Anxiety and Running

I am writing this post for two reasons: 

  1. To put it very simply – I find it beneficial. Writing about mental health is a method of expressing feelings that are sometimes too difficult to put into words. 
  2. I hope that by sharing my own experiences, it might help people who are feeling a similar way. Personally, I prefer reading incredibly open and honest blogs, particularly when it comes to mental health. It’s always comforting to know that of course you’re not alone. 

So, here is a recap of the past week…

Last Thursday, with 4 weeks to go until London Marathon, I was feeling strong, prepared and motivated. I had just recovered from a chest infection and was so excited to continue with my training. 

However, the following day I woke up feeling quite the opposite. I felt breathless, clammy and restless; all familiar symptoms of an oncoming unpleasant period of anxiety. The following three days consisted of multiple panic attacks, one of which took place during an organised 20-mile training run with hundreds of other runners. This REALLY bothered me; running has always been my safe, happy place, and this is the first time that my anxiety has interfered with that.

I spent the next couple of days pondering whether I should even be running a marathon; am I mentally strong enough at this current point in time? What if I have another mid-race panic attack, but this time in front of tens of thousands of people? 

After many wasted hours of unnecessary panic, I came to the following conclusion… so what?! What’s the worst that can happen? If for some reason I do have a panic attack during the marathon, I can walk for a bit. Yes, I’d be disappointed – but I haven’t dedicated over three months of hard, consistent training to give up at this late stage. 

Thanks to a variety of coping mechanisms and a fantastic support network which I am so grateful for, I’ve been feeling a lot calmer over the past few days. I’ve been able to shift my mindset and manage the panic attacks in a more effective way. 

I’m not saying for a second that my anxiety has magically been ‘cured’ – this is something that I’ve been working on managing for years, and I still have a long way to go. My point is that amongst the sheeny shiny perfectly curated Instagram squares, and the overly enthusiastic ‘NO DAYS OFF’ Strava beasts (I say ‘beasts’ in a kind and loving way of course), there are hundreds and thousands and millions of people who are struggling with their mental health.

There is nobody on this planet who is in a constant state of joy and happiness, and we should talk about that more openly. I am an expert at hiding my feelings, because quite frankly sometimes it’s easier to pretend that nothing is happening – however, I’ve finally realised that ignoring my emotions has a negative impact on my mental health.  

I could write a novel on this topic, so I’m going to end this post here before it turns into War and Peace. Some final thoughts – talk to people, overshare, talk to people some more. Shame has no place in your life.

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