3. All In Your Head

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I swear it isn’t true…

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We Need To Talk About Running


For nearly three years I’ve written a blog about running and mental health, and in particularly the impact of exercise on mental health, and vice versa. I’ve gone from a non-runner seeing everyone else do it, to a seasoned marathon runner, who alas is still beaten by the unprepared drunk smoker. I’ve raced alongside men and women of every height, shape, size and disability and have had every sense of ego beaten out of me. More importantly, I hope my blogs have opened up a discussion about mental health, which still leaves millions suffering in silence due to the stigma attached, and the lack of government support for what is a huge problem in the UK and globally. Through running, sales and various other events online and offline, I’ve managed to raise around £5000 for Mind and it is without doubt the best thing I’ve done, except perhaps for inventing…

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I swear it isn’t true…


For nearly three years I’ve written a blog about running and mental health, and in particularly the impact of exercise on mental health, and vice versa. I’ve gone from a non-runner seeing everyone else do it, to a seasoned marathon runner, who alas is still beaten by the unprepared drunk smoker. I’ve raced alongside men and women of every height, shape, size and disability and have had every sense of ego beaten out of me. More importantly, I hope my blogs have opened up a discussion about mental health, which still leaves millions suffering in silence due to the stigma attached, and the lack of government support for what is a huge problem in the UK and globally. Through running, sales and various other events online and offline, I’ve managed to raise around £5000 for Mind and it is without doubt the best thing I’ve done, except perhaps for inventing the Snickers bagel.

However, I feel the need to apologise. I’ve written in depth of my own story, usually trying to use humour to keep people reading, thinking and supporting the cause. I’ve admitted my own battles with depression which have taken over much of my life, and which I’m aware will always be there. Sometimes it’s the only way I see my life ending, but then something comes along and gives you hope. It does always get better, we all hang on to that fact, but battling year after year can take its toll on anyone. All any of us can do is keep talking, listening, trying to understand and realising that whatever problem someone has, physical, mental or just a difficult time in life, we’re all here together.

So why am I apologising? Well, I’ve held back a lot in what I’ve wanted to write about. I don’t just suffer from depression although it’s been a huge part of my life. I find that easier to write about because it impacts more people and helps more people relate, Mind is big enough charity to make real positive change and needs our help. I wanted to fight stigma, and it remains slightly cool because Stephen Fry has it. I’m half joking.


Yet I have Tourette Syndrome. I hate the words. The sound of them, the sight of them, even grammatically, is it Tourette’s Syndrome? I suggest so given it’s named after someone called Tourette. Why couldn’t he have been called Gilles de la Awesome. I’ve got awesome syndrome. Or as the public seem to know it, hilarious swearing disease. The butt of many jokes in TV and films, always the same with someone swearing inappropriately at a person or quiet location. I’m yet to see a genuinely funny Tourette’s joke. Perhaps that’s my main problem with it. I’m more offended as a comedy fanboy than I am as a Tourette’s sufferer. I once mocked someone drunkenly walking into a lamppost and several seconds later twitched myself into the same lamppost and fell over. Tourettic retribution. The public perception has meant many people would have no idea I have it, some might not believe me now, some haven’t in the past. Sometimes I’ll be controlling it very well, maybe for months, but it is very much still there. More of you will of course be thinking, yeah, we knew all that you twitchy freak. And I have no problem with that.

The swearing or foot-in-mouth nature of Tourette’s is so ingrained is society that even the ever unpopular David Cameron could get away with using Tourette’s as a joke about someone talking too much. This attracted a couple of news stories that promptly disappeared with some even warming to him more for the joke. Imagine how long the story would have run if he’d make a joke about more physical disability. I’ve lost count of the number of comedians doing jokes about Tourette’s always with the same emphasis. Ricky Gervais caused controversy over the use of the word mong causing Scope to complain and other comedians such as Richard Herring to condemn him. Yet when Gervais found Tourette’s funny, there was no hint of a backlash. My main problem with his tweet about Tourette’s and laughing at THIS tshirt, is that unfortunately, some small part of me does find it mildly amusing.  But at no point have I denied being childish.

