I ran my first half marathon when I joined Sense five years ago in 2013. I have now run Royal Park’s on four occasions. I’ve also taken on the Great North Run (my personal favourite), and London Landmarks last year. So, Sunday’s Royal Park was my sixth Half Marathon.
To give you some context, I was no great athlete at school. I ran my first 10k to see if I could do it. I’d say I’m more a work-horse rather than a race-horse. More slow and persistent than fast and furious. Apart from a positive blip last year when I knocked 15 minutes off my time, I get progressively slower each time. But I must say, it has positively changed my life in so many ways.
I was inspired to run for Sense after volunteering on a Sense Holiday
I ran my first half marathon the same year I volunteered for a Sense Holiday in 2013, after supporting Curtis for a week. Curtis was then 15, mischievous, very independent-minded and with a real sense of fun. He also has sensory impairments and additional learning disabilities, and doesn’t communicate verbally. Taking the time to appreciate Curtis’s different view of the world was personally enriching. It opened up a new world to me.
It is fair to say that Curtis is highly dependent on others for support. But all that changed, when I went swimming with Curtis. The wonderful thing about most activities in the water is that in many cases, mobility issues are often hugely reduced, sometimes almost completely eradicated. For Curtis, swimming was like stepping into an entirely different world. Seeing his increased freedom of movement and confidence (he was the king of the swimming pool) was a fantastic experience. But, swimming is not only fun and rewarding for Curtis, it’s also a great way for him to keep fit and healthy. It was Curtis that gave me the inspiration to push my own boundaries and take on something new. That’s why I started my first half marathon for Sense.
Running brings a sense of calm into my life
On one level, everyone needs an outlet from work. For me running is the best antidote to sitting in front of a computer screen in the office. It also operates on a deeper level. Running makes you feel very present. It gives me a break or outlet from thinking too much. Often I don’t think of anything specifically. Thoughts come and go like clouds. I rarely come up with my best ideas when running, but I can free myself of over-thinking or worrying, which brings a sense of calm to my life. It is the closest I get to a state of mind that is my own time and an escape from problems. Sometimes I mull over a work issue. Sometimes, I conclude that things that I’m thinking are a huge deal, aren’t often such a big deal in the scheme of things.
As with life, practice makes perfect. When you out for the first time, nothing much happens. When you force yourself to run twice, or three times a week, you can develop in many more ways than physical health. Willpower becomes less of a problem. That’s the theory anyway.
But it is painful. I suffer from recurrent knee problems. It causes my back pains. I am also clearly past my physical best. I can’t say that I am always thrilled to be passed by young runners who regularly past me. But I still keep going. Slow and persistent. Running is not about time (although I would love a PB!) It’s about the personal achievement. It’s about running through the pain, and succeeding (mostly) and learning about yourself in the process.
Overcoming the challenge of running, improves your self-esteem and makes it easier to overcome other challenges in your life. It boosts my confidence like nothing else. Yes, truly, running is a metaphor for life.
And that, I guess, is why I run.
If you’re feeling inspired by Richard’s blog, why not take on a fundraising event for Sense?