I proved to myself that I could. Running isn’t for me… I’m no runner… I’m not the ‘sporty type’… and so on, and so forth. This was the tired old mantra I told myself for years. Throughout my unhealthy, sedentary teens right through into adulthood. But guess what? I was wrong. Running has taught me that I can… run.

Rachel Ann Cullen

Rachel Ann Cullen

Being brave. Putting those damn trainers on and heading out the door. Risking the humiliation of gawping onlookers as I pull over for a breather at the T-junction. Standing on the start line, feeling nauseous, and having no idea how on earth I’m going to get through the 26.2 miles ahead of me. Running has taught me how to be brave.

Finding my joy. Twelve years on antidepressants, trudging through my days as though ticking them off an endless ‘to do’ list. That was my life. Running made me realise what I love about life. Running, movement, freedom became my mantra. That, I discovered, is what I need to feel truly alive.

Making big decisions. Running is a metaphor for life. It doesn’t happen overnight, but Couch-to-5k can lead to a 10k race, which can turn into a half marathon, and eventually – if you have the desire – a full marathon. The steps are manageable, over time. Life follows suit. I’ve changed careers, left unfulfilling relationships and magnified my entire life by making bigger, braver decisions about how I want to live my life.

Appreciating the beauty. Running through an alpine trail in Font Romeu with the sound of cow-bells echoing across the mountainside on my 37th birthday was one of those moments. ‘THIS IS WHY,’ I told myself, at that precise moment. ‘THIS IS WHY I RUN.’

Feeling alive. My heart thumping in my chest; adrenaline flooding my body. My leg muscles working hard to propel me off the ground; my breaths becoming deeper. All of it is a feeling of ‘aliveness’ – of life. This is it. Being here, and now. In this moment, I am alive. That is how running makes me feel. Alive.

Being a Mum. I didn’t think I could. I was terrified of motherhood. But running has helped me to tame the mad, bastard chimps that threatened to have me crawl into a corner after another sleepless night, or as I wipe the toddler-smeared mashed potato from our new leather sofa.

Showing my daughter what is possible. Most Sunday mornings, we hold hands and run our local Junior Parkrun. She used to feel anxious and afraid of being unable to complete two whole laps of the 2km course. But I hold her hand, and we do it together. I don’t drag or cajole her. I don’t shout and bully her. We stop for a drink, or for a rest, but we don’t ever quit. 40 Parkruns later, and she knows she can complete the 2k course with ease. Running is showing my daughter and I what is possible.

My soul mate. Discovering my love for running lead me to my soul mate. We run together; we tag-team and support each other. We share adventures and celebrate together. More than anything, we love life, together.

My sanity. That one (big) decision to run the London Marathon when my daughter was just 7 months old catapulted me into a new place. A place of self-belief, confidence, and possibility. For the twelve years prior, I had been on anti-depressant medication. For the seven years subsequent, I haven’t. That’s not to say running is a ‘miracle cure’ for mental illness. It isn’t. But for me, it has been enough to mean that I can live a happy, joyful, and Prozac-free life. And for that, running – I am eternally grateful.

Running For My Life by Rachel Cullen out 11th January RRP £12.99 (Blink Publishing)