I have been fortunate enough to have never had to deal with any genuine mental health issues, but like most people there have been incidents in life that have left me not feeling myself, and recently has been one of those times. I find when I am feeling anxious or mildly depressed I lose my appetite and feel exhausted. All I want to do is get in my bed and close my eyes and hope that I will feel myself soon. Unfortunately as much as that is all my mind and body want to do I don’t find it helps, and arguably exasperates my feelings as I then start to berate myself for feeling so weak and hiding like a child under the duvet.
So how does running help? NHS Choices website has exercise alongside cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling as a proven, effective alternative to antidepressants. But as anyone who has been depressed can attest to, getting your kit on and going out feels like a huge hurdle. I do not have the answer on how to take the first step to exercising when you are feeling like this, and my experience of anxiety and depression is very minor, and I have still found myself unable to get out the door. On Sunday for example I had scheduled in a long morning run, I got home, ate, did my usual pre run routine and was immobilised by my mind until 4pm. The irony of this situation is I know that once I am running I will feel much better and that feeling will last long after I have refuelled and washed and yet I still lie there struggling to conquer my thoughts. I am by no means well versed on the field of mental health. This is just a personal account of my own struggles during times of anxiety to get out there and do the one activity that I know will help me.
Kelly Jayne Jackson was diagnosed with severe depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Kelly suffered with poor mental health from a fairly young age. But it was only in her late twenties that a full blown breakdown occurred and she was heavily medicated. For her the medications prescribed did nothing to actually help the state her brain was in, they only served to cease any feeling at all. Nothing. Which when dealing with suicidal intentions and anxiety, that was slowly manifesting itself in obsessive compulsive behaviours, isn’t actually a bad thing. Somewhere inside of her she knew this wasn’t a life, especially one that was shared with two children. So began the journey to find a cure, her cure. What followed was eighteen long months of intense weekly therapy sessions. Each week building on new skills on how to handle her ‘poor’ mental health using talking therapies, nutrition and exercise. It was in these three mighty things that she found a way out of the pit she was in. The days when even her body hurt from the burden of the thoughts in her mind, she still got up, put on her gear and went to the gym in hungry search of those elusive endorphin’s. Eventually she found them everywhere.
Kelly’s inspiring story demonstrates how the holistic natural remedies of communication, nutrition and exercise can be implemented to bring about a consistent and reliable aid to your mental health. As a result she is fitter, healthier and mentally happier. And continues this day to battle her mind with her weapons of exercise and the great outdoors.
I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing
‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’
It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.
This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.
Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.
The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.
If you are a dedicated runner in Britain then you will have to run in the rain, wind, snow and whatever else this islands gloriously unpredictable weather throws at you. This is even more applicable if you enjoy running the trails of the British uplands. I live near Dartmoor which is notorious for its bad weather and it experiences around double the average precipitation per month then other lowland areas of Devon. As I enjoy running on the moor, I felt that buying a fully waterproof lightweight jacket would be a sound investment. Many races also stipulate that a waterproof is carried regardless of the forecast or conditions and therefore a quality lightweight jacket is a necessity for anyone who wants to race longer distances. When you have the correct gear it also a real incentive to get out and train, no excuses then.
After researching different products and brands I decided to buy an INOV-8 AT/C storm shell jacket. I use INOV-8 shoes and have always found their products to be comfortable and made to a high standard. INOV-8’s website states that
‘This men’s lightweight, waterproof running jacket weighs just 150g and boasts 20,0000 B-1 breathability. The AT/C STORMSHELL HZ features taped seams, adjustable hood & half zip. It has Lycra bound cuffs with integrated thumb holes and includes a stuff sac’
So how have I found the jacket after running in the winter on Dartmoor and the South West coast path? Firstly I like the cut, I am 5ft’9 and bought a small, the arms are long enough to keep you fully covered and crucially the back is long enough so that it doesn’t ride up, which is something to check when buying lightweight clothing, that there is still enough of it to do its intended job. The thumb loops are a great feature when it is really hammering it down to keep you as sealed as possible and the wire in the hood ensures that when it is really blowing a gale and the rain is coming at you from all angles you can still see. Crucially the weight and size when in the sac means that it is great in any situation and not just running, it can be put in a bag and forgotten about until the heavens open, this means it really gets a lot of use and is perfect for many situations. I bought the jacket in red which to come might be a bit garish but I really like the look of the jacket, which as we all know still plays a part in gear choice. I have found it to be completely waterproof thanks to the taped seams and 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with 20,000 HH, it also hasn’t wetted out from sweat when I have been slogging up a hill or running fast, and the mid chest zip allows for more aeration if you are getting hot.
I am a big fan of this jacket. So far I have no complaints and can’t find a single negative. It is comfortable and crucially fully waterproof, with some well thought out design features and style. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for a lightweight waterproof for running, racing, hiking or just about any outdoor activity.
Being from South Devon and wanting to try a marathon distance race, I thought this instalment of the coastal trail series would be ideal. Having not done a specific marathon training plan I thought I would take the safe option and race the first marathon of my life locally so if I blew up I only had to travel a few miles home. It also gave me the opportunity to run on trails I have many of my long runs on so I felt comfortable throughout the race.
The race started and finished in Beesands, a small fishing village. This meant that you could be dropped off, which I was or park in Chillington and use the free shuttle bus to and from the event. Endurance life’s website list the average marathon time as 04hrs, 59mins, and a total ascent of 3,526ft. However of the over 100 runners this year only the top 8 ran under the alleged average time, but this may have something to do with the fact my watch gave the ascent at over 4,600ft and after looking on Strava the ascent from other racers was anywhere between my 4,600ft to 5,200ft so significantly more uphills. So at 27.6 miles and over 4,600ft of ascent on the slippery rocks and mud of the beautiful South West coastal path it was a challenging event. However in my opinion the best way to overcome the pain of a run is to have a magnificent view to inspire you and this race certainly provided that.
The course is extremely undulating and rated as 4 (severe) by Endurance life. I didn’t find I had to walk any of the hills which many runners did but they were certainly steep and as I approached mile 18 I could feel them leaching the strength from my legs. It was also at this stage of the race that my left knee which I have had issues with before (IT band) decided to really make itself known. I didn’t panic but took two Ibuprofen and at this stage I was in second place so my competitiveness drove me on. Eventually I caught Ben Francis who had been in front of me from the first checkpoint at mile 11 on the straight at Torcross at around 22 miles, this spurred me on and I managed to win in a time of 04hrs, 24. I was extremely happy to win and to run faster than my target time of 04hrs, 30 especially as there was over 1000ft more of ascent then I had anticipated. I was elated to hear at the medal ceremony that my close friend and frequent adventure buddy Oli Thorogood won the half in 01hr, 39.
The race was incredible and the views really do help you to push yourself through your preconceived limts, which are always further then you think. Endurance life put on a very efficient event and I would recommend them as an event organiser to anyone.