I have run many half marathons over the last few years so what was so different about this one?
I was initially contacted by the event organisers, Sole Motive, in May who invited me to participate in the Sandy Point Half Marathon. Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I was signed up, had set up a team and was planning to bring a crew of Evolution Runners along for the ride. And boy, what a ride it was!! As the weeks went by it went from sharing a great event with my crew, to setting up group training for those undertaking the 10km and half marathon events, through to coordinating all the logistics of getting everyone there, back and looked after on the day.
I had the skills and experience to do all these things. I have been coaching for a few years now and have experience with planning events and was comfortable with the race distance.
I was blown away by how many got on board and wanted to be part of it all.
Winter is always a hard time to keep up with our training and doing this together made it so much easier. Don’t be deceived though…the training wasn’t easy. Not only did they endure the winter conditions in Ballarat but I also had them running hills in their long training runs, something which some of them had never done before. I knew the course for Sandy Point was going to be flat but I also knew the benefits of hill running especially as part of our long runs.
They were champions and took on whatever I asked them to do. Fartlek sessions, hill repeats, intervals, stairs and so much more! They did it all, trusting in the process and trusting me to help them reach their goals.
But during this time I was struggling…big time!
My mental health has been on a steady decline over the last 6 months and this added challenge of training a group of runners and organising everything we needed for race day was really pushing me to my limits. So why do it? Why take on something that is going to cause me stress and push my mental boundries? Why do this to myself? Because helping others to reach their goals gives me purpose, distracts me from my own demons and pushes me to keep up with my own training. Without these guys I wouldn’t get up early on a Saturday morning to go running in the rain and cold of winter, I wouldn’t push myself to run hills. I’ll be honest and say that I probably wouldn’t be running at all right now if it wasn’t for them.
The truth is I rarely leave my house anymore unless I’m running. I work from home and home has become my safe place where I can hide from the rest of the world. Even now as I write this I’m wearing the same leggings and tshirt I have put on each morning this week when I get up, my bed isn’t made, the washing is piling up, the floors are dirty, I haven’t had a shower or even brushed my hair. Nobody sees that side and I do my best to hide it.
The struggle to get out the door to run is immense but somehow I still manage to push myself to do it. I know that when I have done it that I will feel better. Getting out there and running with others has been a huge part of helping me to survive. I am so lucky to have a group of runners who are amazingly supportive of each other and me. These guys are not just my clients but my friends. Some of them are also struggling with their own demons and going through the process of training for this event has helped them in so many ways. The satisfaction of being able to have a positive impact on someone else’s life is why I keep doing this and I hope that by being open and honest about my own struggles it will help to break down the barriers and stigma associated with mental illness.
In the final days leading up to Sandy Point my mind had reached overload and my sleep suffered. With only about 6 hours sleep over the 3 days leading up to the event and almost no sleep the night before I had no idea how my run would go. I hadn’t had the chance to mentally prepare myself to run as all my focus had been on everyone else and organising everything for the day.
Race day came and it was a very early start.
Brighton was almost a 2 hour drive away. We hired a coach and travelled together which added to the excitement of the day. Leaving Ballarat before 5am we were excited to get there and run. We arrived to very windy conditions. It was freezing cold and wet. We braved the cold and still ran in our club singlets. We needed to dig deep and push through strong headwinds for the first half of the course. We had trained in similar conditions combined with hills so I knew everyone would still do well.
The out and back course meant that we were able to see all of our team mates out on course and the bright coloured team singlets made it easier to spot us. I was able to cheer for every member of my team out on course. I was proud of how well they were all doing and knew some of them were smashing their goals.
There was one point during the run that I had called out to several of my team members by name and offered them encouragement. A girl running next to me turned and looked at me with a puzzled look on her face like ‘how do you know all those people?’ and I looked at her and said proudly ‘that’s my crew’.
This really lifted me and distracted me from how much I was struggling.
I had no energy and was just running on auto pilot. I pushed harder in the second half of the event. The headwinds on the way out had taken their toll but I always try to bring the run home strong.
I switched off to what was happening around me and just focused on getting to the finish line. I could hear my team cheering for me as I entered the finish chute but I was focussed on that line. I didn’t take a moment to process what I had just done and didn’t even look at my Garmin to see what time I got. I frantically got my phone out so I could capture my fellow team mates crossing the line behind me. Seeing them finish and the joy they felt was amazing!
The high in the group was incredible.
Everyone had run so well and they had smashed their goals! We headed out to lunch to celebrate before our return trip to Ballarat. I was exhausted and struggled to eat as I was nauseous. I was relieved it was all over but still had this heavy feeling in my chest, the stress was still there. Two of my lovely team mates that I was sitting with said that it was because of me that this all happened, that they all achieved what they did and that we were all there together as a team supporting each other and enjoying a great day out. This hit me and tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t ask for anything in return so it really touched me just how genuine they were.
We are currently in recovery mode and are about to do it all again in preparation for our next event…Melbourne Marathon Festival.