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Runner Feature – Becca Ridley

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Name: Becca Ridley

Age: 32

Location: London

Becca battled with her body confidence and mental health for the majority of her teenage years. One day she put her trainers on and went out for a run with no idea what was to come - she is now a running addict and had never felt better!

You may know Becca from Instagram as the RedFaced_Runner  and here is her story...

The first eighteen years of my life can be summed up with a very common story – girl is bigger than everyone else, girl is bullied mercilessly, girl eats in secret to feel better, girl gets bigger, girl has absolutely zero self confidence, no worth, no self belief.

When I moved to London for University, I was ready for a fresh start. Unfortunately some things happened to me which I did not cope with very well, and my mental well being plummeted. I was in a huge city miles from home, and all my friends were throwing themselves into the student life. I felt incredibly alone, completely lost and absolutely hopeless. I remember thinking “If this is life, I’m not sure I’m that bothered actually”. I never tried to take my life, but I did start self harming. Looking at it now, I think I was in so much pain mentally, I needed a physical pain to go with it, so that I could say “That’s it, that’s where it hurts”. I was also eating…ridiculously. Eating always has and always will make me feel better. As well as the typical bad student diet, I was eating at home in secret. Months worth of junk food consumed each night, every night. Not surprisingly, I got bigger, and hated myself even more, so self harming increased. I couldn’t stop binge eating, so instead I started throwing it all up each day. This continued through my 20s – not always at that level. I’d have good months and bad months, but even when I was feeling good, it felt very fragile.

Then I turned 29, looked in the mirror and something snapped. This was not how I wanted to be. At this point I was doing zero exercise and the extra weight on my body was hurting me. My knees were always sore, my inner thighs were always raw from rubbing. I just felt so so unfit, and it occurred to me that my fitness was something I could control and have say in.

So I went for a run. It was chuffing horrible.And then I did nothing for two weeks. And then I went for another run. And then I did nothing for two weeks. I was dimly aware that I always felt amazing mentally after these runs, and I did not want to give that up. I realized I needed something to work towards otherwise I was never going to get up and get it done. So I signed up for a 10km race. I did all the runs on my training plan and told everyone I knew I was doing it – I think because I was scared I’d back out! Crossing the finish line, you’d think I’d just won gold. I can not describe the sense of achievement I felt. I may as well have just climbed Everest. I’d spent the weeks before going I can’t do this I can’t do this on repeat. And I’d done it. I got the bug. I started signing up for races left right and centre, including some RunThrough ones! I did my first half marathon and that started to change how I saw myself. I had a run 13 miles and hadn’t died – and I had done all that myself. I started to like myself a bit more!

As the weeks went by, I realised that I hadn’t harmed myself since I started running. I just hadn’t felt the need to. Running was making me feel more grounded, mentally stronger, and like I was actively trying to improve myself, which was a really nice feeling. I just had more get up and go, and when anything happened that could potentially have thrown me down a black hole, it didn’t derail me like it used to. I wanted to up my running game and needed some inspiration – so I set up an Instagram page and followed all these wonderful runners who motivated me to get up each day and do something to improve my fitness.

I was feeling better, looking better, sleeping better and was much more interested in looking after myself as opposed to hurting myself. My binge eating calmed down  - I didn’t want to undo all my hard work by drowning in cake! And I couldn’t run how I wanted to if I was eating all that stuff. And I wanted to run, because it made me feel capable.

It’s nearly two years since I started running regularly and it has changed my life for the better. My relationship with myself has improved dramatically - undoing three decades of hating myself is hard work but with each run I’m getting there. Yes running has changed me physically, but what it has done for my mental health is amazing, and something I am hugely grateful for!

I never ever ever thought I could be a runner – I can not emphasise that enough. But I am. And I bloody love it.

My top tips:

  1. If you are struggling mentally with something, tell someone. Even if it’s a stranger. People in general are very bad at talking about things, and it can make you feel abnormal and very isolated. You are not abnormal. Talk to someone and it will help. I didn’t mention my issues to anyone in my life and dealt with it on my own for over a decade. Don’t do that.
  2. Join Instagram. The people I have met on there have changed my life. There is so much love and support and knowledge in that community – use it! I post my week’s plan every Sunday so that I feel accountable – people know I’m supposed to run today so I’d better do it!
  3. Do not compare yourself with anyone else. It is pointless and means nothing. Compare yourself to you, and be proud of what you’re doing.
  4. Sign up for events. It gives you that extra shove out the door on a day where you might be struggling.
  5. Stop saying “I can’t”. You can!

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