Running my way through grief, not away from it…

I don’t know much about mental health, I’ve never seen a professional to help me, I’ve never even talked to many people about it. Actually, that’s a lie, in moments of weakness and often very drunk, I have talked about it (well I’ve cried about it and made my friends feel uncomfortable).

In 2013 while pregnant with my second child, my mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She had been sick for a couple of months and time after time was misdiagnosed by doctors. Then in the March a few weeks before my due date, we were told she was very sick. I think my whole world was turned upside down when my dad sat me down to explain.

I was 9 months pregnant at the time, it should have been the happiest time of my life but it had turned into a complete nightmare. I tried everything possible to get the baby out so I could be more useful and help with my mum. The midwives tried all sorts to get me to go into labour naturally quicker but no, the baby was too high up. Apparently, I was too stressed and tense and in the words of the midwife “Had sucked the baby up higher and there was no moving him”. The joy, I had a sick mother that I could barely help because I was the size of a beached whale and a baby that I had managed to trap inside my body. Honestly, I was done. I had never felt so useless.

April the 21st my gorgeous little boy was born. My mum had planned to be there with me but due to her being so ill, she couldn’t even come into the hospital. And when I was allowed home she couldn’t even hold him for long because she was so weak. I was absolutely heartbroken.

So, there I was with a newborn baby and a very poorly mum, I had no idea what to do. I had health visitors checking on me every day and MacMillan nurses turning up at my mum’s “to chat”. I know they were trying their best to be helpful but I felt like the walls were coming in on me. Day after day became the same. I needed to escape.

And that’s when I went running. I ran and I ran and I ran until it hurt. And on each run I would cry and cry and cry until I had nothing left in me. And it felt really good. I felt free. Free of everything that was going on. It only lasted as long as the run did but in those minutes I was able to breathe, I was able to just be me and I was able to forget what was happening at home.

Now I’m not saying running will make everything better, because of course it doesn’t. My Mum got sicker and sicker and in the October, she passed away. I was absolutely devastated. I couldn’t talk about it, I didn’t have time to. I had a baby, my oldest little boy and my dad to look after. My only time to myself was when I went running. It was then that I had time to grieve. I would think about my mum, listen to her favourite Motown songs and even have conversations with her. I would cry uncontrollably.

Is running the best or right way to deal with grief? Obviously, it’s down to the individual, everyone will have their own way to deal with things. I’m not sure about the science behind it all but it definitely did something to help me. And I’m not alone, lots of people I’ve met while running have told a similar tale. How they had lost a loved one and how starting running helped them with the grieving process.

I will never ever get over losing my mum and I will never stop grieving for her. But running saved me from a dark place, it gave me the ability to move forward. It introduced me to new people and it gave me so many new wonderful friends. Friends that have become family. And I know that every time I achieve something, be it a good time in a race, becoming a run champion and run leader or all the fab things that I’ve done with the Pencoed Panthers this year, she has been right there watching over me, super proud (I’m also pretty sure she finds it all a little amusing too, after all her little girl hated running and PE as a child!!)

By Emma Marshall

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