Why do human beings need adventure? Why do we crave new experiences? Why do I push my boundaries and say yes to scary things? Why do I run?
Running is hard! It’s a challenge. It can feel like you’re just really bad at it but it can also make you feel amazing and it’s given me so much.
This blog is inspired by fellow Chiltern Harrier Rik’s blog about why he runs. Read Why am I doing this? if you are a runner, and even if you’re not. If you’re a runner you will be saying yes, yes, yes, yes Rik! And if you’re not a runner, this might inspire you to give it a try.
The most important reason I run
The biggest reason I run is that it seems to help my skin heal. I’m positive it’s been paramount in my Topical Steroid Withdrawal healing journey, and when things got so bad I couldn’t run, it was much harder and slower to heal. It really honestly does help. If you are going through TSW you need to try to move as much as you can, whether that’s walking, yoga or running, MOVE! It’s advice that Dr Sato, a dermatologist in Japan who has been treating people with TSW for years, gives to his patients. I’ve also just started reading Iron Skin, a TSW memoir by Brendan John Lee about his journey to healing from topical steroid withdrawal. How does he think he’s healed? By running! I highly recommend his book, it’s well written, heart breaking and moving and for anyone going through TSW, highly educational too.
Why take the risk?
Why do I push myself? To say yes, when sometimes things scare me? To put myself in risky situations like eating out, when I know I am severely allergic to nuts and dairy? Why do I accept challenges that put me way out of my comfort zone?
Because even though sometimes, having life threatening allergies can be terrifying, life can’t be lived by hiding at home. Having eczema and topical steroid withdrawal can make any exercise a challenge but again, going out for painful; but uncomfortable runs while my skin was pretty bad did help me heal.
If you just say no. Give in. Sit and wait to heal. If you live in a bubble, life won’t come to you. You have to go out there and grab it! I think it’s the same with healing. You CAN have an effect on your healing journey. You can make that journey better.
Living through this lockdown has made many of us feel isolated and like we are trapped at home. For me, it’s actually been a revelation. It took away a lot of the normal anxieties, like meals out, dinner invitations, coffee shops, going on dates! I had a healing crisis (really shitty skin from topical steroid withdrawal) which meant no pressure to go out, be seen or visit anyone. I could legitimately hide my face. Face masks have double benefits for people in TSW! But recently I realised I’ve used it as an excuse to stay at home in my safe place.
And that’s OK. At times it’s good to make your world smaller so you can find some strength to carry on. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and what’s important to me over these last few months and I’ve actually thrived during this period of isolation. But now we are all coming out of our homes and trying to get back to some kind of new normal, it’s got me thinking.
Whilst some of the limitations I place on myself must remain, such as always carrying two adrenaline auto-injectors, my inhaler, always planning and checking meals out. Carefully planning holidays and yes, my holiday destinations are limited to countries and places where I can have some control over my eating environment. And that’s OK with me. If I have my running shoes, my hiking boots, books, music, coffee, cake and beer I’m in heaven.
Now I am saying yes to things, because having faced death a few too many times, from ashthma and anaphylactic reactions, I am just so grateful to be here. I feel alive. I feel so bloody alive!
I love my life, my home, my family and my amazing friends and support network. Thank you all for being there for me.
And throughout this period of isolation, the healing, the realisations and the lessons I’ve learnt have often solidified on a run. Running was the one constant throughout lockdown. I ran, from day one.
I ran because it made me feel alive.
I ran because if my exercise was mandated and restricted I was going to use it!
I ran because I live alone and getting out of the house on a daily basis is good for the soul.
Because I have always loved running, since I was a child. It comes naturally to me. That feeling of stretching the legs, lengthening the stride and feeling the muscles burn.
That feeling of running so hard you can’t go another step further.
Because the sound of my feet hitting the ground, the birds singing and the wind in the trees made me feel free.
I ran to see the bluebells, that carpet of colour that never fails to lift my spirit. The smell of the delicate violet flowers is one of my favourites.
I ran to see the rhododendrons with their huge blowsy displays that transformed the woods into another world.
I ran with an eye for all the faces on the ancient tree trunks; some smiling, some sad, some threatening to whomp down a branch if you weren’t careful. Some cheeky, winking, crying, screaming and even some very rude ones!
The fallen branches resembling creatures just waiting to pounce or guarding secret lands.
Sometimes I can almost hear the trees speaking and buds unfurling; to me the woods are magical and alive.
During lockdown I ran to get out, to get through it, to make sense of it, to renew, to heal, to grow, to think, to learn, to cry, to live!
And now I run… whenever I can. When I am fit and able, you can find me running.
I run on trails, through fields, woods and countryside because being in nature fills me up.
I have run to get faster, because there is nothing quite like a PB, a crown or a medal after a race.
Because even a really rubbish run lifts my mood.
More lately I run just for the joy of it, with no eye on the time, just BECAUSE I am alive and able! I am so grateful that I can run.
