Sophie shares her inspirational running and fundraising journey. From dreading cross-country to running a mile, to running three marathons for Mind! Her fundraising has made a huge difference to Mind and her running has also helped her manage her own mental health.
"I did everything I could to get out of cross-country and dreaded the 1500m on sports day."
Two marathons? I never ever imagined I’d even run one. I was never a runner. At school, I did everything I could to get out of cross-country and dreaded the 1500m on sports day.
But I wanted to push myself for a charity close to my heart.
In 2008, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. The next couple of years were a struggle, trying to balance my mental health with university, relationships and a social life. Medications came and went, and came back again. During that time, I had two major depressive episodes that were physically and mentally exhausting. My memories of those are all a little jumbled. I lost focus. Something needed to change.
"It only seems like yesterday that I was stopping to catch my breath every few lampposts."
I decided to sign up to trek the Three Peaks in 24 Hours to raise money for Mind. I set off to complete the trek with a group of strangers and within hours discovered something new. We spoke openly and honestly about our mental health – and we laughed – it was a free flowing conversation, not something that was hidden, and certainly not something to be ashamed of. That was the start of my Mind fundraising journey.
In 2013, I wanted a new challenge and so I signed up to run the Bupa 10K for Mind. At first, I just wanted to run a mile. It only seems like yesterday that I was stopping to catch my breath every few lampposts. But as the distance between stopping to catch my breath increased, I realised I was addicted. I had a new purpose.
"Running has come to play a huge part in helping me to manage my mental health, and I have covered hundreds of miles in support of Mind."
Since that first 10K, running has come to play a huge part in helping me to manage my mental health, and I have covered hundreds of miles in support of Mind. In 2015, I ran my first half marathon, the Royal Parks Half. In 2016, I took on my biggest challenge yet, the London Marathon, and then in 2017, I took on an even bigger challenge - running the Brighton AND London Marathons, only two weeks apart.
My latest run for Mind, the 2017 London Marathon, was one of the best runs of my life. I ran at a steady pace for the first 18 miles and the time passed faster than expected. The screaming cheers of the Mind team at mile 6, and my family at mile 13 (and again at 22!) was the best feeling. I tried to take time to enjoy the crowds and the atmosphere. The curbs were lined with people cheering my name.
Mile 19 onwards was tough. No “wall”, just a steady and tired decline. My legs were aching and my body was knackered. I zoned out and kept going. 21, 22, 23, 24 mile markers with arches of red and white balloons were a welcome sight.
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"With my red-ribboned medal round my neck, I was happy - I had made it!"
Then there it was, 25. Just one more mile and 385 yards to go. I saw (and heard!) some of the Mind cheering team and knew this was it. I drew on everything I had, got my head down and ran. The metre markers ticked down, 800m, 600m, 400m… I remember the excitement as I passed under the 385 yard gantry with a huge smile. I’ll never forget that moment. As I rounded the final turn, I could see the red arches of the finish. My foot landed on the timing mat - I was across the line - and (instead of flopping onto the floor like the year before!) I gave the camera a thumbs up!
With my red-ribboned medal round my neck, I was happy - I had made it! Months of training and mileage, ending in two marathons in two weeks, smashed and £3,000 raised for a charity that won’t stop until the one in four people affected by mental health conditions gets the help they deserve and so desperately need.
To date I have raised over £8,000 for Mind. As well as running, I have found confidence in my creativity again and now sell my arts and crafts for Mind. I’ve held Crafternoons, pub quizzes, bake sales and sweepstakes.
"Running and fundraising for Mind has given me the strength to be open about by mental health."
I’ve probably pestered every person I know for sponsorship, but all of it has helped me speak out. Running and fundraising for Mind has given me the strength to be open about by mental health and engage in open discussions with colleagues and friends. I now talk openly at work about my health and try not to cover up difficult days. People ask how I am, and often want to talk about their own mental health, or a friend’s. I’m honoured that I’ve become someone they feel comfortable talking to.
As someone with Bipolar Disorder, fundraising for Mind has been an incredible experience. It has been an absolute honour to run for Mind again this year and I could not be more proud. I am lucky to be a member of such a wonderful running family – I’ve never met such an inspiring and supportive group.
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