Taking on the Bristol Half Marathon

It’s race time for a lot of mamas in the TMR community and for many of us it will be our first race or first race at a particular distance.

Eeeeeeeeek! Nerves, excitement and feelings of ‘can I do it?’ are all pretty familiar to anyone racing for the first time. Our lovely community member Cat is prepping for the Bristol half marathon on September the 15th. She will be surrounded by a sea of TMR love; Bristol HM is a popular event in our community and sight of TMR tops flying along the portway is such a motivator! We hope Cat’s story will help many of us get over our ‘first race nerves’ so that we can have a positive and uplifting race experience.

‘So, I am Cat. I’m a full time mum/carer to my autistic 12yr old son and 20 month old daughter. I also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and my main symptoms include constant pain, stiff joints and random numbness in hands/arms and feet/legs.

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I love everything about running. During – gives me a buzz from the physical exercise and also often seeing people sat in cars and feeling so free! After – the buzz of the adrenaline rush and endorphins produced by the run.

I found TMR after a friend told me that there was a Facebook group that you could arrange to meet up with to go for a run with other mums.  I love so much about TMR. The support, the togetherness of the Facebook page. The amazing women who give up their own time to help other women get out on social runs. The social runs. The seeing other people in the TMR tops and shouting out to them and getting big smiles from a distance.

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I am training especially for Bristol Half Marathon in September and I’m really hoping I can get in done in just under 2 hours. I am also doing Severn Bridge Half Marathon and Two Tunnels 10k both of which are in August.

My main inspiration for entertaining Bristol half was Bristol 10k and how much I loved that. But also that I am trying to raise a little bit of money for Bristol children’s hospital so thought running both the 10k and the half would be a good way to do it.

My preparations have been to continue on as I have for a while. I run 20-30miles a week with a mixture of 5k runs and 10+k runs. I do group and solo runs and try to run in different places if I can.

My top tip would be to build up to the distance slowly but surely, mix in some hills and some flat. Don’t panic just slow and steady. It took be about 6 months to build from 10k to the full 13.1 miles so don’t be scared to take time.’

Cat, you are an absolute inspiration, we can’t wait to see you at the Half Marathon on the 15th September.

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Family friendly working – what it means to me

Hi, I’m Nicola the Customer Happiness Champion at This Mum Runs. I live in Bristol with my husband and our son who is 9 which is way too grown up for my liking but at the same time just the best age (but don’t we say that about every age??). When we have spare time between school, work, chores and ferrying our son from one sporting activity to the next we make sure we try to burn off as much 9 year old energy as possible whether it be a trip to the local park or getting out and about on our bikes.
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Before I worked for This Mum Runs I worked for Yeo Valley who have, hands down, the best staff canteen ever! My time there enabled me to train as a Social media manager with Digital Mums with the aim being to take the leap to set up my own social media training business. That plan was very quickly scuppered by crippling anxiety and self doubt brought on by early peri-menopause just as I finished the course. I had no idea what was happening until, after a little research, a lot of tears and blood tests, I realised that my hormones, or lack of, were to blame for pretty much everything that was going on in my head. It took me a long time to get my anxiety under control but bit by bit I started to reclaim my life and luckily the role at This Mum Runs was advertised at a time when I felt able to start taking control of my life again. Having very firmly parked the idea of setting up my own business I realised I wanted a role that was going to stretch and challenge me in an organisation that I would be hugely proud to work for so I took the leap and applied. I first met Mel, our founder, in the sleep deprived days of newborns back in 2010 and I’d followed the success of TMR since it’s beginnings so I knew that it was always going to be somewhere I’d enjoy working.
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As Customer Happiness Champion I manage the This Mum Runs online shop which involves making sure we have stock in place to send out to our lovely customers, packing up our orders with love and sending them out around the world. I can also be found answering all of the customer queries we receive in to our information@thismumruns.co.ukand orders@thismumruns.co.uk inboxes. I also work closely with our fab Head of People, Jo, to make sure that every element of a customers journey with us is as amazing as possible.
 
