Being a five-time marathon finisher, learning to run again and not being able to run for more than 1 minute felt bewildering and painfully frustrating
Since I first shared my story with This Girl Can, I’ve continued to run and this year I’ve been having a lot of fun riding my fixie bike around my new home in London!
I made a comeback to long distance running and completed the Amsterdam marathon, my first marathon for 7 years back in 2016. It was an incredible feeling, but it was short lived! I got an injury soon after and was told by doctors to take a year out of running to give my legs a rest. I swopped to cycling more but when I moved to London my environment became more built up, there were fewer green spaces and way more traffic. Cycling long distances suddenly felt less scenic and more fraught with danger. This led to me really cutting down on exercise for about a year, losing my fitness and gaining weight.
Having changed jobs to come to London I felt added pressure from not having exercise to manage my mental health. I became depressed and finding the motivation to try again was really tough. About 18 months ago I got the all clear from my doctor to run and I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k app. I thought I’d be able to skip a few weeks but no, I earnt every last step! It was a real mental challenge more than anything. Being a five-time marathon finisher, learning to run again and not being able to run for more than 1 minute felt bewildering and painfully frustrating.
I have had to rethink how I view my abilities, accept that I have got a bit older, my body shape has changed and renegotiate my goals with myself.
Even now the furthest I have run is 9 miles, which is not a huge upward curve in 18 months, but it still feels darn good to have come back from nothing. Managing the expectations on myself is a continuous journey and now I try to focus on every breathe being good for my body, instead of striving for more and more miles. Everything counts.
I can’t emphasise enough how important mental health has been in my motivation to be active.
I had a nervous breakdown 12 years ago, I am diagnosed with Complex PTSD and I am a transgender woman living in a society that is often hostile to me.
Exercise makes me feel alive, releases feel good chemicals way better than any of the drugs I used to take to self-medicate and keeps me positive in a stressful world. It is something I do for me and I am really proud that I am active still, regardless of the setbacks, injuries and missed goals. I have been exercising for 18 years and I have never once come home from a run, a walk or cycle, feeling worse that when I left the house. I feel better every single time, no matter how hard it is.
My flatmate had coronavirus back in March and the doctor thinks I probably picked it up as well, though my symptoms weren’t so obvious. Five months on I find I still get really breathless on some days when running, so I’m inconsistent – one day I can run 1 mile, another 5 miles. But no more than that. It’s frustrating as I was up to 9 miles before COVID appeared, but I’m still grateful to be running at all.
On the positive side though, the lack of traffic in London has given me the confidence to get out on my fixie (single speed) bike so I am spending a lot of time riding all over London and building up strength without gears to help. Luckily, London is pretty flat!
Now restrictions easing and more activities are starting up again, I’m looking forward to checking out a local Queer Running Club and Queer Basketball Club that meet regularly in East London and making some new friends. I love exercising alone, but you never know what opportunities come along when you’re prepared to be sociable.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in Megan’s story, you can find advice and support from mental health charities, organisations and support groups at nhs.co.uk/conditions.