It’s all a series of moments and choices. And with a sense of purpose and belief, you can push through the tough times to experience the better times.

Sometimes it has to get harder before it gets easier. But, if we can keep going and hold on, we’ll get through it and move to a better, calmer, quieter, happier, more contented and fulfilling place.

Our lives are made up of a series of moments and choices. And we have the ability to make a change, even when that feels impossible from the current reality or moment you are experiencing. However, it is all possible, moment-by-moment and choice-by-choice.

I recently took part in the Clacton-on-Sea half marathon. I was quite looking forward to it, thinking it would be a fun a day ‘beside the seaside’ and part of the Clacton Festival. But goodness, the wind was out for some ‘fun’ that day and I, along with the other runners, had to run into it for miles. It was exhausting. And, as we came round the loop and those taking part in the 10k run headed off to the finish line, I knew I had to do it all again (and a little bit more). To get through, I had to break it down to prepare myself. It was my choice to be doing the run and I knew why I was doing it. I had to see the section of miles running into the wind as a moment in time. And I had to push through to be able to come out the other side. It was hard, and certainly a challenge. But I did it. And with my children running alongside me at the end, I crossed the finish line and collected another medal. Even though my time was slower that day, I was proud of what I achieved and seeing the children at the end was a special moment that I will always cherish.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was taking part in the Wirral Half Marathon. Once again, it was windy. And there was also a 10k. It was tough. But my experience at Clacton was tougher so I knew I could make it to the end. I knew if I pushed through it would be another challenge completed. I knew it was my choice to do it, to do all of the challenges, and the thought and intention was created in a moment. And I knew WHY I made the choice to do all of it.

It’s all a series of moments and choices. And with a sense of purpose and belief, you can push through the tough times to experience the better times. I knew I could come through at the Wirral run as I felt that I’d come through worse at Clacton. But I also knew we were all in it together, and I knew I could ask for help if I needed it. And that’s important to know and remember, whatever your situation. Through the tough times, if you can hold on, you will come out the other side. And in the process, you may just help or inspire someone else.

Because, in our moments and choices, we are all connected, and together we can all make a difference.

Today is the anniversary of my brother passing. It is a day that allows me some quiet reflection and a renewed appreciation of life and all things living. It is a day that makes me, regardless of what else may be happening, fully focus on what really matters.

Life is busy for most of us and we can be so busy making sure that everything is happening that we can sometimes forget to stop and ask why it is happening, or even if it needs to happen. We fill each and every moment with stuff, the busier the better. Yet in the quiet moments of reflection, when we permit ourselves some time and space to think, we can get a new sense of perspective and a new sense of being.

I started The 29 Challenge to do something positive in my brother’s memory and, in turn, help raise vital funds for Mind – The Mental Health Charity. At any point, when someone has a mental health challenge or crisis, there should always be someone available to talk to without embarrassment, stigma or shame. There should always be somewhere to turn in those moments or periods when help is required.

The 29 Challenge hasn’t been easy, but at every single point along the way it has always been worth it. And what it has given me in the process is incredible. A motivation to get out and run regardless of how I may be feeling, people sharing their story with me in confidence and an opportunity to speak to people about the experience I had when my brother passed and give some comfort and hope to others.

Running gives me a sense of space to think, process what’s happening in the day-to-day and clear my head. It gets me outside in the fresh air and keeps me fit, and active. It always makes me feel better.

I also set myself a big fundraising challenge along the way and here’s where you may be able to help. Sharing the story of The 29 Challenge with your friends, family and network could really help spread the word and the message. And all donations made are gratefully received as I work continuously to raise funds each and every day.

It is a big challenge in so many ways but I always know why I am doing it all and I always believe that anything and everything is possible.

As ever, thank you for the continued support, encouragement and helping me to spread the word of The 29 Challenge.

If we choose to take a different approach and think about things in a different way, then maybe we can create a change.

This is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus this year is on stress. Rather than focussing on stress itself though, we must focus on how we manage our response to it, how we can break it down and process it, how we can make it smaller and more manageable. We must look at how we think about stress in order to be able to deal with it in a better way.

     “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”                                                           – William James (1842 – 1910), Philosopher and Psychologist

Stress has been around for many years and takes many different forms. Our capacity to deal with certain levels of stress is different for everyone, based on so many factors including personality and past experiences. Everyone has a level that is manageable. However, it can very easily and quickly progress to a place of being unmanageable and overwhelming. It can create feelings of not being able to cope, wanting to hide away, or run away.

But our lives, and our physical and mental health and wellbeing, are precious. And we have to do what we can to combat stress, to protect ourselves from the harm it can cause, and the profound affect that it can have on us.

The very things we need to help combat these feelings are also the things that are usually the first to disappear when we are under a great deal of stress.