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There are lots of best bits about my job. Seeing our customers and community members posting photos of themselves online in their kit. Hearing their amazingly inspiring stories of how running improves their lives. Getting lush feedback from customers about how good our service is. Working flexibly to allow me to spend time with my son and last but not least working for an organisation where everyone involved is genuinely working towards the same goal of empowering women.
 
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Working part time means everything to me! I know it is a huge privilege to be able to work reduced hours so I make sure I remind myself of that when I have had wobbles in the past about not having the ‘highflying career’ that I always believed I would have in my 40’s. Having worked full time whilst my son was a toddler I applaud any parent that does that and does it well, I was useless at it and constantly felt torn in so many different directions. Now, I’m able to do a job I enjoy and challenges me, spend time with my family and, be proud of what I can give to both my family and This Mum Runs.

September brings change – juggling study, work and school runs.

I’m Bethan, 39 and an accounts manager within my husband’s business. I left my full time job in March 2018 to enable me to help my husband grow his business and of course it means I now have the flexibility to do school runs and after school activities with Dexter my 10 year old son.

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I discovered TMR at the point where I wasn’t going to do any more long races as I was fed up of training alone. I saw pictures on FB of the TMR launch in Cardiff on Cardiff Mummy Says page. I was disappointed to have missed it and joined the group. It was 17 March (an early Sunday morning) when I plucked up the courage to join the group for my first run.

As I walked nearer to the meeting point my nerves were in pieces; I need not have worried. One of the angels approached me and started chatting and the rest is history as they say. After running for a few months with the group every Sunday I saw Cathryn’s message about the angel training and thought why not! After finding my running confidence again I’ve entered several races including the Cardiff Half Marathon, Cardiff Trail Half Marathon and most recently the Vale of Glamorgan Coastal 18.5 mile Trail run!!

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The Summer holidays have been challenging, trying to keep a 10 year old entertained and fitting in working from home. Work meetings have been in the evenings which is definitely not ideal but the only way around things in the long holidays.

In September I am going back to college part time for another year of Accountancy. It really does feel like I’m going back in school. I passed my 1st year so I must be doing something right, I’m looking forward to it but at the same time I’m anxious about juggling school/work/college and life in general.

It’s the little things that get me through it though – like my son saying well done when I pass an exam, my TMR runs to get the headspace I need and of course my Friday night glass of wine (or 2)!

Last year I went out running on the morning of my exams so that I wouldn’t be thinking too much about them – I’ll be doing that this year too.

Making time for yourself.

Run Angel Amy contacted us at the beginning of the year to enquire about setting up a social run in Nailsea. We were thrilled to have her on board, but what we didn’t realise at the time was how bit the appetite for headspace in the area would be. Flash forward to June, and 45 women showed up to her first run.

Here’s Amy’s story of carving time out for herself, and helping other women to do the same:

“I’m Amy, married to Alex and we have two children: Tom aged 4 and Maggie aged 2. We moved from South Bristol to Nailsea in March 2018 which has been a big adjustment but a great decision for us all. Alex works full time in Bristol and I stopped work last October to focus on the children, my son really struggled with the move and changes in nursery and we were only just covering childcare costs so we decided to give me not working a go. It’s really helped us work better as a unit and the children to settle in their new area. Tom finally settled at a local pre-school and has made some strong connections and my daughter is with me full time. I’ve always worked and never considered not working post kids so it’s been a big adjustment for me. It’s hard work and can be very lonely and isolating, especially in a new area where I didn’t know anyone initially.

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“My next door neighbour in Bristol (aka best friend /confidante and I miss her loads), decided to start running in 2018. Having never run before, she joined the Grenville Smyth 0 to 30 minute run course and has never looked back now running around 3 times a week. It was fantastic to watch the confidence it gave her, not just in running but in all areas. How she gained headspace from her children and everyday life and has new found courage to try more things and put herself out there.

