On 21st August 2000, I was involved in a fatal and tragic road accident whilst on annual camp with the air cadets. On the 21st August 2010, I received a knock on the door telling me that a good friend of mine had been injured by stepping on an IED in Afghanistan.
The 21st August 2012 saw me complete a 30k run for charity in less than four and a half hours. I had decided to take the challenge on only three months ago when I was diagnosed with depression, was on the verge of diabetes and spent most of my time living on caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and take-aways.
I embarked on a huge journey of change – mentally, physically and nutritionally. I publically shared my story and reconnected with many of the people from my past.
The result of it all, was an emotional step over a finishing line made for me by the team at Start Up Britain. I crossed to two tearful but proud mums – mine and the mum of Wayne Maynard who was a very close friend of mine that died in the accident.
How did I feel? Sweaty, mainly. And absolutely exhausted. I was shocked that I had made it – I was the fat, and useless kid in every PE class, the girl that would only ever run to the pub and would end up in the curry house rather than any kind of fitness class. The last three months have been exploring the relationship I have with myself, the problems the coach crash have caused and the impact they have had on my self esteem, my ambitions, my behaviour and my self beliefs. I have cried, I have denied and I have been angry.
I have met people I never thought I would meet, I shared emotions I didn’t even know I had and was brave enough to admit the difficulties I had faced.
The run itself wasn’t anything like I had imagined. I started early because of the heat and ran as long as I could without my ipod. I tried to break the run up so it was just two training runs, in my mind anyway. I barely spoke to my trainer, Sarah Martin, who was running along next to me like it was nothing more than a walk in the park. My emotions weren’t that high. I didn’t go to any ‘dark’ places. I just put one foot in front of the other and didn’t stop until I crossed the finish line. Sarah would pass me a couple of jelly babies every now and again and I would occasionally hold up my trousers which was a request for ice spray. My hip was the most painful – and we needed an emergency blob of pain relief gel on that about ⅔ of the way in. I tried not to think about how far I had to go or how far I’d been. Just one step, the next step etc etc A few hills in Richmond park caught me off guard and were really hard and towards the very end of the run it was a challenge to keep my emotions in check.
I knew that if I started crying I would just collapse so was listening to Gold on Spandau Ballet on repeat!!
Completing the physical challenge made me feel content and proud -like I could achieve anything I put my mind to. My body has changed dramatically as has my mindset. I feel in control, I am prepared to be accountable and have achieved something that I feel truly proud of.
Will I continue? Absolutely. I’m not sure what will be next – the marathon, the five peaks challenge, a triathlon perhaps. I love the clarity exercise gives you. I like feeling in control of my body and my life. I feel great – I have energy, I look great, my clothes fit!
Of all the things I’ve done over the last 12 years, to make the boys proud of me, I am most proud that I am finally content and happy to leave my past behind me as I move on to the next chapter of my life. I never, ever thought I would have a ‘finish line’ picture, I never dreamt I could know what that felt like and I never knew that really, most of it is mind over matter. My advice to others would be this,
‘Dream often and dream big and if you think they won’t come true just remember, if the fat kid can run 30k, anything is possible’.