Tuesday is an important day of the week. Aside from the fact that society might disintegrate if Tuesday didn’t show up, it’s also my volunteering morning.
I mentioned on Day 1 of #REDBED that part of the purpose of this exercise is to raise money and awareness about mental health issues. I thought today would be a good time to have a look at this, from my own experience.
Back in 2015, I had a mental breakdown. It’s an oft misused comment, normally linked to a trivial anecdote, to be followed with a punchline and laughter.
Except a breakdown isn’t funny.
At the very least, it’s terrifying. I’m missing a chunk of my life where I existed seemingly in body only.
I did blog through this period and if you have the time or inclination I’d recommend having a skim through some of my writing in mid-2015. There’s no rose-tinted view on it, although I usually gave myself 24 hours to digest what was going on before committing pixels to the screen. So in a way it’s a tempered view, but at the same coherent.
It’s the only record I have for the months April – July as I don’t have any memory of what went on then. Probably for the best.
Anyway, during September 2015 I began to ‘wake up’. It really did feel like my mind had been shut down and sometime later switched back on again. I started being capable of making plans about moving forward. One such plan was to reintegrate myself back into dealing with people again, although this filled me with dread. I found a couple of volunteering vacancies advertised with my local National Trust property and managed to get myself an interview for both positions. And got both.
The birth of Lyme Runners
One of the roles was to set up a running group at the property. The brief was essentially a blank piece of paper and a Facebook page which had been set up. I had to do my ‘Run Leader‘ course as I would be leading a group. There was a road-map for aiming to have delivered 10+ sessions and to more than 10 people. Beyond that, it was completely left up to me (National Trust have no involvement with the group aside from that we are based in one of their properties).
Having survived the course (my concentration immediately post breakdown was very limited; 10 minutes of reading could take 24 hours to recover from) we agreed a date and time in the October for the group to meet. Due to it being within a National Trust park, we decided that a weekday morning slot would be appropriate. And I turned up and waited……
The group began very small. One runner – Hazel!! Over the next few weeks a couple of others drifted in and out, but by Christmas I was wondering what I’d need to do to get the word out about the group! However, come the New Year and a few more runners joined. It took until the February until I’d actually delivered a session to 10 different people, but that was a major milestone!
On the plus point, working with a small group allowed me to practice my session delivery in relatively easy conditions.
The group becomes… A GROUP!
As the spring moved on, the ‘slow burn’ was getting brighter and brighter. I regularly had about a dozen runners turning up each week. Most had some experience of running although mostly on road. The trail running aspect was new to many. So lots for everyone to learn. The Group grew, and by the time that Hazel & I reached our first Lyme Runners anniversary, we rarely had a group smaller than 16. Not bad for a weekday morning group!
2 years and counting
October 2017 marked the group’s second anniversary. It also, from a personal point of view, marked my 2nd anniversary having ‘woken up’. Both were ‘silent’ anniversaries; in truth I forgot the exact date for the Group. However, it was a far cry from the 1:1 run group in October 2015 as the group on that day was 32 people!
Over that time, everyone in the group has been supportive of each other, helping each other out, coming with oodles of enthusiasm and, from a group leader point of view, making things as easy for me as they could be. The challenge now has become how to maintain the group so that everyone continues to benefit from the sessions. We ‘crowd-funded’ another Run Leader course so that we don’t look like an overgrown school party that’s got out of hand and now can do different things simultaneously with the group. I returned to study as a Running Coach, so that I had more knowledge with which to guide the group in the future.
To wrap up
I started this blog explaining about how my breakdown had left me in a very fragile place. Through my interest in running, I have managed to re-build some of my confidence by helping others experience the enjoyment of running in a beautiful place. That group is a fully self-supported social network of people who look out for each other, and it’s fantastic to be a part of that. Hopefully that will continue long into the future!
As I highlighted, Tuesday is Run Group Day. If it wasn’t, calling it ‘Tuesday Run Group’ would seem very strange. Anyway, here is this morning’s run:
I also do a track session on a Tuesday evening. That focuses on my own run training and to try to eek out whatever performance I can get out of me. The route isn’t scenic and it probably isn’t pretty to observe. But it’s a necessary thing for my own development as a runner!