“I was so unprepared for the effects of pregnancy and parenthood on my mental health (is anybody?!). I’ve always struggled with my hormones but, now on reflection, I can see that my hormones, anxiety and stress reached a whole new level and I didn’t know how to manage it. I felt the ‘Mum Guilt’ big time and found it very hard to admit how much I was struggling. I ran 10ks and a half marathon before children but I always trained for an event, never for fun, headspace or relaxation. I put pressure on myself to hit a target in a short space of time which was never enjoyable and resulted in sporadic exercise and a view that exercise is always hard. This pattern continued between my first and second child.

“Fast forward a couple of years and we’ve moved to Nailsea, away from my support network of friends and I’ve quit work. I’m struggling to adjust to the constant company of the under 5s (either being ignored or trying to remain calm with screaming /shouting /repetition), dreading the new playgroups and craving some time with like minded adults and time alone. So, I decide to start running again. I contact the local running club but they only offer a 7pm start smack bang in the middle of bedtime so this isn’t an option and I can’t find any other running groups. Then I remember This Mum Runs. Perfect. Running, exercise and a way to meet other Mums in the local area. I contact Jo Lee who was so encouraging and explained how easy it would be to set up TMR Nailsea. I hadn’t run since having Maggie so I wanted to be able to run 5k comfortably before, but this time I had a new motivation for running :headspace. The difference this made for me was incredible. I enjoyed running! I looked forward to running. A whole new experience.

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“We launched TMR Nailsea on the 5th June and 45 women turned up for the first run! 45! It’s brought together Mum’s across Nailsea. A mix of some that know each other already, some strangers, Mum’s that have always ran, recently ran, sporadically ran (like me) and given them a welcoming, inclusive and social environment to get back into exercise / exercise in.

“Personally, I’m not great at prioritising myself and getting time that’s just about me, launching TMR Nailsea has given me that much needed time and headspace guilt free and the difference in my mental health is incredible already. I’m more rational, more able to cope, less isolated and feel part of a community (locally and world wide). I can feel my confidence returning and on top of that, the best bit of all, is that we are helping all these amazing women to feel the same. I’ve never joined and been part of a group so encouraging and inclusive, it’s always supportive, always. It’s helped me to feel like me again.

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“If you are considering joining TMR, go for it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. You won’t regret it, all that will happen is that you’ll meet amazing, lovely local  Mummy’s who will have stories similar to yours that will make you feel normal and included. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Go for it. Join the revolution. “

September brings change…

Where have the summer holidays gone? For many of us the start of September brings massive change and for some of us that’s about our children starting school, a house move or a new job. For Elise, one of our amazing Military Mums Run Angels, this year has seen all three of those happen! Elise offers some sound advice for this time of year…

My name is Elise Jones I’m 35 years old. I found TMR through face book and joined the TMR Military Mums group when it launched in Tidworth earlier this year. I’m also a run angel! I’m mum to two boys aged 1 and 4 and I live with my husband in Wiltshire.

image1Summer holidays this year have been a little hectic but also wonderful! We’ve spent the last three weeks back home in Kent. We’ve been spending as much time as possible with family and also getting our home ready to rent out on our return to Wiltshire where we live in our military quarter. My eldest and my husband both have their birthdays in August so we celebrated those and have had some brilliant family days out, we particularly love the beach!

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I am dreading September! My eldest son has just turned four and will be starting primary school. Cue tears! Not only that but my youngest will be starting nursery on the same day. Cue even more tears! It’s also about time I return to work. My previous job was in Kent before we moved to Wiltshire so I will be polishing the CV and job hunting again!

I’m feeling really anxious about everything and have already had a few tears about my babies growing up far too fast, time slipping by too soon and whether or not I still have any employability after two years out of the game. I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do and the thought of an interview sends me into a slight panic. It feels like the end of an era, one I’m not entirely ready to face but then again I’m not sure anyone ever really is.

