winter's day or the novelty of the sunny outdoors at the start of spring. I was one of the rare few who actually enjoyed cross country at school and dabbled in a run every now and again in my 20's...
I didn't really take running 'seriously' until just before I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2010. I found it great stress buster for my demanding job as a teacher and in September 2010 I completed my first half marathon The Great North Run.
Following the birth of my daughter I slowly got back to running, fitting in a quick run in between my new life as a mum. In 2014 we were delighted to find out we were expecting another addition to our lovely family and this is when our life changed forever.
In September 2015 James was born via emergency C-section which was followed by a diagnosis of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a severe lack of oxygen at birth (HIE). No one could predict the future for James but a MRI scan suggested James would have problems with his muscles as grew older. By the age of one James had a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and we were prepared for a future caring for a child who couldn't sit, stand, walk independently or speak. Naturally my anxiety was high and I was struggling with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) following James' birth. As I had done previously I turned to running to support my mental health.
Since James has been born running has taken on a whole new level in my life. It combats the anxiety surrounding James' future, lifts depression that comes with a future that we never planned, provides me with valuable 'me' time when I am juggling being a mum and carer and it provides me with 'time off' for my busy brain as my feet pound against the pavement. I often come home having solved problems seemingly without actively thinking at all.
Since having James I have completed a number of half marathon's driven by a mental strength I never thought I had and this October I will be running the Yorkshire Marathon (my first marathon) to raise money for an eye gaze communication device for James alongside fundraising for charities that support James now and will do in the future, SNAPS Yorkshire and CP Teens UK. As I write this I am nursing achy legs from my longest run ever, 17 miles as part of my marathon training.
I always said I wouldn't run a marathon but I also didn't think I would have a disabled child...life sometimes has a funny way of turning challenges into life's biggest achievements!"
A really inspiring story from Sarah and one which I feel privileged to share. I have donated to Sarah's page for James on the link below and feel free to do so if you can. Thank you ❤
I Run Because……… By Lee Wilkins
"I have struggled with self-harming, depression and suicidal thoughts since the breakdown of my first marriage. I was stopped from seeing my two young children, and the pressure of going to court to get access brought on my mental health problems to the stage where I had a breakdown. My doctor wanted to section me but my new wife, Donna, stopped them and got me back on my feet.
My lowest point was a few years ago when I just gave up on life and took an overdose. Luckily, Donna found me on the lounge floor at 4am and called an ambulance - they said if she hadn't have found me I would have been dead by the morning. I woke up in hospital, and all around my bed were all my family and close friends. I never knew how many people cared about me. After I left hospital, Donna asked me ‘How would I have told our granddaughter that her granddad wasn’t here anymore?’ That hit me like a brick wall. How could I leave so many people that love me so much?
So where does running come in to this.
Running has changed my life in a way that I would of never have thought possible. It has supported me to get to a stage where I no longer take medication and the number of bad days, that used to be so frequent, have been reduced.
When I see the signs I simply put on my running gear and go for a run. It helps to clear my head out and I return to start again fresh. I now run every week and most weekends you can find me at a running event. From starting out doing 5k’s I have now completed 10k’s, marathons and many more. One of them was the London marathon! Boxed ticked!
Running is now a part of my everyday life and I couldn’t do without it. If I can help just one person with depression and mental health issues get out of that black cloud and horrible illness by running, cycling, swimming or even just walking then I’m happy."
A big Thank you to Lee for his openness and vulnerability in sharing his story. Also for showing how running has helped and continues to support him in his daily life.
14th August 2019
I Run Because……… By Sara Leggott
“My first experience of running was the Race for Life. I’ve always enjoyed taking part in the event but that was about the extent of my running. Then 6 years ago things changed when I lost my Dad to Melanoma.
It all happened so very quickly, we had a week from diagnosis to when he died. The grief I felt following his death was like a tidal wave of loss.
On Sunday 7th July 2013 I had planned to run the Race for Life with my friend but then came the news about Dad. I wasn’t going to run as this was only two days after Dad had passed away. I had gone along to watch and support my friend, but then just before the start something took over and I put my trainers on and ran.
After that I carried on running, it was hard, I stopped at the same quiet place each time allowing myself to cry, look to the sky and embrace the great loss I felt. Running became my time to think, cry, escape and grieve.
I then joined a running club, made friends and in time decided to run a marathon. Since then I’ve run 7 marathons all for charity and all in Dads memory. Marathon number 8 will be in Tokyo in March 2020. This will be the 6th World Major Marathon. I will then receive a medal that only a few thousand people in the world have achieved.
I can’t wait to achieve this but the greater achievement is getting through the last 6 years without my Dad. This medal will show what I’ve achieved through great loss, and I’m pretty sure Dad would be proud.”
