Mind Over Marathon and beyond (written by Kathryn)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Kathryn for your openness in ‘take over 8’


29th April 2017

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Manchester feeling tired, alone and anxious. I’d recently returned to work, as Clinical Trials Pharmacist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, after suffering from my third episode of severe depression and anxiety. I found returning to work challenging and I could feel my anxiety building, so was scared that I would suffer from another recurrence of depression.

I hadn’t been away on my own for some time and wasn’t sure what to do to calm my thoughts when I remembered seeing trailers for the BBC ‘Mind Over Marathon’ program about a group of people with mental illness who trained to run the London Marathon. I downloaded the program from BBC iPlayer onto my iPad. I watched the first episode while I was eating dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was amazing seeing people being so open about the challenges they faced in life and how developing friendships and having a goal to aim for was helping their recovery from mental illness. I was captivated and wanted to see if they achieved their goal and watched the second episode when I returned to my room. I went to sleep that night with a renewed sense of purpose, I’d already started running while I was off work (using the BBC Get Inspired NHS Couch to 5K app), but didn’t have the motivation to get up to 5k. Seeing the Mind Over Marathon team face the ultimate challenge of finishing the London Marathon while recovering from a mental illness and being so open about their experience was inspirational.

When I returned to Cardiff I entered Cardiff Half Marathon as part of the Cardiff and Vale UHB Health Charity team raising money for the Hafan Y Coed Mental Health Unit. Considering I’d only run for 20 minutes non-stop once this was a bit of a challenge. I was struggling to find the motivation to run in the evening and by July I still hadn’t got up to 5K. I saw an advert on Twitter for Les Croupiers Running Club Croups off the Couch 5K plus and decided to join this.

8th July 2017

The day before my 47th birthday I ran 5K non stop for the first time at Cardiff Parkrun in 37:54. The experienced Les Croupiers running club members ran with us and I was amazed how talking while running made me forget the pain and enjoy running even more. The 5k plus group met three times a week over the summer, gradually building up the distance we ran to 10K. When I joined the group I’d decided to be open about why I started running and was surprised by how many people shared their story of mental illness while I was running with them. I’m not a natural runner and had resisted running for years but I could feel the benefit of running and talking about my experience on my depression recovery. With the encouragement of the Les Croupiers RC members I got my Parkrun PB down to 34:15 and I was hooked.

I was tweeting using #365daysofselfcare and regularly posted about my runs and how beneficial they were to my mental health.

3rd September 2017 Cardiff 10K

I joined almost 6000 people to run 10K around the beautiful city of Cardiff. I’d only ran 10K once before and that was with an experience runner encouraging me. As most of the 5K plus group were faster than me I ran round on my own. But I talked to fellow runners and was encouraged by the spectators. I managed to run all the way round and was so proud to finish in 1:15:26.

1st October 2017 Cardiff Half Marathon

My training between the 10K and half marathon didn’t go well as I suffered from a recurrence of depression as the evenings got darker. I found it impossible to get out of bed on a Saturday morning in time for Parkrun and probably only ran 5 times in September and the furthest I ran with 5 miles. But I was determined to take part in the Half Marathon. I asked some experienced runners for advice about how I should approach the race as I’d only ran 10K twice. I decided to run the first 5K and then walk/run the remainder. I was extremely nervous in the run up to the race and felt my anxiety levels building and considered injuring myself so I couldn’t run. But I made it to the start line by the iconic Cardiff Castle with 25,000 other runners. The atmosphere was incredible and I couldn’t believe how many people came out to cheer the runners on. I stuck to my plan and ran the first 5K and then tried to walk for a few minutes and run for 15 mins for the rest of the race. I ran on my own again but talked to other competitors, especially those who were in #TeamHealthCharity. There were moments in the race when my legs were sore and I felt that I couldn’t carry on, but the crowd and the thought that I was raising money for others with mental illness kept me going. I was amazed that I completed 13.1 miles in 2:57:48, especially as I’d gone from non-runner to the half marathon in 9 months. When I crossed the finish line I said to my husband ‘Next time I’ll have done the training’!

Unfortunately after completing the half marathon my mood continued to decline and I lacked the motivation to go running. It was only during a holiday in Costa Rica, in December, when the light came back on and I felt happy again.

When we returned to Cardiff I saw a Facebook post advertising a #TeamHealthCharity Couch to 5K group. Although I had already run 10K I decided to run with the Couch to 5K group. I’d gained so much benefit from the help that experienced runners gave me while I was starting to run, I wanted to give something back by helping others discover how beneficial running is for the body and mind. I was very honest about how I started running to help my recovery from depression and a number of the group have shared their personal journey through mental illness with me.

In 2018 I’ve run Cardiff Parkrun on a regular basis and invited other runners (using Facebook) to join me for a run and chat, I’ve continued to run with the #TeamHealthCharity Couch to 5K group and helped encourage the next intake of Les Croupiers 5K plus group. I find running and especially social running helps control my depression.

I’m continuing to challenge myself and have entered 5 10K and 2 Half Marathon’s so far in 2018. I will be raising money for Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie, MIND, Pharmacist Support and Cardiff and Vale UHB Health Charity.

I don’t think I would have persevered with running and maintained my recovery from mental illness if I hadn’t watched Mind Over Marathon, so I am extremely grateful to the BBC, Heads Together, MIND, Nick Knowles, Georgie, Jake, Rhian and the rest of the Mind Over Marathon team.

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