Somehow, there are two volumes of a book called ‘Pets with Tourette’s’, indicating the first collection of animal drawings swearing was sufficiently popular. I can’t claim to have read both books, so perhaps I am the ignorant one this time and it truly is the elegant prose you would expect from The Daily Sport’s ‘most hilarious book on the planet’. That should come as no surprise, given author Mark Leigh claims to have worked with luminaries including Rolf Harris AND Roy Chubby Brown.

If on the other hand you find this hilarious, you are a dick.

If on the other hand you find this hilarious, you are a dick.

Gervais once said racist jokes aren’t funny because they aren’t true, and he is absolutely correct. So why are Tourette’s jokes alright when they show nothing but ignorance? I’ve lost count of the number of references to Tourette’s in TV and film just using it as a by-word for saying something unfortunate or offensive. Even the sympathetic documentaries on the subject focus on coprolalia cases. Having worked for five years as a TV analyst, trust me, it’s ratings before education, research and equality. This also explains the quantity of time the BBC give Nigel Farage.

The act of involuntarily shouting words and swearing is known as coprolalia and around 10% of Tourette’s sufferers endure it. So, to all the comedians out there, 90% do not, including me. My biggest complaint is your inability to write vaguely original authentic well-researched comedy.  We can complicate it further by talking about echolalia, where you repeat words and noises of others, or indeed yourself. Copropraxia where you make involuntary obscene gestures, or the range of associated sleep disorders, anxiety, depressive conditions and mental health problems. Anyone wanting a more detailed picture of the illness and all its intricacies should visit http://www.tourettes-actionuk.org. All I can offer you is my own experience.

I recall it beginning around age 9 and making noises for no apparent reason. I wasn’t seeking attention as people assumed at the time, and why wouldn’t they? I was hyperactive, loud, struggled to focus and struggled to sleep. It could describe a lot of children without Tourette’s if we’re honest and I don’t believe we need to label everything. The noises didn’t disappear but were overtaken by movements, primarily involving my neck and eyes, which didn’t go unnoticed at school. Again, while hurtful I think my main disappointment was the lack of originality in the insults. Look at the kid nodding all the time, ha, noddy. To the best of my knowledge, my school produced no comedians.

In many cases it does subside with age, but I can’t say that has been the case for me, although it has definitely changed and evolved. There have been times when I’ve been more settled, in particular relationships or homes that I’ve found it more manageable. That’s not to say the condition has diminished, just that my capacity for suppressing it and coping is markedly higher. This also works vice versa and at 33, single and without somewhere I would call home, it remains challenging. Form an orderly queue ladies.

It has been with me so long and interweaved into the fabric of so many days I could write a book on it, but I’d like to try and keep this to a length that a few people have a chance of actually reading.

As an adult, I have experienced ‘tics’ (another word I hate, let’s go with twitches) in every part of my body imaginable. You can be looking at me, talking to me, yet see nothing. Beneath the surface there may be toes, ankles, calves, stomach muscles, fingers, arms all fighting to move, or me fighting back to constrain it. When successful, I find myself very low on energy, yet to ‘let it all out’ in my experience makes me feel far worse and exacerbates most the twitches. It’s not surprising such an experience can lead to severe depression, but that’s something I think might be there regardless, although it’s impossible to know for sure.

There are endless contradictions about what makes it better or worse. I have tried all sorts of diets, medications, therapies or just avoiding some situations with mixed results. Sometimes I can cope with crowds, cope with pressured situations and show no nerves with public speaking, interviews and so on. Other times I can’t walk down the street without going half blind. Generally, I don’t like really crowded places, yet I live in London and worked for years by Oxford Street. Sometimes you just have to cope with it regardless. While I can be shy sometimes, overall having been stared at in the street and abused fairly regularly there’s not much that fazes me anymore. There’s nothing quite like accidentally making inappropriate facial gestures in London. It has very different consequences if its staring at angry drunk people on the tube, or the friendly folk of Old Compton Street.

