Badass Mum Katie on how Running Built her Confidence and Calms her Anxiety
This is me after I ran my first marathon. Thing is, had you told me in my youth that I would end up running a marathon in my late thirties, I suspect I would have laughed in your face. I was not (and have never really been) an “athlete”. At school I spent more energy trying to devise creative ways to avoid PE than actually participating. Throughout my adult life though, I have always admired the dedication of runners, and secretly been a bit envious of their drive and motivation. But self-conscious, anxious and horribly out of shape, I never imagined for a second that could be me.
For as long as I can remember, I have also been a victim of my lack of self-belief. Too many times in my personal and my professional life, I’ve allowed myself to be defined by my insecurities or a fear of what other people think of me. I’ve had ongoing struggles with my mental health, from crippling postnatal anxiety, to disordered eating, to panic attacks. Since my husband and I emigrated to the USA for work ten years ago, it has been challenging to raise a family without much of “a village”. I struggled with a lack of purpose as I tried to rediscover my identity as a mum to three kids in an unfamiliar country. I felt hugely unfulfilled, and yet immensely overwhelmed at the same time. It was like I didn’t have control over my life, my time, my body, or my mind.
Then two years ago, I discovered running through a group of strong, inspirational women who I am still so lucky to call my friends. All mothers themselves, I saw how they would join each other for a morning run, sometimes with their kid in tow in a jogger, sometimes stopping for coffee afterwards. To be honest, I had FOMO. I was lonely and I had never appreciated that running could be a social event, a way of staying active and getting out of the house whilst chatting with friends. I wasn’t very good at it at first, but they encouraged me that it didn’t matter how fast or far I could go. No one was watching. With the accountability of running with others, I saw how quickly I progressed. Small goals suddenly felt achievable, because to a degree, I was in control. I had no specific long-term goals in mind, but I found myself excited by the challenge. This was refreshing (and welcome) in an existence where I felt I had lost direction. After years of feeling that I wasn’t enough, my running journey marked the beginning of a better appreciation for what my body and my mind are capable of.
TWO YEARS ON, AND I’M PROBABLY SLIGHTLY ADDICTED TO RUNNING NOW. IT HAS ENRICHED MY LIFE SO MUCH THAT IT HAS BECOME PART OF MY IDENTITY. AND IT IS ALSO A CRUCIAL PART OF HOW I MANAGE MY MENTAL HEALTH AND MY ANXIETY – I RUN FOR SANITY NOT VANITY!
When I run, I feel strong and capable, it offers me escapism and it calms my mind. Last spring, I became a running coach with the hope that if I share just a little bit of my story and love for running, I could help another person who identifies with my journey to feel a little less lost. An added bonus? My running mama friends have become my friends for life – we have quite literally spent countless ‘miles’ of
our lives together, and through running I found the village I had been missing. So after a handful of small fun
runs, two half marathons, two Ragnars, and a full marathon later - as I have completed races (big or small) - I keep being reminded that the disbelief I have had in my own self-worth all this time has been a false obstacle, because there really is no limitation to what I can achieve with the right support network and when I believe in myself.