Posts Tagged ‘discovering’

Why I run is a question I’m often asked and a question I ask other runners too. I find it fascinating and intriguing to discover the many and sometimes complex reasons why people run. In today’s increasingly time consuming and fast moving society why anyone would want to run with an already crowded social and work calendar when it is easier to get home, switch on the television and watch others running round a track can be hard to comprehend.

I can only speak for myself why I run but like many others my reasons are various, complex and intertwined. What I get from running mentally and emotionally has changed too as my journey has continued and may even change again.

The best place for me to start is with some background information on my life and my running journey. This is my story of why I run.

Growing up I was never sporty. I played football, rugby, cricket and ran round a field at school but I was always the runt of the class, one of the last to be picked and usually the last to finish. My childhood memories of running are of setting off far too fast and fading quickly before being caught and swallowed by the rest of the kids and finishing at the back as usual. It’s a habit I still have today although I have made changes to curb it and ensure I have enough energy to finish the race!

Through my teens, twenties and thirties I would play 5-a-side with work colleagues but that was it as far as sport and running was concerned. Running was not for me. I did try it a few times but found what should be one of the most natural things for a human to do difficult. Having no co-ordination, no stamina and no patience meant I gave up very easily on running back then.

Into my forties and I stopped playing 5-a-side and the weight piled on. I soon went from around 14st when I turned forty to 19st 10lbs aged 45. I didn’t think anything of it. I was getting older and getting fatter was part of the process. Everybody went through the same thing and I was no different. This was life as I knew it.

But before all the weight piled on I had been diagnosed with depression in April 2001. For months before this I hadn’t been feeling well mentally, emotionally and physically. I was tired and disinterested in many things. The only respite I had was drinking with my mates at the weekends. Long term this didn’t solve anything but you don’t think long term when you get that short term fix of drinking yourself into oblivion so you can forget everything that you perceive as bad about your life. Your problems seemed solved because you can’t remember them. Until you come round the next day to realise that they’re still there, they haven’t gone away and all you can think about is the next weekend and going through the same routine.

So off to the doctors I went and with his usual abrupt manner told me I had depression, I had to ‘man up’ and get a grip and put me on anti-depressants to help lift my mood so I could ‘man up’ and carry on with life as if nothing was wrong.

Except it was. The anti-depressants are in my opinion like state sanctioned alcohol tablets in that they mask the problems causing you to be depressed because they make you drowsy, dull your senses and you are not fully aware of what is going on around you. This is my own opinion and others will have a different experience depending on what tablets they were prescribed and the dosage. I ended up on 40mg of Citalopram a day which made life bearable and forgettable. I tried Prozac for a while but not being able to stop inside because all four walls were closing in on you is not a good experience.

So I went through the new millennium living my life like this. Drugged up to the eyeballs on anti-depressants, the new sweets for a new generation and solving none of my underlying problems. Many of my problems back then centred around money of a lack of it. The ironic thing looking back is that I spent too much many at the weekend in order to try and forget that I had a lack of money. It can be difficult and frustrating for people looking in as they can see your problem and how easy it would be to fix it. For that individual though it is like being the eye at the centre of a storm. Everything is going on around you and you are largely oblivious to it and oblivious to how your problem can be resolved. Occasionally something comes and hits you right between the eyes but by and large you just carry on hoping that the storm will pass and everything will be alright. This for me was especially so when I was on anti-depressants.

But the storm doesn’t always pass and things keep hitting you, harder and harder and harder. Life was spiralling out of control even though at the time I couldn’t see it. Money and work problems were causing my stress and anxiety levels to increase and this was having a negative effect on my sleeping which led to increased levels of tiredness and increased depression, stress, and anxiety. Life was in a downward, uncontrollable spiral and there seemed to be no way of stopping it.

The depression, stress and anxiety continued to get worse despite the anti-depressants as my problems mounted up. I was reluctant to ask my doctor for an increase in dosage because I was already on 40mg a day and having problems functioning fully day to day. I was also fearful of becoming addicted to them and then asking for higher and higher dosages to ensure that I got the same hit.

So during the mid 2000’s I found myself dependent on anti-depressants to get through the day, stress and anxiety levels increasing all the time, problems with alcohol, problems with money and in a job I hated. I could see no way out. I didn’t know who to turn to or where to go. This is the loneliest place to be. I decided that the only way to solve everything would be to take my own life. I mean who would miss a loser like me? So I made my first suicide attempt sometime in 2005. I took around 25 Nytol one-a-night sleeping tablets. I remember falling asleep and waking up the next morning drowsy but alive. I phoned in sick to work and was in work the next day as if nothing had happened. I told no-one about this. What could anyone do to help me?

But life carries on regardless. I was alive and I had no choice but to regather my thoughts and get on with life so I did. Things got more and more intense and overwhelming for me though and I was in a desperate cycle of depression, anxiety and stress with no way out. This carried on for years and during the latter part of this period of my life I was somehow surviving on one hours sleep a night and constantly have suicidal thoughts all through the day. This was not good for me or anyone around me and is not the way to live your life. Something needed to change.

