I started running when I was very young. I’m not sure why I liked it so much but I remember running up and down the garden flapping my coat around to make me look faster, I can’t have been much older than 5 or 6. I remember my Dad leaving the house to go running and allowing me to run to the end of the street with him and sometimes round the block so perhaps it was only natural that I thought it was great as I looked up to him.
I was always very competitive and I remember crying in sports day at school when I lost the bean bag race because my bean bags hadn’t been set out properly. I had won every other race and I remember my mum telling me off in embarrassment. Neither my Mum or Dad are remotely competitive so I’m not sure where I get it from.
In 1993, aged 9 I joined Northampton Phoenix Athletics Club. At first we trained on a cinder track at Lings forum before moving to Sixfields athletics track the following year. At such a young age the training was informal and mainly involved games, relays and short sprints but it wasn’t long before I was competing for the club in competitive events.
My first events were in the McDonald’s young athletes league where I usually did the 100m and the long jump. I was used to winning and if things didn’t go my way it would usually result in a tantrum of some kind. This, added to my overall poor behaviour meant the coach of the group I was in at the club no longer wanted me involved.
I then found myself in the middle distance group which I hated. It was completely different to what I was used to, more structured and much harder. I found it really tough and I was dropping off the back of the group in training every session for weeks.
I stuck with it though and eventually I found I could keep up a bit better and began racing over the 400m and 800m distances. I had some success in schools and club competitions, the highlight was representing my county at the English schools championships both on the track and at cross country.
However, In 2001 I was advised by my coach to take some time out from training and concentrate on my school work as I had been missing lessons and not handing work in and I was quite far behind. I was young and mischievous to say the least and I didn’t end up completing my A levels. It would end up being over a decade until I went back to running too.
This was the beginning of what was to be a very difficult period in my life including a short trip to prison which caused severe anxiety problems and turning to drink and drugs as a form of escapism.
The only positive in my life was that I was in a loving relationship and in 2008 I got engaged. It wasn’t long after this however that I got into a brawl on a night out which resulted in me spending 9 months on bail attending various court proceedings before eventually the case was committed to the crown court.
During that 9 months I became extremely anxious, I felt like I was facing a death sentence. I turned to drink and drugs as I was able to forget about things for a short time but this obviously made me worse the rest of the time and lead to my doctor prescribing me with a high dose of anti depressants.
I got married but just 3 weeks later I was given a sentence of 8 months in prison. In the years that followed my release from prison things got even worst. I had a increasing negative outlook on life with little hope. I was in a cycle of depression where the more nothing changed the more I slipped into bad habits. This was a difficult time for my wife and family as I would often disappear for days and act very irrationally.
I couldn’t hold down a jobs as I was always hung over and I would often just stay in bed too miserable to move. It wasn’t until I really tried to change that I realised I had a problem. But no matter how hard I tried nothing did change. I even attended alcoholics anonymous for a few weeks but I don’t believe alcohol in itself was an issue so that wasn’t dealing with the route of the problem.
Eventually I gave up trying. I had lost all hope and spent months shut away in my bedroom. My wife would go to work in the morning then come home in the evening to find me still in bed exactly how she had left me.
I was referred to see the pastor at Broadmead Baptist Church who helped a lot with talking through my problems and helped me to change my thinking. It was him who suggested that running might help me.
I then started going to the gym and got myself into a routine of exercise including running a couple of times a week. I still didn’t manage to completely break the cycle of addiction and depression so I knew I needed to do something that was important to me in order to break the cycle and take the focus off of myself.
I committed to run the Norwich half marathon to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation. This focus helped me to give up smoking, a habit I’d had for the past 12 year, and I stopped drinking altogether for the 2 months leading up to the race too.
It definitely seemed to have the desired effect, I felt I’d found something worth doing and it gave me a sense of purpose. I put a lot of time and effort into training and fund raising and found a new lease of life. I started doing a weekly 5k event called parkrun and an old friend I used to train with at the running club, Chris spotted my name in the results.
Chris was now a running coach and had his own group called Parklands Jog and Run. He got in contact and encouraged me to start running with the group. I started attending their sessions and Chris agreed to give me specific personalised training plans and coaching to reach my goal.
In November 2012 I accomplished my target by completing my first half marathon and raised £500 for the Mental Health Foundation but I had found something much more too.
Running has made me a lot happier, I find when I run I can think more clearly and it has showed me that I can be successful. I have goals and targets to work towards and if I put the time and effort in I know I will see results. It has taught me patience, realism and valuable life lessons. Running has really helped to turn my life around!
During the time I was training for the half marathon I was diagnosed with ADHD which answered a lot of questions in terms of my behaviour and my unsettled mental state. I had been used to trying and failing miserably for much of my life which was one of the main reasons I had become so low. Doctors are known to prescribe exercise as a form of therapy for people with depression in particular and it is clear to me why.
Running has taught me that much of my failings in life were caused by putting too much pressure on myself and unrealistic goal setting. After tying to break records in my first year back running I suffered quite a few injuries. I would see the goal but not necessarily all of the steps I would need to take to reach that goal, this lead to frustration, a very true representation of life in general.
I have learnt that in life as well as in running that although it helps to have long term goals it only pays to concentrate on the achievable short term ones before moving forward. I still have difficulties in other Area’s because of low self esteem and a lack of confidence caused by experiencing so many upsets but running provides me with the platform to move forwards.
I went on to run a further two half marathons and continued doing the 5k’s and rejoined my old athletics club which is now called Rugby and Northampton AC. Chris is also my coach there and we are currently working towards getting back into shape over the middle distances I used to run. I also Run for Wellingborough AC during the cross country season.
I continue to train with Parklands Jog and Run too and I find it has been, and will continue to be, important to me to be part of this great community where I have so many supportive friends. The diverse nature of the group is unique and I find it makes for a relaxed and friendly environment.
We all have different goals from track runners like myself to people who are just aiming to keep fit, the highly competitive to the fun runner. Whether you have just completed your first 5k or finished a 30 mile ultra race we are all in the same sport and everyone’s individual achievements are relative and never go unnoticed.
My wife has stuck by me through all of this time and has now also started to run and attends Parklands Jog and Run too. She especially enjoys the obstacle course race training sessions they do. It is great to have this as a common interest.
I have completely turned my life around now. I’m fitter, much healthier, much happier, have met some great people I now consider good friends, have ambitious yet realistic targets and I’m staying out of trouble. As well as my amazingly supportive wife I honestly feel it’s running I have to thank for this.