Try not to blink for as long as possible. You will feel a strong urge that technically, you can control for some time. Now try it again while thinking about blinking, or reading the word ‘blink’ on the piece of paper. That urge will give you an insight into Tourette’s. Now imagine it’s not just blinking, but a dozen different urges, some contradictory, some more dominant and some just painful.

An interesting development of recent years has been certain twitches teaming up in coordinated attack. The eye movements will take place alongside neck movements, or throw in an arm twist or stomach clench that either gives me a hernia or makes people think I’m really enjoying the music in HMV. The toughest side of this is the impact on my breathing. It’s something I and most of us take for granted. Yet breathing twitches, often combined with all other twitches can be completely consuming, sometimes leading to panic attacks. Just having to think about your breathing, the rate and depth of it makes it somewhat challenging to go about the tasks of the day or enjoy any moment. It’s as if your subconscious is demanding a more leading role and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Someone recently told me they noticed some of the twitching on the very first date. Yet it still turned out to be the best first date I’d ever had, so there is hope when I can control it to any extent, and of course, people such as her who wouldn’t let it stop them giving someone a chance anyway. Because it isn’t me. It has shaped me, affected me, but every person on the planet has experiences that will do that. Perhaps I’ve become more of an observer, sitting back and thinking more, I’ve definitely been given more empathy with it and hate any form of discrimination. Yet I don’t judge people too harshly for mocking it, especially at school as I can’t say for sure I wouldn’t have been joining in had it been someone else. Although clearly I’d have come up with a better joke.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this blog has been about running, and mental health, but mainly running, and mental health. I started running for the physical and mental benefits as I’ve previously talked about. What I haven’t mentioned however, is the impact of Tourette’s on running, particularly in events. I never wanted this to become some excuse about my finish times, I have no ego about that having run against every age, shape and size of person imaginable. I imagine running could help with the condition for some people. Walking often does for me, although somewhat ironically and unfairly, depression is the best cure of the twitching. I’m yet to decide which is the short straw.

When I run I suffer a lot of neck twitching, while my eyes are often screwed up making vision somewhat, well…impaired, leading to anxiety and the impact of breathing. That is a normal training run. It says a lot about my planning and foresight that only when faced with 38,000 people in front of my at the start of the London Marathon did I think ‘this could be a problem’. Anyone would find it difficult having to navigate those crowds and it does impact your time, but for me it was a case of trying not to trip over anyone, trying not to send a sprawling arm into a face, the constant battle to keep my eyes open long enough to avoid collision. I would say in each event the Tourette’s has taken half my energy. I have no idea what that means in terms of my ability, and I don’t particularly care. All that’s important to me is that I kept doing it, and always finished whatever hell I was in. During one training run I screwed my eyes up long enough to sprint into the back of a police van. Unfortunately due to popular culture, these days when you say ‘sorry I have Tourette’s’ it’s widely assumed you’re taking the piss.

While we’re on the theme of sports and me making a tit of myself: football. I read an interesting piece by Tim Howard in the Guardian today describing his experience with Tourette’s which is well worth reading. Although as I’ve said, it’s such an individual condition I have no idea what he really goes through compared to me. That’s partly why this article by the BBC was a little annoying (does TS make him a better goalkeeper?) Well, no probably not. For a start, you’d need to study a huge number of Tourette’s suffering goalkeepers wouldn’t you. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one playing professional football. I find it far more likely that Tim Howard is actually just a ridiculously good goalkeeper, Tourette’s is just part of his story and what he’s dealt with.

Having spent a lot of time as a goalkeeper, I have great respect for him. I struggle with fast movement so the notion of sport improving concentration and reducing twitches certainly isn’t true in my case. Given that, it probably says something about me that I enjoy it anyway. Do I have better reactions because I’m used to so many sudden violent movements? I doubt it. All I’ve found is impaired vision, anxiety and blind panic when I play with people I don’t know. This once culminated in having my eyes closed as a slow long shot rolled past my food. It still amuses me to recall the cries of ‘shoot, he’s rubbish’, rather than ‘shoot, he’s got Tourette’s!’