And change it did. For many years, I had felt different and slightly out of touch with the rest of society. I didn’t know why, I couldn’t put my finger on anything and no-one around me seemed to know either. And then my best friend Jill suggested I may have Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. I did some research into Asperger’s and for the first time ever I could identify personality traits in myself with the characteristics of Asperger’s. it was like a light switch coming on in my head. I began to understand myself in a different way and look at society and life in a different way too.

However, this was only the start of a very long and tortuous journey through the minefield of getting a diagnosis which I eventually got in October 2008 after 18 months of battling a system that was seemingly more interested in money than the wellbeing of the patients it was supposed to be serving. I didn’t give in though and I got the diagnosis I felt I needed to move on with my life.

And move on I did. In 2009 I returned to college and got my O and A Levels. This enabled me to study for a degree in sociology at the University of Huddersfield. I began writing and performing poetry which fulfilled a need I had in me to be creative and express myself. But there was still something missing and this is when I discovered running.

I was chronically overweight and unfit due to an unhealthy diet and drinking too much alcohol. I had tried going to the gym but didn’t stick at it. Lifting weights in a room just wasn’t doing it for me and I got bored easily. Then on one of the Queensbury Facebook pages I saw an advertisement for people who wanted to start running to join a new beginners group at Queensbury Running Club. The guy who was running it was someone I had worked with many years before so I decided to give it a go.

That first session was hard but I enjoyed it. It was a nice pace with some walking in-between. I coped with it and didn’t feel it was beyond me. This was around April 2014 and I carried on going all through the summer. And then autumn came, it got colder, wet and windy and I didn’t want to go out running anymore. Without realising it I had become a fair weather runner.

Over the autumn and winter of 2014 I stayed in and didn’t do any running. The weight stayed on and I was still searching for that missing something that would give my life more meaning and plug a hole in it.

March 2015 and I went to London for a professional voice acting recording. I was told I have a very good voice for recording but found it difficult to breath correctly due to weighing so much. I knew I needed to change if I was to make anything of my voice and so I went back to the running club at the first opportunity.

I soon got back into running, even more so than before. The club had expanded since my last visit and a lot more people had joined but after a couple of weeks it was as if I’d never been away. I was struggling especially with getting my breathing right but I was enjoying it and looked forward to running every Thursday night with the Queensbury Running Club gang.

I started slowly, from memory my first parkrun at Lister Park, Bradford was around 45 minutes and most of that was walking. I went to Shroggs Park, Halifax and I ran 40 minutes. I had knocked 5 minutes off my time but I was still walking part of the course. This was my next aim, to be able to run a full 5k with no stopping for hills or was I felt tired. I was determined that nothing would stop me achieving this target.

This was a major breakthrough for me. Rather than giving in and telling myself I couldn’t do it I told myself I could do it. And I did it. One summers day I laced up my running shoes and ran down one of the local roads. This was a good tactic as it allowed me to warm up without the added pressure of running uphill and get my legs ready for the long journey ahead of them.

I went down the hill and felt good. This is a nice road and at about a mile long is perfect for a warm up. Right and up a small hill before down again. Before I knew it I had run 2 miles non-stop for the first time and I was running into uncharted territory. Would I manage 3 miles or would I collapse in a heap waiting for some dog walker to come by and rescue me?

I needn’t have worried. I carried on and on and on. All of a sudden I was running very slowly uphill but I was still moving and I passed the magical 3 mile mark according to my watch. I was so happy. I had achieved my running dream and run 3 miles without stopping. I felt like a Olympic superstar.

And from that point on running became fun as well as a way of losing weight and getting fit. I started running 3 miles and more on a regular basis and hills that had previously defeated me I conquered. It wasn’t easy and I would never pretend it was but the sense of achievement I felt was like nothing I had experienced before. I proved to myself I could do something, that it was not beyond me and most of all I enjoyed the experience.

And this continued. I entered races which whilst I knew I had no chance of winning I derived pleasure from by pushing myself to my limits and beyond. I found that was capable of far more than I thought I was, I could do things I never believed I could and I discovered a new me, a better me that had more self-belief, more ability and more confidence.

This has gone over into other areas of my life. I now have more confidence in everyday life and I have learnt to be more patient. Running is a good analogy of life. It’s hard work, the results don’t come quickly but if you stick with it and persevere you do see an improvement in your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

And now over two years since I started running I’ve been to places I would never have been otherwise, I’ve met people I would never have met and had some of the most amazing experiences all through running. My mental, emotional, and physical health has improved immensely. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and living life to the full and I’ve got running to thank for it.

I can still remember the day I discovered the Bronte’s. I had heard of them before of course, but had never visited the Parsonage in Haworth where they spent so much of their short lives. The reason why I had never been before? Well I only live twenty minutes or so from Haworth so in my mind I could visit them anytime. And to be honest I wasn’t that interested in them at the time!

