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“I still can't believe I ran the marathon for MQ”

This year, Sarah ran her first marathon – raising over £7,600 for MQ. She writes about why she chose MQ and what she hopes the money she raised can achieve.

This year I completed the London Marathon, a feat that I never ever thought was possible. But after 9 months of training, I somehow managed it.

It’s been a long journey. At the beginning of August 2018, despite doing a fair bit of exercise, I really couldn’t run for more than 2 minutes as I embarked on the "Couch to 10k" programme. But on 28 April, I ran for over 5 hours - it's amazing what a bit of determination, dedication and stubbornness can achieve!

Not only did I run a marathon, but I also raised £7,600 for MQ.

A marathon is not only about physical strength, but mental strength, and I was lucky to have that on my side.

Getting to the finish line was never a doubt in my mind, but there were some very tough moments. At many points I had tears in my eyes, the moments when friends and family suddenly appeared out of nowhere, like knights in shining armour, willing me on.

But I and so many of the people I love have struggled with mental health, which is why I chose to run for MQ and what kept me going on marathon day.

The first month or so after the birth of my first child, I didn't feel the joy so many experience.

It was a massive shock to my system. When you’re pregnant, you do so much to prepare for birth - but very little prepares you for life with a baby.

My life changed overnight. I felt like my independence had been snatched away, as I went from a working woman to a mother with a wholly dependent baby. It was very overwhelming at times - I remember walking around the local park in tears thinking my life was over. Although I was never officially diagnosed with post-natal depression, and thankfully I got better quickly, it was hard to have those moments where I thought, “I’m not sure I can do this” and to not feel automatic love for one's baby. 

My husband has also had periods where he’s really struggled with anxiety and sleep deprivation. A stressful job is the main cause of these "attacks" - it is horrid to see the person you love be broken down by anxiety.

But the mental health issues that hit me the hardest are the experiences of two members of my extended family – one who is severely anorexic and another who has schizophrenia.  

They’ve both struggled with these conditions since they were in their teens and have found it really difficult to find the best treatments for them, or ways to cope with day-to-day life without being dependent on other people. There are certainly better months and years, but it breaks my heart to see these two amazing people suffer and the effect it has on their immediate family.

1 in 4 of us will be affected by mental illness at some point in our lives and as a mother, I worry about what my children may experience. That said, I’m also thankful that they’re growing up in a different time – where mental health is talked about at school, in the media and accepted in a way that it wasn't for past generations.

Despite these changes, it’s still not easy to get the right help. That’s why MQ’s vision really resonated with me. 

Research is a really important piece of the puzzle. I hope the money I raise for MQ can help fund projects that look into detecting who’s at risk of developing mental illness and why, so we can spot the signs early and get people the right support sooner. I would also like awareness to be continued to be raised so that if someone is suffering, they do not feel ashamed and know whom to turn to and where to go.

But it can’t just be researchers that hold that information – these findings need to be shared with everyone in a way that the wider population can understand. I’d love to see more accessible literature on mental health; at ante-natal classes, on social media, in children's storybooks and in the workplace.

I am a strong believer that together we can make a huge difference to so many people who suffer with mental illness and perhaps one day eliminate it.

If you'd like to run, swim, cycle or get muddy to help transform what it means to experience mental illness, check out this page.

Last updated: 14 June 2019

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