I would love to play more sport but quite simply the pace and movement makes it very difficult, my ability will never be what it could and I don’t like the idea of letting down teammates. That is partly why running appealed, just focusing on my own project, not letting anyone down, improving my times and being proud of what I could achieve. Whatever limits you, and it’s different for us all, there will always be something else you can turn your attention to and thrive.

I have found in the past that when I tell someone about it, my condition becomes worse around them. This isn’t their fault, it’s just an unfortunate aspect of the illness. For many other people thankfully they find sharing is a huge help, and today at age 33 I have reached a point where I no longer care what anyone thinks, and want to try and at least educate a few people on the condition. What it will mean for the future, we shall see.

Work has been a major source of struggle. Despite gaining a degree and masters I have found focus very difficult, both mentally and physically. I have a constant feeling of not having done quite as well as I should have, but who is to say I wouldn’t have that without Tourette’s and depression. In the big world of employment I found sitting still performing unchallenging tasks repetitively to be the biggest obstacle. Sheer frustration met with cramped social anxiety have produced quite the twitchy cocktail…although at no point in my career have I been anywhere near the weirdest person in the office! Around the right people, performing work I care about, I have no doubts I would be fine and I’m not about to give up on my ambitions anytime soon.

An estimated 300,000 people in the UK suffer from Tourette’s, in its many forms. The emphasis of research looks towards children and behaviour at school, which I can understand. However, the assumption it alleviates with age can leave you feeling stranded and lone when it doesn’t. Many doctors have little information or focus on the depression, anxiety or OCD, offering antidepressants. Antidepressants which can of course, increase anxiety and twitching. Awesome. There are support groups and forums of course, but again I’ve found them dominated by worried parents wanting more information. Perhaps it’s such a diverse condition affecting so relatively few that there aren’t many to share stories with, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, because I can share my story with you. A story that basically boils down to one person’s perspective on life, and we all have one to share. Given the complexity of the condition I don’t have any black and white advice for parents, other than patience, not attributing everything to the condition and never doubting that there’s a real person with well-informed ideas in there. Well, sometimes, of course many of us can still be morons regardless of medical history. So it goes.

Too often I have been left feeling unwell, out of energy and having to cancel things, letting down my friends and probably losing a few along the way. I’m a constant contradiction having too much energy, not enough, being overconfident, then terrified and anxious. I can be everything, and yet all too often nothing. I suffer a lot of neck pain and wonder what the future holds both physically and mentally. Yet every year whatever is thrown at me I feel more capable of dealing with it. These blogs have helped me understand the many aspects of depression and I hope increasing numbers of people are talking about it and seeking help. Now, although not such a severe problem across the UK, I hope we can reduce discrimination and at least spread a little education on another subject.

If you would like more information on Tourette’s Syndrome, how to get a diagnosis, support groups and treatments, please visit Tourettes Action or find them on Twitter @TourettesAction

There you go then, something to mull over with your…mulled wine. Merry Christmas and a very happy 2015 to everyone who has continued to read this and support the fundraising, and generally the work of Mind, Time to Change and Tourettes Action UK. You can donate to Tourette’s Action UK via the below link.


Sincerely, thank you.

Twitter: @adereynolds


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This one might hurt…

photo 1


It turns out a half marathon event the weekend before a marathon can be quite tiring. Who’d have thought? It also turns out running another half marathon with no water doesn’t make you feel too good. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have no water bottles at the Amsterdam marathon. In fact, no bottles of anything. A Dutch energy drink sponsored the race.  There were giant inflatable sports drinks around the course, adverts for it, but no actual bottles. At ten miles the inflatable bottles either started to mock me, or I was hallucinating.

The first refreshments stand I came to at 5km consisted of three empty benches and two people handing out small cups of water to a long queue of people.  Conscious of my time, and assuming bottles would be around the corner, I kept going.  By thirteen miles, I’d managed to get my hands on about two shots of water. I think it may be a tactic to boost the performance of locals, who seemed to have strategically placed friends handing out drinks along the route.

