How running saved my sanity….

by Emma Mitchell-Williams

The latter part of 2019 was pretty rough for me. The year started off well with our annual family holiday booked and put on the calendar. As a teacher you live for the holidays!

The start of the summer holidays came and my wife, with whom I had been with for over 13 years said she didn’t want to be with me anymore. My world was turned upside down, it was like I had been hit by a steam train. Our twins were just four at the time, so obviously the focus was around them and their wellbeing. 

When I returned to school in September I became really poorly. This led to many tests and lots of sleepless nights as I waited for results from a biopsy for ovarian cancer. Thankfully all the nasties were removed; treatment began and I was given the all clear. However, it was deemed necessary to have a hysterectomy so the operation went ahead on the 4th January 2020.

When I look back, I am not quite sure how I got through those 5 months leading up to the surgery. I think I got through each day on autopilot, smiling and telling people I was ‘ok’, when deep down I was broken.

A critical point for me was getting home from hospital, sitting on my bed and crying; it felt like I cried for days on end. I had no idea what was going to happen, what the future looked like, and how I was going to cope. My emotions were all over the place. On reflection I think I was suffering with depression.

Having always been active and loving sport from an early age it was inevitable I would become a PE teacher. My love of sport (and competition!) had continued into adulthood. But since being so poorly my fitness levels had plummeted – for the first time in my life I was inactive as it was just so painful to exercise. I was fatigued all the time, just getting through each day was hard, physically and mentally.

I had been a ‘stalker’ on the She Runs: Cardiff page for some time; I loved seeing everyone’s posts, I was in awe thinking how is it even possible to run that far and smile at the end? 

It was meeting Elaine at the Rhiwbina Christmas market the previous year that made me join the group. She was so kind and supportive and said she would run with me any time. My reply was ‘I hate running, I am rubbish at it’ (that will be the competitive nature). I was that pupil in school who had a note to be excused for anything over 400m, I still don’t make my pupils in school run long distance events unless they want to! 

Anyway, fast forward to April 2020, I left the consultant for the last time after having the all clear to return to exercise. I got home, sat down and had a look at Facebook and there was a post on the group that said, ‘remember you are not alone, if you would like some company, please just shout, someone will meet you for a chatty walk/run’ the post was written by Tanya. 

I sat staring at my phone in my hand as the post really resonated with me; I quickly messaged her to see if it would be possible to meet and explained my situation: basically I hated running and was rubbish at it!

We met two days later at Penylan library. Despite having played sport at a pretty decent level I cannot tell you how nervous I was, I just had no idea of my fitness levels. I actually sat in the car thinking, I can’t do this. I had put on weight during treatment, I felt rubbish, I had zero confidence. I had almost talked myself out it, I was about to drive away and she pulled up!

Why I was nervous I have no idea! It didn’t matter, for 35 minutes we didn’t stop talking…. well actually I think I did all the talking, Tanya just asked the odd question. Before I knew it we had shuffled 5k! I could have cried (again!) but I didn’t have the ability to as my lungs were in overdrive. I can’t put into words how I felt after that. 

Let’s just say, that day changed my life forever. As dramatic as it sounds, it was the day that I started to think about me. For the first time in a long time I was going to put myself first (although I am still working on this!). I was going to make sure that running was going to be my thing, time for me to escape.

I have met Tanya every single week since, along with Elaine, they really are my besties. We have laughed, chatted and cried on our runs. Honestly, people must think we are bonkers when they see us!

Meeting these two amazing humans changed my life. There isn’t a day goes by where we don’t check in. It’s more than running now its friendship and I will always be forever grateful to you both, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You may be wondering how my running has progressed? 

I threw myself into the monthly challenges (cue the competitive nature!). The bingo board was the first one I took part in, and then run around the ‘diff. If I am honest, I can’t believe that most weeks I now run between 20-30 miles (some are even up and down hills and in the rain; oh, how I have changed!)

If you take anything from reading my ramblings, please, if you would like company on a walk/jog/run, please post in the group. Someone will be there for you. It really did change my life. 

Take care, smile and remember, every day is a new day. We can achieve anything we want to, just one step at a time!

much love, Emma xx

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