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. “

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.

Running, Mental Health & Me: Sara’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.

Sara Knowles is one our Cardiff Run Angels, with an incredible story. Here’s how she tells it.


I gave birth to my son 15 yrs ago this May.
The birth was long and traumatic, with a shoulder distention and all contractions stopping amongst other issues. In spite of the complications, our son, Jack Elan, was absolutely perfect, and after a difficult fourth stage and stitches, we were left in peace to rest and enjoy him.
Sadly in spite of every effort on my part alone at home, three days later he developed starvation jaundice and we were both admitted into the paediatric ward of our local hospital.
Jack was given a dextrose drip and placed in an incubator. Again, left alone I struggled to breastfeed him and the next day we discovered that the dextrose had been pumping into his skin rather than his vein, so we had a third degree burn to deal with as well. It was hell. 
After seven long days and nights of mental, physical and emotional trauma, I collapsed with a severe panic attack, the first of a series of problems with my mental health that I have been dealing with ever since. 
After 22 months of severe depression, anxiety and manic episodes, I conceded that I wasn’t going to get better without medical intervention, and was prescribed antidepressants. Four years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is a big label to bear. This February, I suffered the worse relapse of panic attacks and mental crisis I have experienced since Jack’s birth.
When TMR launched in Cardiff some weeks later, I was there, alone and afraid I would look obviously out of place in amongst sporty running women. Instead I found a really warm welcome, encouragement, support and brilliant friendship.
I am now a Run Angel and, at the age of 51, in a body that is not one to behold, I don my runners every Sunday and Wednesday to join encourage and support other Mums of all ages, shapes and sizes, to show them they can do it too.

How I went from 4 milers to ultra running…. in 18 months

The first three months of the year are always busy for us at This Mum Runs – with lots of new runners taking their very first steps, others taking tentative steps towards their first events, or more regular runners taking on bigger personal challenges. Throughout February and March we will be featuring stories of TMR runners of ALL experience levels; we hope you find them as inspiring as we do.
Meet Nina. Mum of one, TMR Run Angel….and soon to be ultra runner.
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My Mum was a runner and some of my enduring memories of childhood are being on holiday and driving to the middle of nowhere to drop her off so she could run home!  She was keen for me to run, but I tried it once and hated it!  Apparently, I was going to die!! My mother reminds me of this now often!  Mum had to have her knees replaced at 50 (a cautionary tale for us all) and had to stop running.  She found it really difficult and I think she now enjoys running vicariously through me.
I decided to start running about 12 years ago.  I can’t really remember much about why or how, but I did sign up for the Bristol Half and remember working in London and training running through Regent’s Park doing intervals.  I look back on this now and think I was very ambitious!  I did it though, and managed to finish in one piece.  Then I got pregnant and stopped running until about 3 years ago.
I run now because I love it.  I run with my dog and for me, it’s perfect Mum-juggling – getting the dog and myself exercised, getting some fresh air and getting that all important headspace and me-time.
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I had struggled since I started running again with the whole comparison piece – because I know a lot of people who run, and many of those are faster, fitter, ‘better’ than me, I felt inadequate and like I couldn’t compare.  I have now made peace with this and see *my* running for what it is, enjoyment, not a contest, even with myself.
That half marathon before I became a Mum was the furthest I’d run until last Spring, when I decided to run half marathon distance again.  Dave (my dog!) and I took off and ended up running 15 miles, slow, steady and with lots of photo stops!  I have decided I’m not a massive fan of racing.  When I was going through the comparison phase, I entered a 10k and decided I was going to run it in under 50 minutes (where the target came from, I have no idea).  I told someone this and therefore it had to become reality, even though when I looked at my previous 10k times, there was nothing under late 50 minutes.  Anyway, I ran the race, I finished in 49:58 and it nearly killed me! I hated every minute of it, and it really put me off races. I have taken part in 10k’s since, but running with friends and to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the event, rather than race.
I am also a member of a trail running club (although I don’t get out as much with them now that I run with TMR) and most of the lovely people in that club run ultras (and loads of them run super crazy distances, think 100 miles without a break!) Listening to their stories, it sounded like a great experience; very sociable, no pressure, no real race – about the experience rather than the time.  It sounded right up my street and after talking to friends in the group about a possibility of a trail marathon, I decided on the Green Man Ultra, as it’s around Bristol, on lots of the trails I already run.
I nearly entered last year, but couldn’t make the training commitments, but hearing about my friend Rachel’s experience last year, I decided it was on my bucket list and that I’d make time this year.  The fact that other TMR mamas were entering pushed me over the edge and that was it!
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Although friends have said to me ‘You’ll be fine, you can run that distance’ (30 miles), my OCD took over and I have a 10 week training plan, cobbled together off the internet.  I still hadn’t run more than 15 miles before the start of this year, so wanted to feel comfortable with the distance.  The plan is actually going well, although I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it works for me – especially around the planning, letting my family know what I’ll be doing etc, and therefore actually getting it done.  The long runs have been great fun.  There were 3 of us from TMR signed up as far as I was aware, and Rachel joined us as our official guide, having done it before.  I stuck a message on the TMR Facebook page, and we met 2 more lovely mamas who joined us for our first long run (17 miles) and one of those, Erin, is signed up and we’ll run together on the day – the beauty of TMR!!  I’ve now built up to 22 miles and the 30 mile distance seems achievable!  I am planning to go slow and steady, with lots of photo stops and walking up the hills, in true Ultra style!!
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I am amazed at how far I’ve come in the past 18 months – I was running 3 times a week, around 3 – 4 miles, but felt like I wasn’t a ‘real’ runner due to comparisons, trying to be something I wasn’t.
Now I’m loving it, running 5 days a week (sometimes more than once!) and having fun.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Ultra – an adventure – outside of my comfort zone, but in a completely different (better for me!) way than trying to run faster!  I would encourage you to give it a go – spend hours (4 1/2 for us last Sunday!) outside; running, walking, having fun with friends – EPIC!
This Mum Runs is a people-powered community-first organisation that empowers Mums everywhere to be healthier and happier. Through a network of volunteer Run Angels we offer free, social runs every Wednesday and Sunday across London, Bristol and Bath – with Cardiff and Brighton launching soon (and more to follow in 2019). To keep up to date with our plans – and for plenty of inspiration too – sign up for our weekly email here.