When I realised no bottles would be forthcoming, I knew it was a choice between a good time, or making sure I definitely finished/stayed alive. I felt so unwell at this stage I  stopped, looked for water, found none, and had a nice lie down. Nowhere in my marathon training did I anticipate lying in a field staring at a windmill, although it’s lovely to take in the scenery. Running near ten miles up and down the Amstel river adds insult to dehydrated injury, staring at water the whole time, and thinking of beer. At least the Dutch seem to have a sense of humour.

photo 2

Keep hoping I’ll get 24601.

The second half of the marathon seemed to go on forever. One you’ve had a lie down with aching legs, getting up deserves a medal in itself.  At this point I have to thank everyone for their support, donations and encouraging messages, because without that, I’m not sure I would have made it round.  It was always going to be a challenge with limited training, but a lot went wrong and it took everything I had to keep going.

Like many other people, I temporarily opted for the walking with exaggerated arm swinging to give the illusion of running. The perfect crime. At this stage I was just hoping I’d be able I finish. By 35km I knew I would, but knew there was another hour of pain left. There was also a trip off course into Lidl to buy a drink and some chocolate.  Again, not something I had planned in training, but it’s an interesting experience to see the faces of locals doing their shopping as a delirious limping marathon runner pops in mid-race.

Olympic Stadium with 26.2 miles to go.

Olympic Stadium with 26.2 miles to go.

The finish of the marathon in the Olympic stadium was a relief, and a great atmosphere, with the crowd the best part of the event.  There’s nothing quite like crossing the line and finding your friend waiting for you. Your friend who started after you, did no training and spent the week smoking. I may adopt this strategy for future training. The key to Simon’s success seemed to be not thinking about it like I did. Some people seem able to maintain a very consistent pace throughout. I suppose there’s no reason this can’t be done, but in my mind it’s about minimising the inevitable slowing down for the second half.  Simon did himself proud though, and you can sponsor him through the same page as me, with all the funds going to Mind. 

While I would never complain about it, my preparation was confused by Saints winning 8-0 the day before the marathon, with ill-advised jumping around with every goal.  Since I started running events in 2010 Saints have gone from the bottom of League 1 to 2nd in the Premier League. I’ll be honest, I’m afraid to stop running. Saints fans, if ever there was a reason to donate, this is it. Although research shows this could lead to an increase in depression around the Portsmouth area, so please drop off any unwanted items at the Portsmouth Mind shop. I’d especially like to see it filled up with Saints shirts.

When finally at the finish, I planned never to do another marathon. The following day, unable to walk, I definitely wouldn’t do another marathon. Back home on Wednesday and still hobbling, the motivation still wasn’t there. On Thursday, I signed up for the Brighton marathon. There clearly is a reason I fundraise for Mind.


Who remembers Pompey?

There remains one more part to this year’s challenge though. You wouldn’t think doing the Great South Run again would be much of a challenge, but I haven’t put my running shoes on since I finished the marathon on Sunday. I also haven’t walked properly.  So if you can’t sponsor me for the Royal Parks Half or Amsterdam Marathon, sponsor me for choosing to trek to Portsmouth early on a Sunday morning and force myself around an agonising ten miles.  It’s due to your support and sponsorship that I’ll be out there trying to move my legs tomorrow.  Whether commendable or just plain stupid, I will finish.

My marathon time of 4:20 wasn’t too bad given the preparation, and I was just delighted to finish in the end. Still, I did feel I was beaten by my mind as much as my body.  I’d been determined to push through it but it remains a constant battle.  A lot went wrong but if there’s one thing I could change it would be the voice telling me to slow down and stop, stressing about everything that could go wrong. Switching off and running for 4 hours is a hell of a talent in itself but one I’m determined to master.  My physical fitness has improved infinitely, my mental health has improved a lot, or certainly become more manageable anyway.  Still, the biggest benefit I hope has been this, merely talking about the experience, raising awareness, funds and starting conversations. Over 70,000 people have pledged on the Time to Change website, so if you’re not one of them please take a few seconds to do that.

Thanks again to everyone for reading this and all the support. If anyone wants to ask anything more about my experience, or just about mental health in general, please get in touch anytime.  Also please remind me to stop carb-loading after tomorrow.

Keep smiling.





