Amber's story: Running Saved My Life
A few years ago I moved to Bondi and completely surprised myself by becoming a runner. After watching runners spring past me on early morning walks, I was swept up in the fitness frenzy of Bondi and decided to break out into a little jog one day. Just to see if I could.
I’ve never in my entire life been fit. I’ve been active and often made promises to get fit and embarked on fitness regimes, but never stuck at them. I’d never run before and initially I couldn’t run the 1km length of Bondi Beach. I kept at it and eventually I built up to being able to struggle through a few kilometres and decided that I didn’t mind running (probably only jogging really, but for me it felt like running).
My pilates buddy suggested I join her husband’s running group - Running for Premature Babies - for the Sydney half marathon. I was excited and scared by the idea; after a day or so of wringing my hands over the decision I signed up and launched straight into training with a daunting ten weeks to go.
I was terrified of not making it and I clung on to the group’s training plan like my life depended on it (and in some ways it did). Training changed my life in a profound way. Prior to starting to train for the half marathon I was quite depressed. I think I’ve struggled with depression my whole life and possibly always will. My depression was a heavy sadness; I was very despondent and incredibly emotionally unstable. For many months (if I’m really honest years) I’d been in tears on a close to daily basis. Doctors said I was borderline depressed, doctors and family friends suggested I try medication and asked me if I thought about self-harm, some family members seemed to be considering an intervention. I couldn’t stop the tears. Crying on the train, while walking to and from work, in bed, in the middle of conversations. Tears all the time.
Since plunging into training for the half marathon you could count the number of times I’ve cried on one hand. My mood has lifted and my emotions are much more stable and I often end the day falling asleep with a gentle smile – something I have never experienced before.
I knew exercise was good for depression; it’s always listed as one of the things to do to avoid and manage it. Although I couldn’t say I’ve been fit before, I have exercised and kept active, for me it was only when I started intensive training for the half marathon that it made a life changing difference.
The Running for Premature Babies team provide a 16 week training program, weekly interval training and fortnightly group long runs with professional trainers. The program also recommends a weekly mid distance run, the all important rest days and core strength and cross training work twice a week which I did religiously in the gym on my own and with a personal trainer. I also went to pilates weekly with a friend. I’m pleased to say I made it through the whole 21.1km of my first half marathon crossing the finish line with a smile.
Not long before my decision to do the half marathon I received some incredible kinesiology treatment and made some small changes to my diet both of which also helped to get me in the right space to take on the challenge. Fund raising for a good cause, the group support plus the enthusiasm of my family and friends was really amazing and also helped enormously. However, I believe it was the running and intensive training more than anything that changed my life in the most amazing way.
I’m now a happier, stable, fit and strong woman and have just completed my 2nd half marathon in Melbourne. I’m motivated to keep running and am inspired to take on other new challenges such as planning a fun run in my local area that promotes and celebrates the benefits of exercise for improving mental health.