In a day and age where we promote happiness and we all know how delicate the mental health of every individual is, why is there still such a focus on how our body’s look? There are magazines stacked on shelves where celebrities, in particular females may I add, are torn apart for the way they look. They are criticised for having too many curves, for not being curvy enough, for wearing no makeup, for wearing too much makeup, for dressing too formally, for dressing too casually, when is it going to stop and when are we all going to think about the way we make others feel? This only sets a precedent for how the rest of the world thinks and the things they worry about. Consequently, this drives people to exercise for one reason only, to look a certain way (which is an unhealthy relationship to have with exercise). Not because they want to, but because they believe they need to exercise to look the way society ‘expects'. Surely, we should exercise because we want to and because of the way it makes us feel. This will also make exercise feel a lot more rewarding. The physical results may follow, but regardless of this, you will feel happy from the way being active has made you feel.
How you feel is more important than how you look. If you are happy, healthy, and you enjoy what you do, this is the best way you can be. Exercise is an opportunity to celebrate what your body can do and the way it makes you feel, purely striving for aesthetic goals can leave you feeling dissatisfied and never quite happy. In the past I became a slave to exercise, purely because of the way I wanted to look and the way I felt I should look. This was not something that made me happy and it completely took away from the enjoyment of the activity I was doing. Learning to move your body for the sake of your mind is a vital lesson.
We can all work together to step away from this trend of exercising in order to change the way we look. We rarely become friends with someone or get into a relationship with something purely based on their looks. If we did this, we would end up spending our time with people we don’t get on with at all! It’s just not realistic! So, if we choose our friends based on their personalities, why don’t we compliment people on things that really matter? Rather than always commenting on looks, and rather than magazines tearing people apart because of the shape of their body, why don’t we celebrate their successes? Rather than criticise the body of someone after just giving birth, we should celebrate the fantastic act their body has performed and the stress it has coped with. We don’t always have to look for the negatives. We worry about these things as it is, we don’t need to be made to, or make others feel worse.
I think the important thing to think about is, would you rather be the kindest and happiest person you can be and look whatever way that may present itself, or look the way you believe others want you to look and be miserable? Happiness is the biggest and best goal to achieve in life, so lets all work together to get to this! Exercising, be it running, swimming, or going to the gym, should be done for the joy it brings us.
For anyone, whether you are a runner who trains on your own, you work from home, or even if you’re in an office surrounded by lots of other people, it can be incredibly easy to feel lonely. Feeling lonely, or feeling alone, is a horrible thing to experience, however, it is amazing how much weight a single conversation can release from your head and shoulders. Sometimes all you need is someone to say, ‘how has your day been?’ and all of a sudden you don’t feel like you’re tackling the day alone. You no longer feel as though it is just you against the world; you have other people to help you through the challenges of daily life.
If you find yourself feeling easily isolated or struggle when you spend too much time with your own thoughts, there are plenty of ways you can help avoid this. Arranging to meet up with friends for coffee can help bring you back into the world for an hour or so. Just getting out of the house, or your room, and interacting with people can impact how you are feeling massively. Whether you talk about what is troubling you or talk about a completely different topic to take your mind away from your problems, you will feel a lot better than you think.
As much as you will benefit from a single conversation, so will others! You may not think it from the outside, but they may be in need of a chat just as much as you are. Starting a conversation with another person can be more powerful than you think. Instigating a conversation may make their day take a turn for the better as well as yours. Even if you don’t have a full on conversation, that tiny bit of interaction means they don’t feel like completely on their own either.
It is also important not to isolate yourself. If you allow yourself to be surrounded by other people, you won’t feel trapped with your own thoughts in the same way you do if you shut yourself away. I know, if I spend too much time on my own, I get carried away by my own thoughts and can begin to feel down and negative. So try your best not to let yourself get held up in this downward spiral of negative emotions.
A little conversation, even just a ‘hello, how are you?’ can have an immense impact on the quality of someone’s day. We are all in life together and everyone struggles on different days for different reasons, but interacting with each other can help make these struggles a little bit more manageable. There is so much power in being kind and talking to someone. If you don't fancy talking to a friend or family member when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with your own emotions, call the Samaritans on 116 123, they are always happy to listen and help you, whatever your problem or worry.
My journey began when my school teacher, Sue Westgarth, showed me the power of running. Sadly, Sue passed away in 2010 after suffering with Motor Neurone Disease. Whilst she may not be here today, her memory and energy follow me, and plenty of others, into every day.
Those of you who don’t know me outside of the racing world, won’t know where my running journey began. There are different motives that cause people to get into running, whether it be to get fit, lose weight, or because they tried it once and were quite good at it, but for me, it was an individual person.
