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- ‘St. Patricks Day’: How it is celebrated in Ireland and around the world
Running with a Black Dog – Part 5 – 13 Miles for Matt
I did it! I ran and completed the Fleet half-marathon. I woke at 5am in the morning very nervous, feeling the emotion and a bit quiet. For frequent runners of such events, I’m sure their routine was mapped out. I was unsure. Many years ago, I promised myself if I ever took part in a race like this I would wear the names of all those family members who had departed on my shirt. This wasn’t possible as I would be collecting my shirt on the day. Instead I posted their names and requested their love and support. Not sure how connected “Heaven” is, but thought I would send it out there anyway… The weather was perfect. Dry, blue skies and a warming sun rising. We packed the family in the car and off we went to Fleet for the first time. I sat in the front stuffing my face with fruit, nuts, chocolate milk and water whilst the children sat in the back and sang along to Dolly Parton, as usual…
I felt much relief upon arriving at the park and finding The Matthew Elvidge Trust tent. The pre-race morning was the part of the day I wanted to get out of the way. All I could focus on was standing at the start in amongst the crowds on my own, ready to start running. Four months of dedicated training and life-changing focus had led me to this very point. The best part of £2,000 sponsorship rested on my shoulders. My own ambition reprised, a need to achieve, a trait I had pretty much surrendered in myself was to the fore. I felt very much prepared and in the moment. I felt good, I had ran 10 miles on the Tuesday before in a good time. This informed me that I was capable of running the distance. (Matt Dawson and his hill reps session the week before is of course, my reason for making it! He swam the channel once you know, he may have mentioned it!)
The atmosphere in Fleet was great, with lots of happy faces everywhere. I kissed my family off, a glint of red eye between Mrs Kelly and I, whilst the children enquired of the next available snack-time…
Far From A Maddening Crowd
Off we went, 3,000 runners all moving towards the same conclusion. Personal battles with the clock or an aging body, a pure love of running, improved fitness targets / PB’s to be met, happy to just finish people, or wondering if dressing like a banana would still be as amusing two hours later…. it was! The number of people wearing the Trust shirt was really impressive. I used them as my way of marking my progress ahead. My first issue was the sudden confusion of running in such numbers, surrounded on the roadside by even more faces. I had been running in circles on my own at night for months… Suddenly there were people everywhere. This threw me for the first three miles. I gave myself a good talking to and settled soon after.
The support of the crowds was immense. The kindness of strangers is an invaluable commodity in this world. It’s there much more often than we dare give credit. I was able to see my family twice on the route, which was really special. As we made our way through the miles you began to run and chat with other runners. Had some wonderful conversations en route with people. Runners supporting one another, encouraging and helping them on. Really special. I had promised myself a sprint finish whilst training and I had a wee bit left in the tank to do this. The finish line was at the bottom of the hill. Not knowing the course, my spectacular full sprint I guessed at being well under 100 metres, ended up being a lot longer! So I had to endure the personal humiliation of walking very slowly over the line as the clock ticked over to 1:48.00.
Once the waves of sickness subsided, the emotion drew up. I was spent. I really had pushed myself hard to run the 13 miles. I won’t describe the run mile-by-mile but the course is great, the setting beautiful, the crowds large and supportive. The sun warmed your back as a cool spring breeze cooled your face. I was pretty strong throughout but when hitting ten miles the effort and heat were getting to me. I took a 250 yard stroll and that gave me a chance to catch my breath and restart with a renewed energy. A couple of short walks at thirteen miles were frustrating but required.
Kelly-Jelly Legs & Happy Tears
The girls handing out the medals must have seen some sights that day, and I’m sure the sight of a crying man in tights bowing before her to hide his sweating contorted face, would reappear as a terrible memory of the day! I collected myself momentarily, collected a souvenir bag, bottles of lurid orange drink and drank them with some gusto. My legs were jelly-like and I needed to see the family. I located the Trust tent and wobbled over. An opening occurred in the crowds and I could see them looking out for me. (This is where it all goes slow-mo and Hollywood!) My wife saw me and smiled, then my son saw me and shouted “Daddy!”, quickly followed by my little girl.