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58 kilometres to happiness…



The first of three events is out of the way, with the Royal Parks Half done in 1:46.  I was reasonably happy with this time, three minutes from my personal best, until discovering Richard Herring, a far older, shorter and still slightly fatter man, was just a minute behind me.  I’m rarely competitive about times, but seriously. Apparently even a half marathon can now send me slightly delirious, and an hour later you find yourself excitedly talking to the Christmas biscuits in M&S.  Although to be fair, that also happens without distance running.

As always, however early you get there, the thirty minutes before the start will be spent queuing for the toilets.  With every passing minute, increasing numbers of people give up and disappear into the bushes…on a bright Sunday morning with around 50,000 people in Hyde Park.  

With just seven days before a full marathon, the main focus was on not getting injured.  Besides getting tripped up by the crowds in the first few minutes, the closest I came to serious injury was a runner taking a couple of sips from a water bottle then blindly launching it off the course…at least I assume that was his plan, as in reality it just smacked into my face.  I decided to find it funny, although it would have been more amusing if I’d been running for Water Aid.

Attempting to sprint from this point was a mistake.

Attempting to sprint from this point was a mistake.

Overall, that was probably my best run in well over a year despite training not having been great.  Around a year ago I began taking antidepressants, partly hoping I’d be running happier and faster.  Although, obviously knocking a few minutes off my running times wasn’t the main priority when making such a decision.  What I hadn’t considered was a bad reaction to them, and struggling to run or exercise at all for a few months.  I’m sure they help many people, and there are many versions that can work.  It’s such an individual thing the side effects included fatigue and insomnia, weight loss and weight gain, vomiting and…what’s the opposite of vomiting?  I wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking them if they feel it could help, it takes time and and persistent, plus a bit of luck.  I completely understand why someone would need to try them, and anything that can improve life has to be worth a go.  Ok now it just sounds like I’m pushing drugs.

Anyway, after a rough time on those, I was pretty happy to come off them, which was a relative cure for depression in itself.  It has been quite an effort to get back to previous fitness levels but it’s also been worth it.  Hopefully I can still complete a marathon, regardless of time and more importantly raise more awareness of mental health issues.  A lot of people suffer in silence, get treatment in silence and fear others won’t understand.  With the wondrous cocktail of unpredictable side effects it’s not easy to explain if you are hiding it either, adding another layer of stress and anxiety to the mix.  If nothing else, increased awareness can remove that.

I hope to collect enough to these to make an entire tree.

I hope to collect enough to these to make an entire tree.

I’ve spoken to more people about mental health in the past few years since starting this than the rest of my life put together.  Not just my own, in fact usually not, rather other people opening up, asking advice or just needing someone to listen and understand.  In the past I’ve found some people use mental health issues as a way to silence you, your opinions don’t matter as it’s an illness talking.  It’s a lazy, ignorant way to write someone off, and a hell of a lot of the world’s population to stop listening to.  In reality it’s just one more thing that shapes a person’s personality, we all have a million factors contributing to who we are and some of the most intelligent people I know, and many of the most intelligent people I don’t know, have suffered from mental health problems at some point.  Without wanting to generalise too much, I’ve noticed a lot more empathy, understanding and willingness to listen and learn from these people.

While I hope my own perspective provides some insight, or encourages others to talk about these issues, I watched a far better series of talks on mental illness this week, coinciding with World Mental Health Day.  I recommend everyone take the time to watch a few of these Ted Talks.  I mean, if you’re here reading this, you clearly have at least some interest/too much time on your hands/severe work avoidance.  It’s normally the latter, but regardless, take a look.


I’ve said before that running can help you zone out, or conversely provide useful thinking time.  Yet, during running events I know my mind doesn’t exactly help me.  Besides the huge crowds and anxiety issues, or trying not to trip over someone’s squirrel costume, you have constant negative thoughts on a loop trying to slow you down.  How can I keep going?  It’s so far, you won’t keep up this pace.  There’s a hidden battle going on for many people that feels more draining than each stride.  On Sunday after an hour or so, I couldn’t work out why I would slow down, yet was sure I would.  I wasn’t tired, I couldn’t notice any pain in my feet, knees, legs, I was breathing fine.  My only problem was my brain.  Did it slow me down?  Yes, a little, but I’m getting better at ignoring it…although I’m not quite sure who is ignoring who in that context.  I’d advise anyone doing distance running to avoid thinking about the running too much.  It’s fine to check your pace, not go too fast, but if you must focus on it, look at the distance you’ve already covered, not what is left.  Look around you, enjoy the event, the surroundings and what you’re achieving.  I’m hoping to take this advice on board any day now.