Don’t ask for more perfume this Christmas.  Ask for more time.

It’s December and a time of year when Mums make even less time for themselves (if that’s even possible). So this month we are sharing a series of tips to help you survive the Christmas craziness. 

This week’s post is from new team member, Shona Mitchell Beats. As former COO of meditation App Headspace it’s fair to say she knows a thing or two about mindfulness. As a new Mum she also knows just how hard it is to make time for herself. Here are her tips for how to squeeze in a few minutes that are just for you…

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Before I got pregnant, I was in a blissful place.  Having gone through a debilitating period of anxiety and panic attacks at 30, I discovered meditation, and it was a game changer.

As soon as I realised the immediate benefits and positive impact on my health and wellbeing, I got stuck right in!   I sat for 40 minutes in the morning, (yep, that’s 40, not 4), and 40 minutes in the evening.  That’s 1 hour and 20 minutes to myself a day meditating, finding peace, clarity and calm.  The kind of calm that followed me around all day like a waft of beautiful incense or the light of 100 candles.  Life felt totally doable.

As I said, that was before I got pregnant.

Morning sickness, (which is a stupid name – it’s 24 hours a day), hit me hard.  No one, and I mean no one can meditate when they are vomiting in the toilet for hours a day.  How can you meditate for even 10 minutes when you only just managed to get to work and back before your head hit the pillow (or floor, if the bed was too far away), and you were out like a light until the following day, by which point the toilet once again became your best friend for a few hours?

Getting pregnant was my first experience into the world of motherhood.  And the lesson was hard and fast – your life will never be your own again, and from now on, a magical little being(s) will be the boss of your time.

So us Mums have to dig deep.  There is no question that we have to put our own oxygen mask on first.  Motherhood pulls on your energy sources in so many ways, so you have to top them up each week as best you can.  It’s vital.  Do not underestimate the impact on your nervous system and stability of nightly wake up calls, chaotic birthday parties, and drawn out negotiations to get a coat on little arms whilst stood in the pouring rain.