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Running for me is my number one cure for anxiety! It’s so cathartic. It always helps clear my head and see things in a more positive light something that I have been trying to do more of this year. Exercise not only keeps me sane but gives me a different focus and let’s me set personal goals I can work towards. As well as TMR I belong to my local athletics and running club and I also recently discovered a love for CrossFit but being a TMR run angel has been really rewarding. I love being able to help other mums like me who might have the same anxieties, feel just that little bit better, even if just for a little while. Time for ourselves away from being mum is so important. Self care is key! That and coffee with a good friend which is what I will be doing on that first day of school!

Free Those Arms

As most of you will be aware, we are running a month long campaign encouraging women to free their arms and legs from long sleeves and leggings, shake off the fear of being judged and enjoy their bodies. You can check out the stories that are being shared across the This Mum Runs social channels using the tags #FreeYourArms #FreeYourLegs

As part of the campaign we asked Body Image Guru, and Global Body Image Movement Ambassador, Lisa Beasley to tell us what she thinks holds women back when it comes to body confidence. Here’s what she said.

Read More

Running, Mental Health & Me: Vicki’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Vicki Merrin has run with our Pill mums since 2017. She opens up about the effect that an unplanned third pregnancy, emergency c-section and making the transition to being a stay-at-home mum had on her mental health.


After an unplanned pregnancy and c-section with my 3rd daughter, I felt desperate when I brought her home. We were in the middle of renovating our home, and this, coupled with a business expansion during my pregnancy, meant that I was already struggling more this time around. The shock of an unplanned c section, illness and not going back to work left me feeling out of control and unable to cope.

This affected my relationship with my husband and children and I felt distant and separated from those I loved.

I eventually contacted my GP about how low I was feeling about 6 months post delivery, and was referred to counselling – I refused medication – with a diagnosis of anxiety and mild postnatal depression. The counselling certainly normalised things for me and helped with how ashamed I felt.

Joining This Mum Runs in November 2017, 7 months post birth, was life changing for me. Having something just for me, the endorphins that exercise gives you and just the camaraderie that TMR offers you made such a huge difference to my mental health. I don’t think the girls even realised what they did for me but I didn’t need them to.

I think there’s still a huge stigma about feeling ‘down’ after having a baby, as I certainly felt it. However, I feel that was more through pressure I put on myself than how I was treated by medical professionals. The GP and counselling I was referred to were all understanding and caring. I think TMR needs to be referred to by the NHS!

Running, Mental Health & Me: Sarah’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Sarah is relatively new to TMR, and runs with the Thornbury group. She shares her story of depression that began in pregnancy and has persisted long after.


My mental health issues started when I was pregnant with my first son, and got worse when he was born. At this time, not much was said about mental health problems, and there was a strong sense of stigma, shame and misunderstanding in admitting to them; a family member even proposed I did not seek help in case my baby was taken away from me.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and prescribed medication. I was very ill and extremely anxious about issues such as cot death and being an inadequate parent. My son, probably sensing my emotional state, was a very fretful baby and cried for most of his first year (or so it seemed) until he started to walk and become more independent.

Physical activity, and especially being outside and running has made the biggest difference to my mental health, and I cannot imagine being without it now. I trail run 4 or more times a week, and find the release and challenge to be mind and life changing. I regularly enter trail races which gives me a huge sense of achievement.

As an organisation, TMR in my experience so far, has been very supportive of women, many of whom are happy to discuss their mental health (perhaps because I am open about my own issues, and that may give “permission” for others to feel able to discuss their own). The TMR community feels inclusive, honest and open about mental health issues, and that’s great.

I believe there is still a way to go to make talking about mental health and getting help for mental health conditions equal to how we would treat and talk about physical health conditions. There are women who I believe are shamed into being silent in their struggles when there is help available. There are women who ask for help and are offered only medication and a very long waiting list for any further support.