You don’t even need to have suffered from depression, anxiety or any other mental health problem to understand, or at least make an attempt to understand more.  With over a quarter of us suffering, you will have friends, family and colleagues that experience these problems.  It can be hard to see people you care about suffering in this way, not knowing how you can help.  But just making an effort to understand, to listen and not judge them for it, and realise it doesn’t change them, it’s just part of who they are, you can help.  It’s a form of help that basically just involves being more honest, open-minded and being closer to that person.  You’ll help someone you care about, and almost certainly yourself.

Thanks to those who’ve donated so far, and those who’ve said they will!  No doubt I’m on many people’s ignore list already but even if I can’t raise much at the moment I’m not going to stop trying, or writing about the experience.  If just a couple of people feel more able to talk about mental health then I’ll do this every year.  Overall I’ve found destroying/perfecting my body to help people’s minds is definitely worth the effort.  

So it’s on to Amsterdam and 26.1 miles.  Hopefully I’ll be reporting back on a successful run next week.  Even more hopefully, plenty more donations.  Thanks for your support, you’re all awesome.  Yes, even you.





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Amsterdam Marathon 2014


Here we are again, another poorly prepared for marathon and a blog that hasn’t been updated in over a year.  I hope everyone has coped alright without it.  So in the next few weeks, I’ll be doing the following events to raise money for Mind:

Sunday 12th October – Royal Parks Half Marathon

Sunday 19th October – Amsterdam Marathon

Sunday 26th October – BUPA Great South Run

I hate Sundays.  I appreciate it’s been a busy year for charity fundraising and no doubt you’ve all donated to a lot of people already.  If pouring another bucket of icey water on my head helps then I’m happy to do that.  Or anything else you might want to pour on my head.

Rather than being ready to set new personal bests in all these events, I’ve found myself injured, out of form and at times in the past year or so, ironically struggling to run for Mind due to depression.  Or struggling to run well anyway.  Running tends to help with mental health, but if you do manage to push yourself into doing it, it still slows you down.  That’s going to remain my excuse anyway.  I’ll attempt running this marathon smiling with upbeat music but the likely outcome is a similar time and worse photos.

Marathon training hasn’t exactly gone well, so it’s once again a big challenge to complete it.  But I’m not sure I’d enjoy it if it wasn’t a challenge anyway.  I think I’m stubborn enough to get round it, and hoping Amsterdam will be even more exciting than the endless roundabouts and car parks of the Milton Keynes marathon.  Maybe that’s a tad optimistic.

Mental health stories have been in the news a lot this year and Mind’s work is more prominent than ever.  I know lots of people have sponsored me before, but even a small donation would be fantastic.  Not only does every extra pound help me keep running, it helps Mind keep providing vital support to millions of people.

If you can’t afford to donate anything, you can still help.  Go on the Mind or Time to Change websites, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, read about other people’s experiences and encourage more people to talk about it.  With the amount of misconception and discrimination still evident today, this is one area we can improve without donating anything (although I’d rather you did both).

I’m proud to have run many events for Mind and raised money, but over the past few years I’ve spoken to countless people about mental health issues of all levels of severity.  Many people still don’t realise how prevalent it is so if nothing else I appreciate it if you’ve read this blog, shared it with others or just thought more about it yourself.

For anyone that does want to donate, here is the link:




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One year on…


Not another blog update asking for money, haven’t we cured mental illness yet?  Well, not quite but don’t worry there’s no need to keep donating every time.  Of course if you can and want to that’s brilliant.  I’ve had several people ask about my fundraising in the last few months so thought it was time to update this and get started.