The sight of these two wonderful little creatures sprinting towards me and smiling, dropped me to my knees and I swept them up in my arms hugging and kissing them. Kim swiftly joined us and the tears (mainly mine!) rolled and flowed. All the emotional hubris, the accumulated strains and the pure joy of achievement erupted out of me again. My son started crying as he thought I was in pain, but I quickly told him they were happy tears. He was soon back smiling! I promised him when he turns 16 years old, we will run a half-marathon together. I really hope its Fleet in a ’13 Miles For Matt Trust’ shirt…
The Happiness Of The Long Distance Runner
The day was made complete by the invitation a few days beforehand to give a talk about my experience to all the runners and supporters of The Matthew Elvidge Trust. A much enjoyed and generous lunch was an opportunity for everyone to understand what invaluable work has been carried out by the Trust since last years race. Mr Elvidge very kindly asked me to tell my story that was very much initiated by the talk he gave at my place of work last November. I was extremely unsure about doing it in the morning, and also after the race. Such an emotive tale I had only told in digital ink, which I have been told on numerous occasions makes me ‘brave’, although I have never felt like that about it. I didn’t wish to break down in front of people for all our sakes! I had nothing planned, no idea what I was going to say. Even as Mr Elvidge handed me the microphone and I stood before 250 people, I still didn’t know what I would say…
The strangest thing about doing the five-minute talk is that although I was unsure, I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious, nor was I scared. I had doubts because of a presumed behavioural outcome… crying like a baby! Before, during and after the whole talk, I felt one thing: Calm. I felt at ease with myself, with the audience and with telling my story of a man who four months ago was confined to bed with depression for three days, wracked with death and suicidal thoughts, anxiety, self-loathing, a drink issue, leading a very depressed life… To then become the person who has found himself, engaged in a defined period of recovery, changed his diet, embarked on a course of frequent exercise, practically given up alcohol, taken medication and CBT, seen life without depressed eyes, saved his marriage, engaged with his own children again, raised £2,000, openly discussed his poor mental health with family, friends and work colleagues, helped and encouraged others and successfully ran ’13 Miles For Matt’. This isn’t me blowing my own trumpet, far from it. These are just the facts of the life I used to struggle in, and the changes you need to make to take the road to recovery from poor mental health. Quite how and why I have been able to do all this at this time, I honestly don’t know. Something switched in me – I think I got scared mainly by becoming truly damaged – and I grasped the opportunity. The race itself is a very small part of this story. As is running. It is swimming that really gets me there! The whole journey of self-discovery, learning who I am, how depression works to stop you working, talking constructively about how I feel and changing my life around for the better has been phenomenal. I am grateful for this time in my life. I shall look back with great fondness at the period when I truly became a man…
The End Of Chapter One
Running With A Black Dog has been read by well over 3,000 people now in three months. I am proud of the positive affect my speaking out has had on people I know and those I have never met. I am proud of the generosity of all those who sponsored me. I am proud of Mojomums giving me this platform to talk so openly. I am proud of being able to stand up and talk about the importance of talking through your issues. I am proud of my children and my family. I am proud of my wife for her patience, understanding, love and compassion. I am proud of my GP for recognising my illness and bring so supportive. I am proud of all those people who are looking to work their way through their poor mental health today and every day. I am proud of Hamish Elvidge for being an inspiring advocate for all sufferers, for standing up every day for the memory of his lost son and working so hard to reduce others suffering. He is a gentleman and I thank him most sincerely for helping start and close this first chapter of my life in recovery from poor mental health.
I may spend the rest of my life Running With A Black Dog. It will keep trying to bite me I’m sure, and I will throw it a distracting stick over great long distances… But I now know I am more than capable of barking back, taking hold of its lead and walking myself away into a healthier, happier life. Depression has taken a lot, but has also given me a lot of incredible learnings and deep emotional understanding of the depths the human condition can take us. Every day now is a balance. Every day is a fight. Every day is a blessing.
Take good care of yourself and your loved ones. We need each other…
To read Richards previous blog posts click here.