It was a warm and sunny day in late September and a friend of mine had a special birthday coming up, so knowing he likes whisky I decided to visit a shop I know in Haworth that sells some lovely single malts. Upon arriving at Haworth I found a car park and to my horror I didn’t have the right change for the meter. It was £1.60 for two hours parking and the smallest change I had was £2. Applying true Yorkshire logic I decided to spend £3 on four hours car parking rather than lose 40p on two hours car parking! Trouble was this meant I got four hours parking instead of two.

Getting a bottle of whisky took me nearly an hour, there was such a great selection to choose from and I’m very indecisive when it comes to choosing anything at the best of times. However after much dithering I had managed to buy a bottle of single malt whisky for my friend and discovered I still had around three hours left on my car parking so decided to have a wander round Haworth something I had not done for a very long time.

Haworth as many people know is a lovely rural Yorkshire village well known for its links with the Bronte’s and much more. However once you’ve been up and down the cobbled Main Street, you’ve pretty much done all you can unless you want to start walking short distances. At this time I wasn’t familiar with the surrounding countryside so I was unaware of where I could walk to. And it was this lack of local knowledge and being a traditional tight Yorkshireman that led me to the Bronte Parsonage. I wanted to use as much of my car parking time as I could.

I had heard of the Parsonage of course but I had never been in there. To get to the Parsonage you go past the church and the graveyard and then you are at the Parsonage itself. You enter through a large wooden door into the nicely kept gardens that are a place of tranquillity looking out over the church and the graveyard. They are set up high from the path but level with the house. You could easily imagine the Bronte’s relaxing there on a warm summer’s day or taking in the nip of a cold, frosty morning in winter. And I turned and entered the Parsonage for the very first time.

And there I was stood in the actual hallway that the Bronte’s used to frequent so often going about their daily business, discussing village gossip and thinking of stories to write. I turned left and I was in the dining room where Emily Bronte died looking at the actual settee she was lying on when she died. The sense of history got to me immediately and I began to feel overcome with emotion at the thought of what had happened in this very room. The atmosphere was one of awe and wonder, of inspiration and reverence of being in a very special place where so much happened in such a short space of time.

And the opposite room was the study where the Revd Patrick Bronte would spend a lot of his time at his desk. And there on the desk where some of his possessions including the largest magnifying glass I have ever seen! And onwards to the kitchen and then to Mr Nicholls’ study taking my time to look the exhibits and read the information about them.

Up the stairs I went pausing at the Grandfather clock and touching it ever so gently. I felt a tingle run up my arm as I touched it and imagined the Revd Bronte winding it up every night at the same time precisely. Upstairs and more rooms to see inside. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, looking at tiny shoes, dresses, gloves, everything seemed to be in miniature. It felt as if I was in a large dolls house which was only missing the dolls.

And I discovered Branwell Bronte. Up until this point I never knew that the Bronte’s had a brother who was more famous for his addictions to alcohol and opium than for his work. But even for his lack of being as famous as his sisters or maybe because of it I found him a fascinating character and one that has more depth to him than many people realise. Branwell was and still is for me an integral part of the Bronte’s history. Would the three sisters have had quite the same lives if Branwell had not been alive? Quite possibly but it is important to remember that Branwell played a massive part in the early lives of his sisters playing with the toy soldiers and making up stories of fantasy lands.

Into the exhibition room and the hairs on the back of my arms stood up as a shiver went down my spine. It was as if a spirit from the past had walked through me. And it was in this room I finally discovered the extent of the Bronte’s writing. From books written so small it was impossible to read to poetry so powerful it brought a tear to your eye. And the novels were all there too. The novels that made the Bronte’s famous the world over, the novels that everybody knows them by.

The exhibition room is very special, very impressive for the shear amount of history it holds within its walls. Here are original manuscripts of the Bronte’s stories written in their own handwriting by their own hands. In this one room there is so much of the lives of the Bronte’s that you expect one of them to appear at any moment and start telling you about the inspiration behind their poems and novels. Seeing exhibits and reading letters and stories written by such famous writers is something very special for me I was in awe and felt I was in the presence of greatness, of legends of people who will live forever, who will always be immortal and who will never die because their books and their lives will always be read and spoken about.

And then I was out of there. Back into reality, back into the 21st century. I felt a little bit deflated going down the stairs towards the shop and back out into the real world but I also felt elated too.

I had done something I had always promised myself I would do one day but never got round to. And reflecting on the experience it was something I wished I had done many years before but I was glad I did it in the end. The Parsonage, Haworth and the history of the Bronte’s exceeded all my expectations and made me realise how important and valuable history is to us as human beings?

The Parsonage itself is a combination of remaining true and authentic to how the Bronte’s lived there in their time with many of the rooms being furnished and decorated as they were in the Bronte’s time. A nod to the modern is with the exhibition room displaying some of the important artefacts for people to view. The Parsonage conveys a feeling of history, of a time gone by reflecting the history of the most important literary families in history. But more than that you get a lesson in the wider history of the Bronte’s and the culture of the time that shaped their personalities and in turn shaped their writing too. It is this that gave this first trip and every subsequent trip real meaning for me because there is depth here behind the novels and you get a real glimpse into the lives of the family and what made them the people we all love and know now.