My reason for running

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Posted on 18/03/2015 by Kevin Betts |

Kevin blogs about events in his life that led him to start running and what it means to him.

Kevin will be joining us for a live Q&A about running over on the Mind Facebook page this Saturday 21st March from 11am to 12 noon. Whether you're an experienced runner or just getting started; whether you have a question about training, race preparation, getting started or running with a mental health problem, we'd love you to join us and ask your question.

I started running in 2004. Well, I say running. What I mean is moving – I started moving in 2004. I remember it as clear as day, I had an epiphany – something needed to change. A number of life events had culminated in me being unhappy and unhealthy. I’ll come back to that in a while.

Roll on 11 years and running is now a part of me, woven in to most aspects of my life. It is my hobby, it is (part of) my career, it is my bonding time with my son and it is my ‘me’ time – my time to think, not think, de-stress and be selfish. I love the challenges that running brings – not just the physical, but the mental challenge of keeping on moving when I feel like I should stop. It gives me incredible highs. It presents me with difficult lows – but I’ve come to thrive on these as well.

I wanted to run so hard I’d be in pain...

I ran my first marathon in 2009. It was the best and the worst exercise experience of my life. I was woefully underprepared, ran the first half too fast and absolutely fell to pieces with six miles to go. Six miles is a long way when you feel that rough. I learned a lot that day. Not just to go steadier, but that the mind can be an incredible tool.

In 2010 I ran three marathons in three days. That was, er, interesting. Shortly after that, while having a drink with some mates in the pub, they declared I would no longer receive any sponsorship from them! “Yeah, I’d want at least a marathon a week out of you” joked one.

So I did. In 2011, I ran a marathon every week of the year. 52 marathons, all under 4 hours. 27 of them on a treadmill - which quickly became known as the dreadmill!

That year provided some highs, including a free trip to the New York Marathon, and some tough lows – such as falling ill on my honeymoon (yes, I was meant to run one there, too) and a stress fracture. But I kept going. I would never give up on that year – it got me really interested in the mental preparation lark, getting your mind to ‘enjoy’ something tough in order to achieve an ultimate goal

Now, I’m a personal trainer. I specialise in two things: endurance exercise, which involves preparing the body for long, long bouts of exercise; and, perhaps more uniquely, goal setting, mental preparation and the art of strengthening your mind.

I work with all sorts of runners – from complete beginners to ultra-marathon runners. As well as meeting up with clients in person, I use the phone, Skype and email to provide training from a distance. Training and encouraging people is something I love to do.

People take up running for all sorts of reasons. Here’s mine.

When I was 19, my dad took his own life. It had a huge impact on my life and after a year of struggling to come to terms with it, getting unfit and overweight, I had a personal breakthrough – and started to move. Running was a chance to get physically active and that felt great. In those days it was also something else - I wanted to run so hard I’d be in pain. This is what I needed at the time to help me come to terms with my loss and to help me think about moving forwards. Now I run for different reasons but mental wellbeing is still a huge factor – running makes me happy and it helps me to deal with stresses and anxiety.

I’m currently in training for my third and possibly final attempt at running a marathon in under three hours. I’ve come in at 3:02 in the past – close, but not close enough. This is my running dream. But even if I do manage this, there’s another run I think I’ll always view as my greatest achievement.

I remember vividly one autumn evening in 2004, ringing my girlfriend Amy to tell her I had been for a run and I managed to cover a full 20 minutes before having to walk. That was huge at the time – it changed me. Now 20 minutes is warm up. From small acorns and all that.

Now, I want to help people to achieve similar things. Not necessarily running marathons, but just getting out there – whatever distance, whatever your reasons. I just want to help others enjoy that feeling of surpassing your own expectations. For me, it’s unbeatable.

Kevin will be joining us for a live Q&A about running over on the Mind Facebook page this Saturday 21st March from 11am to 12 noon - make a note and be there to join in! Whether you're an experienced runner or just getting started; whether you have a question about training, race preparation, getting started or running with a mental health, we'd love you to join us and ask your question.

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Kevin Betts

Kevin is a runner, personal trainer, mental health campaigner and Mind supporter. He kindly advises and encourages our runners at training days.

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