As much as I have pilfered the title, there’ll be no Dickensian quotes here, rest assured. I’m convinced I’m viewed as melodramatic enough. Starting in the middle of a tale just wouldn’t be protocol so I’ll backtrack a tad and summarise.
I used to be a runner. Not to any degree of professionalism, I already had a career as a police officer with three children, but I was a decent runner with a good pace, a handful of trophies, and a killer sprint finish. Running over mountains was my love life, steering clear of busy roads, smoggy cities, congested routes. I loved being in the wild, on my own, smiling at the sky. I loved being free. Not content with just being a runner, I also played hockey, netball, and had competed for Great Britain at the ITU AG Sprint Tri Champs in Hamburg, with a sprained ankle. I introduced Insanity to my peers, and was once considered hard core.
And then, I couldn’t run anymore. Or do anything else. It wasn’t so much a case of losing my mojo, it was more losing myself. Three years of mishap attempts to get back to my steely fitness when it felt right never amounted to much and the feeling of maintaining that fitness well into my later years started to become a distance glimmer down a very long tunnel.
Becoming ill was such a long drawn out process that it never felt like it would end. There was no cure, no instant rehabilitation, no magic massage or positive potion. I had a mental illness, and it was winning. Yet I landed one day, almost six months after feeling like my old self, with a decision to take steps again.
I went on a trail run over the summer, no expectations, no real route, just two feet and some water and a path to follow. It was on this run that I felt I needed to be running for those suffering with Bipolar Disorder, like myself. I’d just had my first fleeting feelings of confidence again, thanks to my Support Group, and I’d made the rash decision to challenge myself to be active everyday. Up until that point it had been nearly six months that I’d been sedentary, stuck in my own torture chamber inside my head and my home. I had gained half a stone, no longer able to wear any of my trousers except my (very) old maternity ones, and was simply a shadow of my former self.
On this day I took a chance and went for it. I climbed over Moel Arthur, then up the other side, and followed the undulating trails all the way to Moel Famau. En route there were people commending me for my efforts. Little did they know. Yet their innocent remarks empowered me all the same. I felt like a runner again.
This run was different because I took in my surroundings. I marvelled at views, flowers, caterpillars, rocks, the sky, the clouds and even myself. And I felt strong and determined that everyone who has suffered to the point of despair should know that this can also happen:
It was on this day that I decided I needed to do more to raise awareness of my condition, shared by hundreds of thousands of others in the UK alone, to do more to Stop Stigma, do more to educate about mental health in general, and do more to show that women in sport have their rightful place in the world as men currently do.
From this day I put my brain into action, using it the best way I know how – with creativity, passion, enthusiasm, knowledge, urgency and with true grit.
As a result I am committing my time to training to set a World Record in 2016 as the first female (and possibly human) to run from Land’s End to John O’Groat’s and back again, in just 42 back-to-back ultra marathons.