My fundraising page covers several events this year, starting with the Milton Keynes marathon on May 6th.  I can’t say training has been as sensible as last year, with the 6-month winter more conducive to staying in bed.  I have no idea how the race will go, but I know how much the donations helped me keep running last year so would really appreciate any further generosity.  Plus, I’ve spent much of the last year meeting lots of new people…not solely with the purpose of squeezing charity donations out of them, but it all helps.  If it works I may be recycling my friends each year, no offence.

Assuming I make it through Milton Keynes, I’ll be doing the Run to the Beat Half Marathon, the Royal Parks Ultra (yes ultra) and the Great South Run for the third year running, with improvement becoming increasingly difficult.  I will probably add some other events along the way and my fundraising will last until the end of 2013.  There’s no target other than to raise as much as possible and I’ll keep going regardless.  If anyone wants to recommend any other events and challenges they’d be happy to sponsor me to endure then please go ahead.

The ultra-marathon is around 32 miles, which doesn’t sound much further than a marathon, but the last 5 miles of a normal marathon is painful enough.  I just thought it would be nice to extend the distance again and have a new challenge.  Anything to avoid actually having to worry about running fast and beat a specific time.  I’m a lazy runner at heart.

Most events should seem easier after the Grim run in December (see below).  It’s never a good sign when they have to spend the days before smashing up all the ice in the lakes and puddles.  Running/wading through what feels like frozen glass isn’t pleasant.  It was up to my neck after about 10 minutes and I just about froze to death.  Worse still, I got stuck in such thick mud to my waist that my shorts became so heavy they fell down.  You can’t run with shorts around your ankles, but you also can’t pull them up with frozen hands you can’t feel.  That might not sound like an ideal relaxing way to spend a Sunday, but you do end up feeling more alive than in everyday life and never regret doing it by the end.  That said, I’m much happier to consider warmer challenges.

Basically I’m just going to keep running until Mind have too much money.  Then I’ll keep running anyway.  People think I’m crazy for running so far…particularly when I’m wearing my mental health t-shirt.  I’m sure I used to view it the same way and it can sound boring.  I hate running at the gym, primarily because I don’t have the attention span to not fall off the treadmill.  Exercise is great for mental health anyway, but even better when getting outside.  It can be boring if you’re just running around the same routes in circles, just focusing solely on the exercise.  I prefer distance running partly for the thinking time but most for exploring new areas, getting lost and being surprised where you end up.  Particularly in London you can see a lot of interesting things out running for a few hours.  Last week I ran past street magicians, several live bands, a man juggling fire, a car crash, and many animals at Mudchute farm, some of which I stopped to have a delusional 18 mile-mark chat with.  Throw in amazing parks, buildings and famous sights and it’s hard to be bored.  Then yesterday’s painfully slow and scarily final big training run took me out towards Richmond which could have been the countryside anywhere and feels like you’re getting out of London for the day.

It’s the London marathon on Sunday and sadly I won’t be taking part this year.  After the great support I received last year I’ll be going along to watch and cheer people on though and I urge everyone in London to do the same.  It really doesn’t feel like a year since I ran it.  I can still remember the feeling 5 minutes in of realising quite what I’d signed up to and how unprepared I was.  Running around much of the route last week for the first time since I could again feel the pain of the seemingly endless hours around Canary Wharf.  Good luck to anyone taking part this year!

There was so much effort involved in taking part last year, the training, the fundraising and even writing this blog that it was quite difficult in the month or so after the race.  Much like any big events I suppose, but I didn’t run at all for a few weeks and didn’t have a lot to focus on.  The irony of post-marathon for Mind depression didn’t make it feel much better but coming through it increased my desire to take part in more events and keep fundraising.  I think it’s important to have new challenges on the horizon in any aspect of life after such a big event.  Running in general continues to help.  It may not be a cure for anything but it’s a great start and it’s helped me immensely.  Fundraising for Mind helps raise awareness, get people talking about important issues and fight prejudice, and that’s before even spending the money.

Thanks again for all donations in the past, all future generosity and to everyone for just reading the blog.  It’s great just to know people are reading it.  Obviously I like to think Anne Frank would have been a fan.



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