Back in school, when I was only 6 years old, I was desperate to be part of the ‘elite’ club that was the running club. You got to go to lunch early, miss boring lessons, and you were able to have a laugh with all your friends outside, why wouldn’t you want to be in the running club? For me however, there was much more to it than that, it was the passion the sport could create that I had witnessed, that inspired me.
If you went to the same school as me, the name Sue Westgarth will definitely ring a bell. She was an amazing runner and an incredible individual. You couldn’t help but smile and laugh when she was around. She was more than just a teacher! I remember being desperate to join the school running club, led by Sue, but you had to wait until year 3 to even be considered. Being the impatient person I am, I couldn’t quite settle for that! Consequently, I pestered and pestered until I was allowed to join early in year 2.
There was no denying, if you were in the running club, you were on Sue’s list of favourites (not that she had favourites). I remember math lessons where the rest of the class were left to laboriously work away at times tables, and I was sat at Sue’s desk working out who would be on the cross country team. Her love and passion for the sport was completely contagious. I had never met someone who was so invested in a sport before, and I wanted to know what it was all about.
When I went along to my first day at the club, I hadn’t been more excited to run around the school fields ever before. There was a magical feeling about doing something so simple, yet being outside, that made you feel so happy and alive. And, if it turns out you are quite good at it, you begin to like it a little bit more. There was never a bad day with the club. I remember spending one Friday lunch running around the fields before we were greeted with a hail storm! We didn’t know what to do, so all of us, Sue included, laid like turtles on the ground, hoping it would hurt less. Whilst it doesn’t sound very appealing, we chose to run in awful weather, so you can’t help but laugh at the nuttiness of the situation.
Sadly, great people don’t last forever, however their memory, inspiration, and presence do! In 2010, Sue’s life came to an end age 51, after she fought a brutal battle with Motor Neurone Disease. The love for running she held so deeply, was taken from her. Sue’s dream and wish for me, was to see me run in an Essex vest. If only I could tell her I’d made that an England vest, she’d wouldn’t know what to say. Whilst she may be gone, I run every day for her and to pass the passion for running she gave to me, onto others. She was an incredible person who will never be forgotten and I have to thank for getting me into this crazy sport.
There’s no denying it, BUCS Cross Country is always tough, but the atmosphere is like no other cross country race you will ever do. It is the only race where you are constantly running through a tunnel of people, being screamed at and encouraged the entire race. In BUCS XC there is no time for your thoughts to wonder as the encouragement is constant. It is an experience you will never forget.
To say I wasn’t nervous going into the race would be a lie, I was more nervous than I thought I would be. Having suffered in the mud at Liverpool, I was nervous as to how I would respond to the mud this time, but I was determined to prove my strength. I knew if I raced sensibly and bravely, I would be able to show my ability. I was also so determined to improve on my placing from last year that I had put pressure on myself to perform well. But, a little bit of nervous energy is always a good thing right?
I’m not always one for mantras, but there was a key phrase that stuck in my mind and fuelled by determination when the going got tough. Someone said to me before the race, ‘cross country is tough, but you’re tougher’ and this really resinated with me. Therefore, on my hand, I wrote, ‘I’m tougher’, and when it felt difficult I remembered I had more to give and I was stronger than the challenges the race threw at me. I had trained hard to be able to push through the pain and I needed to do my training justice.
The course itself was the polar opposite to my last race in Seville. There was minimal mud in Seville and it was bright sunshine, but Edinburgh was a different story. Whilst we were very fortunate that it didn’t rain much and the sun was out, the wind was also out in full force. The course was the same as the Great Edinburgh Cross, so there were some short, sharp hills, and some ditches and streams to jump over and run through. Walking the course it didn’t seem too tough, but running it was a definitely a challenge. The mud was deep and thick and whilst the hills weren't long, you definitely felt them when you were running through thick mud at the same time. So yes, it was a tough course, but I loved it all! The tougher the better in my eyes, and a chance for me to show that 'I'm tougher'.
To say that might have been my last ever BUCS XC is scary! It doesn’t seem last week that I was on the start line for my first BUCS, feel extremely scared and out of my depth. But, it is this that makes any achievements even more valuable. In my first year I was emotionally and physically weak. I remember stopping half way, running up to my mum and crying. I was exhausted and genuinely too weak to face the challenge. However, since then, I have changed my life around. I have become physically and emotionally stronger and achieved more than the Hannah in first year would ever have even dreamed of. In my first year I came 370th, in my second year I watched from the sidelines with stress fractures, in 2019 I came 18th, a position I never expected to come, and this year I came 13th. As cheesy as it sounds, this only proves one thing to me. Never give up and keep putting in the hard work, because if you believe in yourself, you can achieve things you never thought possible. And I know, I am only just getting started, because there is a lot more to come.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!