My name is Geoff Dickson and I am a regular runner with Run Through. I was bitten by the running bug as a child, with thanks to my mum. She would go out running on a regular basis and at the weekend I would follow her on my bicycle or scooter. This continued up until the point I was a teenager and entered my first running event at the Lisburn 10k. With very little training, I completed the course and have never looked back. I have now completed numerous 10k, half marathon and marathon events, up to my proudest moment of completing the Chicago marathon in a sub 4-hour time.
Throughout my school years, I was badly bullied up to the point where I hated myself and engaged in self harming. In PE classes I would be “picked on” for various reasons, often being chosen last for a football team; but truth be told I was always more comfortable on the running track than a football pitch. I found an escape and a sense of belonging through running, that no other person or activity could bring me. Often during PE, instead of playing football, I would be found on the school’s cross-country track and thankfully I was able to get myself out of a very dark place. Without running, I might not be here today.
I now work in the National Health Service as a dietitian, specialising in the area of cancer care. For many the first thing that comes to mind when they think of a dietitian is someone who dictates what others should eat or drink, to perhaps stay healthy or lose weight. However, my job is much more than this. Many clients I have on my caseload cannot eat or drink and often require tube feeding, either due to the location of the cancer making it difficult to eat or swallow food for example; or the nasty side effects from treatments such as chemotherapy, that have a huge impact on a person’s nutritional status. Working in this area can be very rewarding, but some days can be difficult due to the overall demands placed on all NHS staff and the emotional impact of working closely with patients and their families, often in difficult situations with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Like many NHS staff, I have been in the situation where I have burned myself out, resulting in taking sick leave to look after myself. I have tried a number of different techniques to manage work related stress; but running is something I continue to come back to and is often the only activity that helps me to relax and control any emotions. When I run my mind is concentrating on what I am doing, whether it be controlling my breathing or hitting out a certain pace. Strangely I do prefer running on my own and often use It as my time to let go of emotions and reset. Even after a short run, I often experience the runners high and for this reason after a bad day at work, the first thing I do is lace up and go for a run. Interestingly, I have read recent research that now shows those who run regularly are better equipped to survive a high stress environment, at which I can certainly agree with.
Running has also made an impact on my professional career. I often encourage those people living with and beyond cancer not to let cancer take control, by encouraging participation, either by walking, jogging or running in events such as Park Run. I feel as a runner myself I can really engage with other people in this area and feel proud at being able to adopt this into my working practice.
My message to anyone suffering from stress is go and “run it off.” Running clears, the mind, releases happy hormones, increases energy levels and improves fitness. You won’t regret.
I have a met a number of fantastic people at Run Through, which I am grateful to have in my life now. It was an honour to welcome the crew to my hometown in Northern Ireland for the Hillsborough Running festival and I look forward to running more great events in the coming months.