Yer aff yer heid – You’re off your head – a little bit daft.
For many years now I’ve been interested in finding out what my body and mind can actually do but it’s been a few years since I’ve been in the right place mentally to challenge myself.
As I walked or limped passed the “Welcome to Aberdeen” sign on the 14th August 2018 with my quad’s cramping, excruciating knee pain and blisters on the base of my each of my feet screaming at me to stop…I actually agreed with my girlfriend Sara’s initial statement that I was ‘a little bit daft’ or actually quite a lot bit daft when I told her of my intentions to run from my house to her’s as a challenge.
My Mental Health Battle
To go straight into an account of #TheRunofGratitude, I believe would not do the challenge justice as you really need to know why I would put myself through such a challenge. I am therefore going to break the blog post into sections with this part being an introduction of myself prior to attempting it.
I can simply say I’m a yes, man. I like to challenge myself by putting myself forwards for many challenges to fulfil my life as much as possible. My life has never been boring but since my son Sam was born I decided to push myself physically by being more competitive in running, obstacle racing and triathlons.
In 2015, I was turning 40 and I had an Ironman Triathlon booked as a present to myself but it didn’t give me the challenge I had expected…I executed it almost perfectly so never found myself deeply struggling at any point. To challenge myself more I tried running 40 miles on my 40th birthday…again achieved without too much discomfort. To give me a different challenge I ran from where I was born in Aberdeen and retraced the first 20 years of my life until I joined the RAF to see what it felt like running on consecutive days, it was tough but again, achieved.
The latter two challenges were my own challenges and I quite liked that as it was personal rather than an event. I decided the routes, the guidelines and the time limits which obviously reduced the cost too.
My next challenge was going to be to ‘Run The Thames’ which is 184 miles in distance however I was slowly falling into what I know now as a state of depression and the challenge was the last thing on my mind. Towards the end of 2014 I separated and then moved out of the family home, my brother’s girlfriend unfortunately had a stillborn on Christmas day and not long after that my Nan died too. All things I felt I could cope with but the straw that broke the camel’s back was some naysayers in my line of work that knocked my confidence.
I found that I wasn’t able to be the usual upbeat, motivating Stuart who normally motivates clients, friends and hundreds on social media. I can’t be fake. I had laid myself out raw on social media in the past and this worked but now the open, honest me was struggling to be that person.
Worked suffered and as I was living on my own in a house within the M25 so did my finances. With bills mounting up and client’s not ‘knocking at my door’ to work with me, I felt I was useless, a burden…rubbish.
In November 2016, I recorded a wee video on Facebook on the eve of the British Obstacle Race Championships and it seemed I had finally found the answer. It may sound simple and maybe often the answer is but I had identified that I was “Accepting the acceptable instead of striving for the incredible!”. This video entitled “Enough is Enough” became a huge reason that some people chose to join me on the run as it helped them too.
What followed was a period of rediscovery as well as harsh learning about me and my state of mind. The problem was that I was so overwhelmed by the feedback to that and this other video “I’m an Alcoholic” that I carried on getting tonsillitis (my third year in a row…something that also contributed to my previous years of unhappiness with cancelled races etc) and went through another period of illness. I instantly had more work but couldn’t handle it and eventually was hospitalised. The upside is I was then booked in to have my tonsils removed on 1st August.
August came and I spent the first two weeks sitting on my sofa, eating ice cream whilst watching the World Athletics Championships…not the worst way to recover from the tonsillectomy however it was still a painful recovery. The last two weeks were spent in Aberdeenshire with my now girlfriend Sara who I met in January of this year and my kids.
So we boarded a flight back home to really attack my work and life with my new found superhuman invincibility (no tonsils = no illness) and the moment I landed I realised my phone had been hacked and what followed was an ongoing (STILL ongoing) period of identity fraud. It felt as if the brakes had been applied again. I am not one to say that ‘this year can go to hell’ etc but 2017 was really pissing me off.
Anyway, I found myself in even more of a financial hole with bills, debt and child maintenance to pay… I had hit rock bottom, things could only get better and with the same positive attitude I had found in November 2016’s Enough is Enough video I actually smiled and admitted to myself out loud that I was now in the fight of my life.
Saucony have supported me for a few years now but I really didn’t know why…well I do. I had earned the right on my efforts over many years of helping many clients on and offline but over the past few years I had offered them very little and as their other ambassadors where international athletes, I felt my time with them was running out.
In January 2018, they asked me to go along and help at that month’s Running Show in Birmingham and I as always, said Yes. Sara was also down so we decided to help out on the Saturday before having ‘us’ time. Again I expressed my concern that I was going to be amongst all of these top athletes and didn’t really know why I was there.
We were gathered before the show opened and asked to talk about our training and the Saucony brand as well as our training…which I’d not been able to do that much off in three years due to illness/tonsillitis but also Nick, one of the Tech Reps asked for someone to run the treadmill challenge…I snapped his hand off and what followed was pretty much a whole day of me doing what I do best. Meeting people, motivating them and challenging the best out of people but only for about three minutes per person. The feedback I got was immense. I was reminded of the PT I was before and why a company as great as Saucony are asked me on board.
2018 was off to a very good start.
Read Part Two now – “Planning #TheRunofGratitude”