Why I run.

Inspired by some of my fellow Run Wales bloggers I thought I’d share with you why I run.

At the age of 16 I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. My self-confidence was at rock bottom and stayed there for a number of years because quite honestly when you drop to the floor, losing consciousness and control of your bodily functions there’s not much for a 16 year old to cheer about.

My condition affected what I could and couldn’t do and I felt like I had no control over my own life. Even though I was doing amazing things like moving out of home for university and getting married, I still didn’t feel like ‘me’ anymore.

I had to take a year out of university due to the amount of seizures I was having and that was the point where I reached rock bottom.

I felt trapped in my house as I was scared to leave in case I had a seizure in the street. After returning to university I completed my degree with a 2:1. (at this point my Epilepsy was being controlled a bit more so there were more good days than bad) Although proud of myself, I still didn’t have the confidence.

Now here’s the ‘medically’ bit. Triggers cause my epilepsy, different people have different ones but my main ones are: lack of sleep, excessive (whoops) alcohol, anxiety and here’s the big one folks – stress! Now, it’s quite easy to say to someone “well, don’t let yourself get stressed then” and believe me I’ve tried not to get stressed but it is much easier said than done.

What I started to do instead was just shove everything to the back of my mind and pretend I wasn’t stressed because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. Anyone with any sort of long term condition or illness will tell you, the worst thing is your friends and family worrying about you, so I pushed everything to the back of my mind, pretended I was fine and carried on. It would then come out through my epilepsy in a jerk (involuntary muscle movement), sometimes one and sometimes multiple ones.

I graduated in September 2013 and started working for a couple of supply teaching assistant agencies until I got a full time job at a school in November 2014. Over that time, I’d also been trying the NHS couch to 5k podcasts but for some reason could never get past week 6, but I’d had my first taste! Fast forward to January 2016 and after a house move and a bit of a lull in my running attempts I bit the bullet and signed up to the ‘Too Fat to Run?’ 5 weeks to 5k programme.

This was the moment my life changed.

These women were just like me! Up until this point most women I’d seen out running were pretty athletic and petite looking, I on the other hand am 5ft3” and over 14 stone, so not really your average runner. These ladies had the same worries, questions and all wanted to achieve the same thing as me – a 5k! Over the weeks of the online coaching programme I gained more and more confidence, running three times a week, chatting to the ladies in the private group, virtually cheering each other on and even posting videos from my phone! This running world was a whole new thing for me and not one I’d ever thought I’d find a place in but I had.

I soon became a member of the ‘Too Fat to Run?’ online running club called The Clubhouse where we chat about anything and everything (when I say everything, I mean everything) and even though these women are spread out over different, countries, continents and time zones they’ve become my great friends as well as a support network.

So why do I run? I run for the confidence it gives me, to feel strong, to be healthy. I run because it gives me peace of mind. Running releases the stress that I have no other way of expressing. It gives me the old me back that epilepsy stole away. When I’m running or even talking about running, I feel like I can conquer anything and isn’t that how we should all feel? Since completing that first 5 weeks to 5k programme I’ve gone on to do several 10k’s, a trail time trial, a ‘pretty muddy’ and the most special race – my first half marathon, where I got to raise money for Epilepsy Action, who have always been a source of support for myself and my family.

I will always be so grateful for the doctors who have worked with me, especially my consultant, as it’s been a long road to try and find the right medications for me, but I will forever thank running for letting me be me again, the confident, loud, hyper girl I was before I was diagnosed. To some this may seem over dramatic and maybe it is, but on Sunday mornings I used to sleep in until the afternoon and then just mope around, now every Sunday I lead a social running group for other women who want to make a change in their lives.

If you don’t think you’re a runner, I promise you, you are! If you think you don’t have the body for it, you do! And please if you have low confidence and are a little scared please have a look at the Run Wales social running groups and contact the one closest to you. Most of them have Facebook groups so you can chat to the leader first but I promise no matter how scary that first session may be for you, you will gain so much!

Happy Running!
Joey

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