I am running the London Marathon for Youth Concern (Aylesbury) in a little over a week’s time.
It is still baffling me slightly as to what was going through my head when I proposed I could do this. I am pretty sure I was thinking less about long, lonely training hours and more about the jubilation and achievement of such an endeavour.
Marathon training is a hard physical and emotional journey and it has taught me a very important lesson; to listen to myself and practice self-care. In the counselling room I am often talking with clients about how we can pay more attention to our thoughts and feelings, to develop a stronger awareness of what our minds and bodies are telling us (for example, the earlier we sense the feelings of panic rising the more options we have to redirect it’s course). I suspect rarely a week goes by when I am not promoted to remind a client or two about the importance of being kind to themselves as they undertake the emotional challenges and explorations of counselling.
And so, over the last few months, I have been doing as I preach and tuning into my body, being alert to aches, pains and fatigues so I can reduce the likelihood of them derailing my marathon path. I have been conscious of my mind behaving like an over-active yo-yo: one minute a determined will to test my limits, an (occasional!) competitive urge to train harder and then a swing to self-doubt and worries of burning out.
I have tried to see my yo-yoing mind as my friend and it has rewarded me by patiently testing out mental strategies that have dragged my body to reach the end of each long run (and some of the shorter ones!). There have been times when I have returned home disheartened and dispirited, struggling the next morning and questioning if I have what it takes to give it another go. My practice of self-care has helped me to be kind to myself at those times, gently reminding myself of those who believe in me and are on hand to support me.
On every run I have reconnected to my initial motivation, the energy that drives me, not only in this challenge but in my professional work. The reasons I am running for Youth Concern are hugely important to me. To be honest, I would have been very unlikely to undertake this for any other charity. Those who know me well know I am passionate that free, confidential counselling should be easily accessible to young people. I have seen how life-changing it can be, from sitting in both seats in the counselling room. Over the last 5 years I have seen the marvellous work Youth Concern do and difference their counselling service is making to young people. A common experience of young people accessing this service is that, in the process of protecting themselves from pain and trauma, they have shut away their own voice and part of their counselling journey will involve learning listen closely to themselves, to accept and to practice self-care.
And so I am going to try to run my heart out next Sunday and hope that my body will follow suit. I will hold close the knowledge that each step I take (no matter how fast or slow) will be lending supporting to a young person in need.