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Stephen is running the Swansea half marathon for Mind to help with his depression and anxiety.
My name’s Stephen and I’m running the Swansea Half Marathon in June. My love of running began around two years ago when I read an article that talked about how running can help your mental health. I have anxiety and depression so I thought I would give it a go.
"Within two weeks I went from being able to run almost 5km, to struggling to walk upstairs"
I started off pretty slowly and painfully, following a couch to 5km app. However, towards the end of my training I was diagnosed with meningitis and hospitalised for two weeks. I was kept in isolation and told it was too dangerous for my little boy Dylan to visit, as he was under the age of one. It was incredibly hard to be away from my family, but I was very well looked after by the hospital staff. Within two weeks I went from being able to run almost 5km, to struggling to walk upstairs.
I was told to rest for three to six months and I really felt depressed and defeated, it was really hard to get motivated again but I was eager to get back to running. My brother does a lot of running and when I said I was starting again, he was the first person to offer help.
"It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I didn’t stop once and really enjoyed myself."
I started by joining my local park run and trained as often as I could. At the beginning of last year I decided I would set myself a goal and signed up to the Cardiff Half Marathon. I trained hard and although the running made me feel happier, my slow progress made me feel down and my anxieties always played a part in how well and when I could train.
But I was determined to run it. I didn’t run for a charity but for my own mental healthand completed the run quicker than I could have dreamt. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I didn’t stop once and really enjoyed myself.
I decided at the end of the race that the next half marathon I would take part in would be in Swansea, and that I’d run for Mind.
As luck would have it, Mind became the charity of choice at the DVLA, where I work. An article was posted on the intranet asking for runners to take part in the Swansea Half Marathon as part of the corporate challenge, with the fastest team getting a bonus for their charity at the end.
"Running with anxiety and depression is not easy... I have to stop and force myself to run again."
I’ve known about Mind and the work the charity does for mental health for some time. As I’ve had to deal with prejudice and discrimination in the past because of my own mental health, I couldn’t think of a better way to do my bit. I’ve also recently become a Time to Change Wales Champion and I even did my very first talk to a men’s health group at Neath Port Talbot Mind.
So far, my training is going well and although I’ve had to rest for a few days due to an ankle injury, I’m very motivated to get back into running.
Running with anxiety and depression is not easy and I have to vary my routes, or the aches and pains I suffer get the better of me and I have to stop and force myself to run again. I am getting stronger and hope that completing another half marathon will inspire me to take part in more events for Mind in the future.
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