Although it might look like we were all running the same race with our pinned on bibs and flushed faces, not only were we running different distances and some walking rather than running, but the runs themselves were very, very different.
I had a bout of depression again this winter, and although I haven’t regularly run for nearly 10 years, I committed to the race and the fundraising to help me get back my fitness, balance and energy for life. Likewise, I couldn’t see the complex journeys that brought the other runners to their particular race. When facing challenges around our wellbeing, the same is true. Unless I know you very well, I am not likely to see the factors influencing your race, even though it looks like we are covering the same ground.
Comparing our journey to another is often really not helpful – I think this particularly happens when we see someone we know in a similar situation to us who seems to cope better. It is not the same race – it is yours alone.
As a kid I remember the goal was to run without stopping as if any stopping was somehow cheating. For children this is probably important part of learning perseverance and how to pace themselves. However in my run – and in my training, sometimes a brief rest, or a stretch, or a walk is enough to keep me going in times when I feel knackered or completely out of breath.
While yes, I will work on my pacing in life and in running – sometimes life crises require us to speed up beyond what is useful long term – and slowing right down or stopping for a bit after is a great idea.
Goal setting is really important, but in times of struggle big goals are just too big. Running is a great metaphor for wellness, because on some days when I have been training for a while it just feels easy; I can go the distance, the endorphins kick in and I feel fit and strong.
On other days, it’s hard work. Sometimes it’s even too hard to do anything but walk. There is a lot to be said for focussing on the bite sized goals that get you there.
For people really struggling with their mental wellbeing, some days this might be as little as getting into the shower, and trying not to beat themselves up. Every little bit helps, and there will be other times when you are able to do more.
We run our races alone – but the hard parts and the hills and especially the good bits are enhanced when you have people around you. As the Mental Health Foundation describes it in the Five Ways to Wellbeing – we need to connect (and be active!).
I believe human beings are designed to support each other; we flourish when we are in communities where we feel there is understanding and unity. It is easier to run knowing others are also puffing and sweating beside us. It’s easier to keep going in the hard parts when people are cheering from the sidelines.