Sport was my life when I was young but in my early 30s, I stopped doing the activities I once loved. I started eating and drinking too much, buried my head in my work and had very little interest in people and life. I got stuck into a routine of going to work and back home like a yo-yo, with few diversions in between. The cause of this was severe anxiety and depression – I always felt slightly different, not just because of the late realisation of my sexuality, but for other reasons I didn’t know at the time.
I knew things had to change so I took up jogging (in the dark so no one would see). I initially managed to walk/jog 400m and gradually increased my distance as I gained more confidence and fitness. I took things slowly and over a couple of years, lost 3 ½ stone. Since then, I have jogged most days and now run 7k a day. I’m still slow, but that doesn’t matter. I run alone but do Park Runs to challenge myself against others. I also take part in annual 5k events, including Race for Life, Durham City Run and Try on the Tyne.
There is more to running than running itself. Taking up running changed my life. It has enabled me to relax more and feel better about myself. Most significantly, it gave me the confidence to seek professional help for my difficulties, which, amongst other support, resulted in me being diagnosed with autism this year, at the age of 47. I finally now know why I find some basic things difficult and am different to many others and my running allows me to embrace my condition. I no longer think about those who used to make fun of me for running the same distance, on my own, at the same time and in the same place every day. My running simply reflects who I am. I run by myself because I prefer to be alone. I run 7km a day (5km on a morning and 2km at night) because I need routine and I run in the countryside because there is no noise. That’s just me and how I run. But starting running was only the start of my journey. I now eat more healthily, no longer drink, have a little campervan, building an allotment and even learning to fence! Most importantly, running has helped me to embrace my individuality, be proud of being different and not be ashamed of ‘being myself’ for the first time in my life.
However you run, do it your way.