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Maria: My journey with The Running Charity

I became homeless after escaping from an abusive situation in October 2015. After sofa surfing for 3 months I found a place in a homeless shelter where I stayed for a month until I suffered a mental breakdown. I was admitted to psychiatric hospital where I stayed for about 6 months. When I left, I was put into a children’s home but had to move to a different one after a self-harming incident. I struggle with my mental health and was diagnosed with acute depression and PTSD at the age of 7 which has led to suicide attempts and self-harm.

Just before my 18th birthday I was moved to Salford Foyer, I found this very difficult as I don’t deal with change very well. My mental health deteriorated again and I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, severe depression, severe anxiety, severe panic disorder, mild autism and severe PTSD. This is when I met The Running Charity. The first time they asked me to go running I said no because I was crippled by my anxiety and was too scared. George and Pete kept talking to me whenever they were at The Foyer and they seemed friendly so I started to trust them a bit. One of my friends in the hostel was also encouraging me to give it a go as he had been going with them. Another girl I knew was also going and she has severe anxiety too so that helped to persuade me to give it a try.

The first time I went was a last-minute decision, George and Pete were telling me there would be lots of mud – which I love – so I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and join the Tuesday hill run. Once we got there, I felt very timid because I only knew one other person there. I stayed quiet and enjoyed climbing a tree where I had a little nap while everyone else ran up and down the hill. I felt very tired afterwards but excited and I knew I wanted to do it again. I decided to go with them on Thursday for the Great Run Local, a 2K and 5K race at Salford Quays. I really enjoyed this and I started to make friends as the group were very supportive.

Since then I haven’t looked back; I have made friends, fallen in mud and become the annoying, bubbly, creative mother figure for some of the people in the group. A lot of the other runners suffer with their mental health and it has been good to share our experiences. The running itself has helped take my mind off my uphill struggles and it gives me mental bliss when I am doing it. I used to run a lot when I was young and it reminds me of the mental stability I used to have. Before I started running I was extremely paranoid and panicky. I am now perfectly fine when I go out which really surprises me as I never thought I could be like that. The Running Charity keeps me very busy and I don’t miss training. I am now one of the regulars and my proudest moment so far has been pushing myself to knock 2 minutes off my 2K time. This weekend we are doing a Halloween Fun Run and I am doing everyone’s make up. I love fancy dress and often come to running with zombie make up. Nobody is surprised at this anymore and I can just be me.

I recently moved into a new home where I can get more support with my mental health and I will continue running with The Running Charity as they are like the family I never had. Running really helps my physical and mental health. I want to be like the runner I was when was I young and I now know I can do it.

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