Healthy food and water are replaced with unhealthy snacks, too much coffee and alcohol. Physical exercise may completely disappear as you feel too tired or you aren’t in the mood. There is no quiet time for you to reflect upon and process what is happening and your sleep is compromised as you find it difficult to switch off and relax. And you can start to lose the connection with yourself and others as your behaviour or mood is altered and you would prefer to be on your own.

It is an unsustainable cycle that can quickly lead to mental health challenges or a mental health crisis.

How is stress affecting you in your day-to-day life? What steps are you taking to keep it manageable for you? Perhaps today is the day that you decide to drink some more water, make healthier food choices, read a book or write in a journal, or go for a walk or a run.

On Sunday I took part in a 5k run that was held locally. My children did the 2k. There were other younger ones too, with parents, friends and family members taking part in the 0.5k and 1k runs. It was all about taking part, being active and having fun. It was the connection with others and sense of community, cheering everyone on and offering support and encouragement.

It is very easy to feel alone and isolated in a world that is becoming increasingly connected but increasingly disconnected at the same time. But if we choose to take a different approach and think about things in a different way, then maybe we can create a change.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I hope you will support my fundraising efforts in raising vital funds for Mind – The Mental Health Charity. All of your contributions help them to continue their vital work in supporting those experiencing a mental health challenge or a mental health crisis.

As always, thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

‘Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles’

On Sunday, 22nd April 2018 I took part in the London Marathon. I was nervous but also incredibly excited to be there. It felt like such a privilege to be taking part. And the reasons for doing it were so important.

However, after training in the rain, cold, ice, wind and snow – I was completely and totally unprepared for running in the sunshine and heat. And not just any heat, it was recorded as the hottest London Marathon on record.

It took me longer than I had anticipated. I had to do the interchangeable walk and run for some of the way. It felt harder than any of my training runs had led me to anticipate. I wondered at one point how I was going to get to the end.

But I knew I would.

Because, as the quote by Lori Culnane states, ‘everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you will learn in 26.2 miles’.

There were times when all I needed was me and my determination and others when I looked up and around and I could see the intense level of support for all that I was working to achieve. There were times when the noise was distracting and others when my name was called, a smile or words of encouragement were given that carried me a bit further. There were friends and family who I know and love so much and I was absolutely thrilled to see them. And complete strangers who were just wonderful. I needed all of it, to understand the difference and know that the support was there.

You realise that you are more than just you. You are part of something much bigger, that there is a common purpose and support available. Sometimes it is being offered and sometimes you need to ask. But it is there if and when you need it. And don’t ever be scared to ask for help. If just one person reaches out to Mind and asks for the help they need because of what I am doing, then every single step will have been worth it. And I will never give up.

When you set a goal and set out to achieve it, you can prepare as much as you can with what you have and know at the time. But the path won’t always be clear, conditions will change and obstacles will occur. But you have to keep trying and keep going because it is worth it. You are worth it.

My reason WHY was and is greater that my desire to stop and it will always be the reason for me to keep going, challenge by challenge, until The 29 Challenge is complete and the £29,000 has been raised.

This week has been a week of mixed emotions but I have learned a lot about myself. Here’s to the next 15 challenges.

“Life is a gift to all of us. It isn’t always easy and some challenges seem too great to manage – but we are all worth the decision to try. And we need to believe in all that is possible.”

 

I will be taking part in the London Marathon this Sunday, 22nd April 2018, joining a group of thousands running for themselves, in memory of others and to raise money for various charities.

Many won’t have run a marathon before and could never have contemplated taking on that kind of distance – all 26.2 miles of it. However, something inside said that they wanted to try and they believed it was possible. I have taken part in this distance previously, but many years ago and before the children arrived. It feels like it could be the first time all over again.

For me, it will be Challenge 14 of The 29 Challenge and it felt like it was an important distance to complete. In amongst the 10k’s and Half Marathon’s it will be the longest distance that I take on in my goal to raise £29,000 for Mind – The Mental Health Charity. Imagine sharing the message of The 29 Challenge as widely as possible, reaching at least 29,000 people and them all donating £1.

The journey to get to this point has been full of lots of different emotions. There have been days where I haven’t wanted to run and days where I have thought I could have kept going and going. There have been days that haven’t gone to plan; where work commitments have got in the way, illness has occurred, or injury has said you need some time-out. That’s life. But nothing has made me question what I am doing and why I am doing it.

I do know that I am more respectful of my body and of my mind in the process. I am respectful of the distances that I am running and I appreciate the opportunity of being able to take part in every race. And I appreciate the help, encouragement and donations that I have had along the way.

So as I wait to embark on the London Marathon and as I take each and every step of the 26.2 miles, I’ll be doing it for a reason that is important. If it helps one person believe in themselves and all that is possible for them, then it will have been worth it. If it leads to one person reaching out for help if they need it, then it will have been worth it. If it helps to support Mind in the continuing work that they do, then it will be worth it.  I know for sure that it is definitely worth it.

Life is a gift to all of us. It isn’t always easy and some challenges seem too great to manage – but we are all worth the decision to try. And we need to believe in all that is possible.