I run because the place where I live is so beautiful, mostly unappreciated and blissfully quiet.
And it wasn’t because there was a running club session in my diary, or because it was Parkrun, although I do miss Parkrun. I got involved with Fly5k – the virtual run anywhere Saturday 5k. It’s free to take part and you get to see your time alongside other local and global runners! It has an active Facebook page where you can share your PBs, run selfies and congratulate others. But most of all it’s fun and is one of the things that’s given me back that buzz to strive for faster times! Lockdown made me slow and steady. Fly5k gave me a lifetime PB of 23:44 🙂
Running wasn’t just a hobby or a commitment to get fit like it used to be.
I realised I ran because I had to.
Because things were harder when I didn’t.
Because any problem seemed less scary after a run.
Because sometimes you get those runs where it just feels so right, like you were put here to run and in this moment you are right where you need to be.
And some runs that are just bloody awful and you think you’re just really crap at it and should give up… and HATE it all the way round. But then feel that smug feeling that you just earned cake washing over you…
And now I run for the sheer joy of it.
Because I can feel the pistons, muscles and ligaments all working to keep me upright and moving fowards.
Because no two runs are the same.
Because I have made so many amazing friends through taking up running. Not met a miserable runner yet! (Ok maybe that man who screamed at the rain for making him wet… he was miserable)
Because that feeling when your legs ache so deep inside your muscles comes with a smug satisfaction that you ran 😉
Because I’ve discovered a love for trying new paths with no idea where they go.
And I don’t care if I get lost.
Because it’s making me learn to read maps properly… because one time I got very lost!
Because I love cake #runsforcake
Because it heals me. My skin improves from the sweating and concentration. I am rarely itchy on a run. The sweating helps toxin elimination, so as someone with eczema and topical steroid withdrawal, it’s part of my daily/weekly healing process. After the run is a different story… that’s all about the cool down. Look out for a blog on that soon!
I run alone.
I run with friends.
I love that you can enjoy a run with anyone, no matter what their speed or competencies. If they’re better than you it pushes you to try harder. But I also love running with friends who are slower than my normal pace because I want to attempt longer distances, for which I need to learn to slow my pace! I’m not great at tempering my enthusiasm sometimes. Basically if someone asks me to run with them, I say yes!
It is a privilege to run with friends who are just discovering running through Couch to 5K. You are amazing, all of you! Keep going!
I run because it gets me up and out of bed in the morning when there are no deadlines to motivate me.
I run to watch the sun rise and to chase the sun set.
I run to feel the wind chill my skin and still get the layers wrong every winter.
I run because it keeps me fit and is something I can do wherever I am, even on a cruise ship!
I’ve learnt to run mindfully, with just my watch and no music. Just me, the rhythm of my feet, the sensations of wind/sun/rain and the sounds around me and with no plan except to follow my feet. (Can’t quite leave the watch behind… because Strava!)
I run in the rain, to feel the cooling water on my face, all the time thinking of the hot bath I’ll have when I get home. Because as Rik says, that bath is always better after a run!
I run because of all the reasons Rik mentions in his blog. And so many more…
So when I was asked to write a book, I said yes! The writing process was therapy in itself.
‘Anaphylaxis: The Essential Guide: An Action Plan For Living With Life-Threatening Allergies’ is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. My aim in writing it was to help others embrace life when it all feels overwhelming. You can find out more about my new book here: Anaphylaxis – The Essential Guide reviews from readers.
One of the themes in the book is to try to come to an acceptance of this very life limiting condition but to not let it define you. You are not anaphylactic, not all the time. You are not having an allergic reaction all the time. You are a living, breathing, beautiful human being and you deserve the life you dreamed of. Fear and anxiety can be crippling, but you can learn to use that natural emotion to keep you safe, but not to hold you back.
One of the things that helped me the most was running and walking, although there are many, many more things that I now do daily. You’ll have to read my book to find out more!
Going out for a run was safe. Because I could maintain complete control of where I went, who with, how far and whether I stopped for refreshments. It was one of the first things that started to help me feel strong again, both physically and mentally.
Because I didn’t have to make any excuses and I didn’t feel different. It’s perfectly acceptable to just have a coffee if you can’t trust the food on offer. It’s OK to just drink your own water. It’s OK to bring your own food, because lots of people do anyway. It’s an excuse to take my own cake and even make cake for everyone else if I’m really organised!
It’s the reason I buy those freefrom gluten free Waitrose chocolate slices!
And so, I run. If I could run every day I would but the old knees need rest days.
What’s your thing? What are you doing to help you feel alive? To get out there! Tell me what you’re doing to push your boundaries.
I know it’s hard but you’re worth so much more…
Running, moving can help you heal and I really want you to discover the joy of movement too. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.
Photo: Taken by my Mum. Runner at Churt Sculpture Park.