Quite a long title I know, so bear with me whilst I explain. Those of you who know me personally, understand that I don’t mind self-serving some physical and mental hardship occasionally. I’m a veteran, I took the Queens shilling and served with the British Army for 14 years, it made me who I am today and the physical lifestyle has stayed with me, ingrained, even when I transitioned into civilian life.
They say that ‘middle age’, whatever decade that is now, is one of the most difficult periods of your life, raising children, managing a career and caring for ailing parents. Pressures from all angles, that if not managed, can cause mental health issues. I arrived back in the UK from Australia, 2.5 years ago, with my family and 5 suitcases, nowhere to live and no credit history. I returned to support my Dad who was just about to start his first round of treatment for prostate cancer. Giving up my career in Sydney, pulling my 3 boys out of school and asking my wife Carolynn to leave her family behind was a big ask and has tested us all.
I hear daily about mental health, it’s profile has been elevated and deservedly so, however this is a consequence of just how many suffer from it. The workplace is a massive breeding ground for anxiety and stress, time pressures abound, high expectations given the digital tech we surround ourselves with, constantly bombarded with multiple streams of information that need to be digested. It seems to me that society is ever increasing the demands and demonising by some is common place in our 24/7 lives. And this is just the workplace!
My salvation is endurance running through remote and difficult trails, preferably in mountainous areas, 100 miles is not uncommon with big elevating climbs that can take days to complete. These types of events take meticulous planning and training just to get to the start line. My last ‘big event’ in the summer of 2016, took me around the Mont Blanc ‘massif’, through 3 countries, 103 miles with 10,000 metres of climbing over 36 hours non-stop. It took everything from me, physically, emotionally and towards the end I began to hallucinate. I suffered 30+ degree heat during the day, ran across snowfields during the night at altitudes of 2,500 metres and endured a thunder and electrical storm atop one of the last peaks. This event stripped me to my core and perversely I would do it again, even though ‘everything hurt’ and I mean everything.
For me it’s about feeling ‘raw’, getting back to basics and getting back in tune with who we once were as humans, we chased our meals, we ran away from danger, humans are built to run and we’re dam good at it, humans need to keep moving. You don’t need to replicate what I do to achieve the benefits; the biggest step is putting your shoes on and getting out the door.
So why does my workplace prosper? I’m more alert during the day as I sleep better, if I’m sleeping well then my overall mood is boosted. I’m a positive person who always looks optimistically on the world, probably due to the endorphins that are released through my system. I would like to think that my memory is improved (I have no way of measuring this as I’m not prepared to stop running for an experiment). And because I feel ‘happy’ my social behaviour is positive, not to mention the motivation, goal setting, having a purpose and critical thinking that happens, a direct correlation to running and my behaviours in the workplace. I’m less prone to sickness which means more days in the office, a tangible benefit to the business. Confidence is reinforced meaning that any work goal is achievable, we may fall occasionally during a project for example and some would see that as failure, failure is only realised when you refuse to get back up, re-evaluate and crack on. This is what runners do, sheer will and determination is sometimes required in the workplace not just outside on the trails. I could go on and on.
My typical response to any of my colleagues asking me in the morning, ‘How are you Jase’, is ‘Bloody great’ and that is the truth, because I am a runner.
Soon I’ll be enjoying my 50th year and I’m looking for my next ‘stretch’, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also pleased to say that my Dad is doing well and in remission.
If anyone would like to talk to me about Mental Health and how I manage it through running, then please shout out, we could chat whilst we run.
When I read Jason’s article, which he originally published on LinkedIn, I thought it would benefit other runners, who may not use LinkedIn. I therefore asked Jason for his permission to share it, and do so gratefully. Jason told me that ..”reaching out to as many people as possible about mental health and how we can manage it is SO important”.