As women I believe there is so much we can do to support and build up other women experiencing these struggles, and I’d love to be a bigger part of that process. There are midwives and other professionals who could be better at having the conversation with women; an antenatal midwife, when I confessed during my second pregnancy that I was feeling low said “Oh don’t start all that nonsense again.” Not that helpful!

I find Postnatal Depression a somewhat meaningless term; for me, depression started before babies were born and has persisted long after! There is something minimising about the term, as though it’s somehow less serious than depression or anxiety that is not related to having a child. That needs to change.

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Running, Mental Health & Me: Alice’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Alice Tanaka runs with our Wandsworth mums.  When her son was born at 28 weeks, Alice’s world was turned upside down and she was faced with an entirely different experience of becoming a mum from the one she had imagined. She shares her story, and explains that it’s never too late to seek professional help.


My first (and only) son was was suddenly born 28 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy, with only stomach cramps as a warning sign. He weighed under 3 lbs. As there had been no complications for me during the birth, I was discharged from the hospital after 3 days.

Leaving the hospital, no longer pregnant, without a baby, on the day my milk came in, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My son had all the usual issues for a premature baby born at his gestation, chronic lung damage, jaundice, brain bleeds, a PDA (hole in the heart that usually closes soon after birth – his didn’t) and obviously, he was just so small.

He also had other complications: a chemical burn from a procedure that went wrong and he got sepsis. The scariest part was when our son frequently forgot to breathe and his heart rate would drop to dangerously low levels (again, a common issue for premature babies). This set off all the alarms on his incubator with nurses and doctors rushing over to wake him up. Luckily, my son grew well and with that he grew out of many of his issues from being premature. He came home, on oxygen, just before his due date.

I hadn’t realised at that time, the emotional strain of visiting him everyday for 12 weeks, most times wondering if he was still breathing.

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During the time my son was in hospital, I was incredibly anxious and stressed all the time. I also thought I was to blame; I mean, it was my body that had pushed my son out too early. I felt guilty that I’d ruined my husband’s first experience of becoming a dad, that he had to get used to his new role under the watchful eyes of nurses and doctors. So I stopped talking to my husband about how I really felt.

I also just felt so angry. Angry that we weren’t able to have the “normal” first time experience most parents do. I didn’t feel able to connect with other mums. We had missed meeting new parents at NCT class as my son came before our classes started. Once my son was home, we couldn’t go to playgroups as he was at a high risk of infection and then when that passed, I found it hard to pick up where we should have been.

After my son’s first birthday, I couldn’t understand why I still didn’t feel better. My son had grown to a normal size for his age, was hitting regular milestones and didn’t seem to have any lasting damage from being premature. But, I was still so anxious all the time and I couldn’t relax. For a long time, I thought maybe this was how I was a mother, that all mums get anxious about their children.

When I went back to work, the additional stress of a project I was working on just pushed me too far. I cried everyday in the toilets at work, I was drinking every night at home, I wasn’t running.

I tried to hide this all under a smile that I was doing fine and loving being a mum! But, the thing that made me get help was my anger. I had never felt so much rage before. I finally called an anonymous advice line at work and then went to my GP. I felt a massive relief just to admit how I was feeling, as I was exhausted from trying to hide it from everyone.

The GP diagnosed PTSD, anxiety and depression and I received 12 weeks of CBT therapy. The therapy was amazing. Talking to a stranger allowed me to be completely honest about how I felt as I didn’t need to be concerned with their feelings. I finally voiced some of my darker memories from my son being in NICU. I realised that although the trauma was over, I will still living in that state. The therapist also helped me identify a negative pattern of behaviour I often get stuck in and we worked on things I could do to break the cycle.

Around the time I was getting therapy, TMR started in Wandsworth. I had run a lot before I got pregnant and knew running made me happy, but it was so hard to start again. However, I found TMR so inclusive. I am a slow runner and I think back then, as I was still building up my fitness, I was even slower.

