Some of our readers told us how hitting the trails helped radically affect them for the better – a sneak preview from the brand new edition of Trail Running
Having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of three, I was not allowed to do PE at school, or even have a bike. So, as an adult, I decided I wanted to complete at least one marathon, which I did. But, in 2007 I suffered a herniated disc, then in 2010 was diagnosed with of ankylosing spondylitis, meaning my arthritis was directly affecting the spine.
At that point, even getting out of bed was a struggle, and I had to use hiking poles when walking with my family to alleviate the pain. Running became something I used to do. Until I received a copy of the letter that a rheumatology nurse had sent to my GP which effectively suggested a gentle walk was the most I could do. At 36 years of age, something in my head screamed "I'm not ready for this!”
Seeing my frustration, my trail running wife invited me to join her. I have been running with her for more than three years. My general fitness is massively improved, the uneven terrain has improved my core strength, and I no longer need to use hiking poles. It has genuinely helped me feel less pain and, as a result, less negative about pretty much everything in my life.
Alan Young (pictured)
Five years ago I couldn't run for a bus and had zero interest in ever doing so. But one January I started to Couch to 5k (because I was too cheap to join a gym) and my whole life changed. Running is now my life and my job – I set up the Badass Mother Runners online community three years ago after finding myself battling depression and anxiety. I hoped that, if I could remind other women to feel badass, then maybe a little of that would rub off on me. My old school PE teacher would probably go into shock if they ever found out.
About four years ago I experienced burnout in my professional life, feeling too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work that there was to do. I considered quitting work many times. I never talked about this on social media, let alone with many people I know. I felt I had to find a solution but did not know how or what. It soon became obvious to me that running provided me with a coping mechanism as I realised that it was my me-time.
I took up running in 2007 after stopping smoking in 2006, as a way to help me not want to return to it. I soon got hooked and, over the next five years, overhauled my very unhealthy lifestyle and lost three and a half stone. Fifteen years later I’m still going, have run 12 marathons, travelled all over the place to run, and even got fit enough to spend four years as a part-time firefighter. Running completely transformed my life, my mental health and my confidence in myself and led to a change in career, setting up my own business as a life coach.
I have had mild asthma since a teenager and was told I would never run due to it. About five years ago I was struggling to fit in long enough walks with my dog, so I started running with her. I ordered some gear from America and we started on the Couch to 5k app. Running has proven to me that, with reasonable precautions and planning, I can run outside – and in winter, despite what my GP at the time said. It has kept me fitter than I would have been and kept my dog healthy. During the lockdowns, it helped me mentally as it forced me to get out, and I feel it helped me recover from Covid. I have met some wonderful people as we have been out running and have seen many others starting to run with their dogs, too.
I have gout in my feet, bad ankles, no cartilage in my knees and shouldn’t be able to run – yet this past year I have run faster and further than ever before and mentally it’s a release nothing has been able to top!