Tomorrow, I board a plane alone to Beijing to prepare myself to run The Great Wall of China Marathon on Saturday 21st May 2016. I write this with all sorts of emotions flowing through my body as I begin to take it all in that I leave tomorrow on a trip I have been planning and preparing for since last year when, on impulse during a depressive episode, I decided that I wanted to get away.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I felt lost and I felt like my drive for life had been swept away from channeling too much energy into someone else's life who didn't deserve it. It was my time to cut loose and do something I wanted to do because I was desperately trying to find out who I was as a person.
During a period where I was stressed at work, having flashbacks of my sexual assault that were haunting me like an awful nightmare and the thought of reconnecting with my biological mother after 22 years were taking its toll on my mental health. It felt like a total brain overload and I wanted to end my life. I knew I had to find a way to end these thoughts.
So I began to google marathons. At this point I had never run a marathon in my life but I knew I wanted to challenge myself because I knew how much the training commitments would keep me distracted. I became excited because I finally had something to look forward to. I found The Great Wall Marathon online via Albatros Adventure, and even though it was a little costly, I knew this was a perfect opportunity for me to travel, run and find myself again on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Not only do I get to run 26.2 miles and climb 5,164 steps in 35 degree heat and 400m above sea level on one of the world's most treasured and historical landmarks but I also get to visit Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Cloisonne Factory and Ming Tombs, the Summer Palace and Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Panda. I've always wanted to visit countries in the Far East so I thought this trip would combine my two favourite things in the world; running and travelling.
I started my training in September 2015 and since then I have run 3 marathons as part of my training. Mentally and physically I now know I can run the distance. I have so many people to thank for this because this time last year I couldn't run 5 miles, let alone 26.2 miles.
This journey has primarily been about improving my mental wellbeing, my physical health and becoming a better version of myself. I decided to start a mental health blog and write about my own experiences which meant facing a few of my demons all over again in the process. I openly spoke about my depression and the reasons why I became depressed on social media with the attitude that it could help someone else face their demons the same way I did. Sometimes when life throws you curveballs your mind goes into overload and you forget how to manage it. You forget yourself and spend a lot of time running away from your problems rather than trying to fix them. But it's good to know that you're never alone in this world and others go through similar situations. In the last few months, I have learnt to:
1. Embrace Opportunities
When opportunities are presented to you, jump at them. You never know when these things will happen again and life is too short to be worrying about what ifs. Experience all you can in life and you will reap all that life can give you; happiness.
2. Love Myself
Before you can love anyone else, you must love yourself first. Putting yourself first in life is not a crime. When you are working hard on your personal goals you release positive energy that will attract others. Don't let others hinder you from what you want to do and never feel like you should compromise.
3. Form worthy friendships
Surround yourself with open minded, positive and inspiring people. There is no room for negativity and when negativity makes a show, avoid it. The people who really care about you and what you do are the ones who you should surround yourself with. That way, you can push and encourage each other to be successful.
4. Educate myself
There is always room to learn. Education is a gift and if you share your intelligence and knowledge with others and vice versa, appreciate it. We know everyone loves a competition but once you team up and work together with everyone's skills involved, you're unstoppable. Give more than you can take!
5. HAVE GRATITUDE
This year has been a total eye opener for me especially as I've come from a time when I felt so down and didn't want to continue living anymore, my life since then has taken an 180 degree turn and I feel alive again. I 100% owe that to those around me who have brought me back to life.
Whilst I am out in China, I will not be active on social media as they block it. However, it'll be me, my camera and my journal taking it all in. This trip couldn't come at a better time, especially as I am in the mood for solidarity. If you read my previous blog piece on solidarity you'll understand why I love it so much! It'll be a huge culture shock and some things might frighten me but this is what I love about travelling alone. It allows you to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things.
My run is in aid of Mind, the UK's largest mental health charity. Mind have supported me and thousands of others by helping us get our lives back on track. Whether that's ensuring we have a voice on the other end of the line to vent to, a shoulder to cry on at a therapy session, or educating us on mental health to understand it more. Every service Mind provides is free but only as long as people keep fundraising and ensuring awareness is spread.
I'd like to personally thank every single person who has donated to my Just Giving page and has helped me exceed my fundraising target of £1,000. I'd like to thank Charlie Dark and everyone at Run Dem Crew for lifting my spirits high and making me feel like I matter in this world. I'd like to thank Stephen and Georgia and the rest of LDN Brunch Club for ensuring I never get left behind on our Sunday Long Runs, Sorrell Walsh for continuing to inspire me and most and foremost, to my Squad (and you know who you are) for always having my back, always putting up with my hangry attitude and for always believing in me. The support has been extremely overwhelming and I am eternally grateful for having such inspiring people around me doing such epic shit.
It has been a very emotional rollercoaster of a journey but I am here (admittedly writing this in a puddle of tears), recharged, revived and recuperated. I was once a young girl with no self-esteem, anxiety and stuck on a road with no direction and now I am a 23 year old woman with confidence, aspirations and dreams, ready to conquer the world. I finally love life again.
I can't believe it's here. Tears and all, China, I am coming for you.
See y'all in two weeks and please keep donating.