At TMR someone would usually hang back and run with me and the loops meant I never felt like I was too far behind the speedy runners. The Sunday runs and wanting to meet up with everyone motivated me to go for a few runs in the week. I loved finally being part of a “mum” group too. As the mums all had children of very different ages, I didn’t feel the same pressure as other mum groups where it can descend into a competition about what your child can/can’t do.

Before I got pregnant I ran to lose weight, now I realise, I run for my mental health. Running with a lovely bunch of people on a Sunday is even better for my mental health! I now notice such a difference to my mood, my outlook and my energy when I’ve been for run outside.

Running, Mental Health & Me: Amanda’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Amanda, who runs with our Greville Smyth mums in Bristol, describes the effect effect that losing her dad soon after giving birth had on her emotional and mental wellbeing, and the benefits of being open and tackling the problem early on.


I’m a mum of two, my eldest is three and my youngest seven months. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter at Christmas in 2017. A few days before that, my dad was suddenly taken ill with what was a few days later diagnosed as a cancerous and inoperable brain tumour.

He received various treatments throughout 2018 and was thrilled to be here to meet my daughter when she was born in the September of that year. In the December, we were told his treatment was no longer working, and he passed away late January 2019. In addition, just a few days beforehand, my grandpa – his dad – had also passed away after a long illness.

The experience of going through pregnancy and having a baby whilst also navigating grief has been strange and overwhelming at times. Sometimes I felt guilty during pregnancy that I didn’t have as much time, energy or emotion to devote to thinking about the baby, but it also made me more grateful for what was happening and the things we had to look forward to.

Looking back to when my eldest child was born, although I never sought professional help, I now recognise that I was probably suffering with postnatal anxiety. I’d heard a lot about postnatal depression but, despite having struggled with anxiety at times before I had children, I can’t say that I’d heard much or knew much about how postnatal mental health issues could manifest as anxiety.

I knew with my second pregnancy that I was probably at an increased risk of struggling given my previous experience and what was happening with my Dad.

Once my Dad passed away I felt as though it was time to get some professional support as I was starting to feel overwhelmed and unable to get my head around everything, and that was making me less present and less patient with my family.

I had weekly counselling sessions with a psychotherapist for a couple of months and found it extremely valuable. It was great to have time each week to talk about how I felt, and speaking to a professional who was also completely unconnected to my family meant I could really open up and be honest about everything I was feeling. It really helped me to be kinder to myself and stop worrying about whether I was grieving in ‘the right way’.

Throughout the pregnancy and since I’ve had my daughter, I’ve had lots of support from my husband, family and friends and have tried to make sure I do as much as I can of the things that I know help keep me in good mental health.

For me, this includes getting outdoors, seeing friends, and trying to carve out a little bit of time each day on my own to clear my head. Not necessarily easy or always possible with a newborn, but getting back into running means I can usually tick off a couple of these at a time!

Although it’s been overwhelming at times, going through all of this at once it has meant I have really tried to live more in the present as much as I can, so when something good is happening or I feel happy, really noticing that and feeling gratitude for it.

At times, I’ve struggled with not having much time to myself to process what was happening. I make a concerted effort to try and get a bit of time for myself wherever I can (often now this is actually on a run) and counselling has helped me to accept that every experience of grief is different and doesn’t necessarily fit a model or expectations.

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I have found running to be of huge value for my mental health. Before having children, I loved running as a means to relieve stress and clear my head, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d be able to get back into once I’d had a baby.

After my son was born I spoke to Mel at a local fair where she was running a TMR stall, and realised it was totally something I could do again! I went along to a social run not long after and have never looked back, even completing a half marathon in 2017 and training as a Run Angel.

I’ve made a few really special friends through TMR, have met so many lovely people on runs and am continuously inspired by all of the stories that are shared through the online community.