Stephen Linden-Wyatt
DepressionGeneral

My Medal

Can you see my medal? I am made up, it is my largest medal and second since I started running. The first was my couch to 5k medal.

If you are looking for a shiny metal or even a plastic one hanging around my neck then you will be disappointed. My medal, trophy or reward is the top I am wearing.

I this week became an official member of Sleaford Striders and as part of this membership, England Athletics. I knew I had to treat myself to the official running vest.

Why is it a medal to me?

Now I am not generally obnoxious, simply, what I have overcome to get to this stage has been immense. I was someone too self-conscious to run alone but with battling social anxiety, being in a group environment can be and was crippling.

The first step was to push myself an attend the couch to 5k course. I was lucky to have a friend who encouraged me and to find a group that was welcoming even if they did not know my weaknesses.

As the course went on, my confidence grew. I was running with a group and I started to find the courage to run on my own. Week 7 arrived and 5k was completed in just over 35 minutes.

I found the running bug and knew I had to keep going. The next big step was to attend a Sleaford Striders run. The unknown created a lot of anxiety and at the same time I am fighting the worst bout of depression I have ever fought.

The only thing that made it easy to join was the friendships I had formed through the C25K and the excellent coach that we all had and still have. I took the plunge expecting to not enjoy the company but I was wrong to expect that. I thought I would not be good enough and would fail. I have little self-worth.

The first run was a Handicap run. I was in one of the first groups to run with the running friends I had made. Physically it was hard but despite walking three times for a short while, it was completed with pride and relief. As we ran the more experienced and fast runners overtook but there was no snobbery. Almost everyone encouraged us and cheered us along. I felt included and that this was a social community I want to be a part off.

I had two more things to accomplish. To develop my 5k running more and to actually join Sleaford Striders running club. I was at ease with this wonderful group and I wanted more.

For the first accomplishment, I now attend Belton House Parkrun each week and shortly will attend my 6th. Running with around 280 runners on average, not great for someone with social anxiety. The same friend who helped me through the C25k was there and although it was hard, I was fixated with the setting and again friendly environment. The bacon buttie afterward was a bonus too, especially as you get 20% off if you present your Parkrun barcode.

My PBs at Belton are getting knock off, each week I am setting a new one, sometimes by a few seconds and on other times over a minute. I am fast approaching sub 30 for a 5k run.

There was a slight delay before joining Sleaford Striders but this was down to suffering with shin splints. Once recovered, I went back and now run three times a week. On a Monday, it is a session working on building up the stamina, on Tuesday I help encourage the current crop of c25k runners and on a Thursday evening, I enjoy a social run with a wonderful bunch of fellow striders. Saturday is of course Parkrun day.

The last 4 months have seen a wonderful journey which I hope will continue. Running has brought some sanity and I have just entered my first 10k run in September of this year.

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