A big thank you to Sara for sharing what is clearly a very emotional story. Also for how running has helped support her through a very difficult period of her life. I’m sure we all wish her luck in Tokyo and that her dad would be incredibly proud of what she has achieved both with and without her running shoes.
7th August 2019
I Run Because……… By Rob Cowlin
“I used to absolutely HATE the very idea of running. “What’s the point in running around aimlessly – can’t I just play football, tennis or a real sport?”. This was my regular line when my older brother would try and tease my 28 stone, morbidly obese, cider drinking frame out for even a gentle jog. My headstrong young self didn’t see the point – deep down I was afraid. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t dislike myself, but I hated what I’d morphed into while working a job I hated and taking zero interest in my health.
When one New Year’s day came around and I rolled my huge body out of bed and decided that I’d have to accept the lesser evil of doing something I disliked, rather than abusing my body until I – quite literally – killed off any chance of a happy life. In cliché style I got a basic gym membership and walked, waddled and trundled on the treadmill for 5k every day I could. It hurt a lot, but in trademark stubborn style I stuck with it and when I finished… every time I finished… something about it felt good.
Within 5 years I’d managed to shed 10 stones – over 35% of my body weight. All I did was run and keep on running. 5k on the treadmill became 5k on the trails and hills, which turned into half marathons and then marathons. In 2016 I completed one of the toughest 100 mile races in the UK (the North Downs Way 100) on the hottest day of the year. I’d taken on this challenge a year after losing my dad in his brave battle with cancer, taking with me the determination and hard-working man and the bravery and defiance he showed to keep fighting.
But life was changed by the grief of such incredible loss. I began to drink, I began to eat and I stopped caring about my running, my health and myself all over again. Looking back on the past couple of years and overcoming hurdles that I am still jumping, it was as if I failed to spot the obvious… that running is my meditation and my safe place. Beyond medication or counselling, it is the ultimate drug for me. The simple pleasure of lacing up and stepping out onto a new trail towards a goal brings me as close to happiness as anything in the World.
I have the luxury to still be here and I have running to thank. It gave me the resilience to fight back against my own darkness, doubts and self-loathing. I came back to run 100 miles all over again, completed ultra marathons I had never expected to complete and took me to the finish line of 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days. It gave me the belief that I could and now I love nothing more than sharing that belief and joy with others.
If I have learned one thing on my journey so far, it’s that even before you think about giving in to doubt, you owe it to yourself to put on your trainers, go outside and give it your everything… because inside every one of us lies a force so powerful that we must never be afraid.
Running gave me a direction when I lost myself, and I know that wherever I end up… as long as I keep on going… I will find myself in a better place than where I started…
And so will you”
A huge thank you to Rob for sharing his truly inspiring story and showing that amongst other things you don’t have to be a certain size or shape to be a runner. If you want to hear more from Rob he now co-hosts a brilliant new running podcast called “Band of Runners” if you want to have a listen on the link.
31st July 2019
I run because..... By Peter Thompson
My first real experience of running came in the year 2 school relay where I over excitedly managed to hit myself in the eye with a relay baton. After the black eye healed and the tears dried, the next was no better as I struggled round numerous school cross country’s.
I wasn’t a ‘good’ runner but what I had learnt throughout my childhood was that I was incredibly stubborn. I never gave up. This wasn’t down some innate desire to be the best I had just learnt that by not giving up I could be better than others who did.
In my early 20’s I entered my first half marathon, then fulfilled an ambition of completing the London marathon. I did all (well most) of this with a smile. A sense that I was on a new journey. I had found an outlet for that stubborn competitive nature and I no longer had to risk injury by carrying a relay baton.
This quickly snowballed as I continued to place more and more focus on running. I got quicker but looking back I also lost a little bit of why I stared. Why I loved running in the first place. With every 100 mile week or missed celebration to stop my watch, it was becoming more about times and less about experience. I ran the same routes, I over analysed my performance and despite running a 2:25 Marathon in 2015 I simply stopped enjoying it.
Running had become too much. A break up in a relationship followed and I blamed running for what it had taken away. I found myself in the difficult situation where I felt completely lost and the thing that used to make me happy and fulfilled was now doing the opposite. I really struggled for a while before deciding I wanted running back in my life. I wanted it back the right way.
I have since taken on two running challenges, one involving running 44 Marathons in 44 Countries in 44 Consecutive days and the other running the 2018 Tour de France in 68 days. These have raised nearly £50,000 for mental health charities and given me a new perspective of running.
I now want to share that with others and use my knowledge and experience to support others to run a different way. A way that is less about GPS watches, complicated kit or feelings of inadequacy. Instead a simpler way that showcases everything good with running, the community, friendships, experiences, improved physical & mental health, the list goes on.
From September I will be to offering personalised online coaching packages, Sports Massage and continuing to do talks about how my experiences can benefit others. As for the next challenge we’re just have to wait and see……