No I don’t meditate for 40 minutes a time now.  I do 10 minutes a few times a week when my daughter naps, or I’m on the bus, or I’m walking with the pushchair, (yes, walking meditation is a thing).  I run (proudly sporting my #Fearless TMR jumper!), for 20 minutes when I can, to feel the rain, to get some peace.  And when I can’t meditate in the day, I do it lying down as I fall to sleep, (try Yoga Nidra – it’s the ultimate meditation for the woman with no time).

So in the lead up to Christmas, don’t ask for more perfume.  Ask your loved ones for more time.  Just 10 minutes of it.  Plug in your earphones, sit back, and let someone guide you through a meditation. Prefer to meditate on the go?  Add a meditation practice to your run.  There’s a whole series of running meditations on the Headspace app.

However you chose to take your ‘me time’, just make sure you take it. I promise you, it’ll be the best gift you get.

I Ran to Meet New Friends & Found Myself

As part of our birthday celebrations this month, we are taking a moment. To reflect and think about all that the amazing This Mum Runs community has achieved over the past 4 years.

As part of this moment of reflection, of course we wanted to tell your stories too. To shine a light on stories of brilliant transformation for women in the This Mum Runs community. To showcase how running has given them new found confidence in other areas of their lives too.

Meet Stacey.

How did you find out about TMR?

I remember hearing about This Mum Runs quite a few years ago when Mel set it up. Back, what feels like eons ago, in my pre-Mum life Mel had done some consultancy work for the company I worked for and we always got on well, so when I saw she had set up the community I was intrigued and wanted to support her. I didn’t think I would ever really have the confidence to get involved with the running or the social media myself though!

What do you love about running with TMR?

I completed the RUN30 course this year and I really enjoyed it. Initially I was really nervous but I decided to push through myself to start it and I loved meeting new people! My Run Maker (Sam) was amazingly kind and supportive and made me feel like I would be able to do it! I loved it so much I cried when the course was over!

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Because of where I live and the hours my husband works I don’t get to go to any social runs so I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it come to TMR runs, but I get so much support through the TMR Bristol Facebook page that I feel like I carry the support of the TMR ladies with me when I pop out for a trundle across the fields or around the village!

Has running with TMR helped you in other ways?

Before joining in with TMR I hadn’t run for years. After doing the Bath Half in 2008 I never really got back into it, then I had my daughter in 2010 followed by my son in 2012 and exercise really took a backseat.

I struggled with post natal depression after having my daughter, who cried all the time, and was very isolated so I would walk for miles. After I had my son I couldn’t do that and I started to struggle with my health generally. I found a class I loved but that stopped and nothing else would stick. I became  anxious and depressed and after finding myself crying for ‘no reason’ a lot decided to go on antidepressants.

After stalking the TMR Facebook page for a long time I decided I needed to start somewhere with exercise again, and that a 10 min walk/run with my daughter was better than nothing!

Running over the past year to 18 months has become a really positive way to support myself mentally and physically. After completing the RUN30 course I kept up my running and at the same time was helping a very small team of runners with moral support to train for the Bath Half 2018. When it was cancelled everyone was gutted. I sat in the bath and cried (no pun intended), but a few days later and a new Half Marathon booked in for the team I decided that I might as well give it a go myself!!

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I posted my runs and my progress in the TMR Facebook group and people gave me the thumbs up, I asked for advice and I got support, I even took pictures involving my bare arms and legs (#freeyourarms) and journey to complete a Half Marathon and to recovery began!! Without the TMR Community I don’t think I could’ve done it! The TMR ladies have me the confidence to carry on!

How your life is now and how you manage your mental health?

I have managed to come off the antidepressants now and when I feel the anxiety rising and the fog of depression re-emerging I know a run will help, either with a friend or on my own. Running has really helped increase both my mental and physical resilience.

When I went to the doctor to ask her if I could come off the medication she asked my what coping mechanisms I have and I said “I run now” and she agreed that running can do wonders for you and as as long as I could keep that up I could give it a go. 

I still have the odd panic attack and my down days but I know there is a way out and that going for a run will help me clear my head and find the solution. Plus I feel like a positive role model for my kids which is worth it’s weight in gold … (or even running medals!!)

This weekend is commonly known as Black Friday. At This Mum Runs we are actively encouraging you to switch off the laptop and the tech this weekend, to get outdoors for a run! Share your pics, tag them #blackfriday #thismumruns and you could be in with a chance of winning a whole load of exciting spot prizes!