In October 2019, I managed to find motivation to run a half-marathon in Bournemouth for Cancer Research… I could barely pick something up off the floor when I set this goal. I was inspired by my Sister’s endurance as a survivor of breast cancer. I decided there was no reason for me not to endure a half-marathon to raise money for Cancer Research and the amazing work that they do.
As you can see in my pictures, I was carrying a lot of luggage. Not just physically but mentally. I’d been through a rough bereavement and had withdrawn from the world. This was my first step outside my comfort zone, it saved my life. I’d battled through training. My self-critic was all over me right up until the day of the run, I had the worst case of imposter syndrome and thinking of the unthinkable. I remember saying to my best friend on the day “I will run a Half-Marathon today, even if I arrive on my face”. I was motivated because I promised my sister and publicly held myself acocuntable. It was a real turning point for me and a great feeling to raise just under £1000.
I booked the Victoria Park half-marathon as I was sat in an ice-bath recovering. Talk about runners bug… Just after crossing the finish line of Victoria Park, I met the wonderful Co-Founder of RunThrough, Matt Wood who told me about the first ever Blackburn 10k (as I was wearing a Blackburn Rovers top).
Going back home and running a 10k in my home town, a place I never personally associated with fitness really broadened my horizons. I become one with RunThrough and the community. The work they do to provide a space for people to become better is amazing. The positivity of the staff is something that has helped cement my mindset as an athlete.
This 10k was in November 2019 and since then a lot has changed. Being able to run 13.1 miles at 100kg with 35kg of body-fat caused a mental shift. I started to love and back myself. I knew that if I kept setting goals, there is nothing I cannot do. I continued to work away at these fitness goals and after a year not really coming to terms with the beauty of a calorie deficit; 2021 had an extra focus, I was to continue on my athletic progression but really address my eating habits and environment design. On new years day 2022 I completed my ‘New Year, New Marathon’ campaign. I ran a looped unofficial marathon (28 loops) for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and after a year of habitual change too, I weighed in at a whopping 77kg and 95% of that 23kg loss was body-fat. How much of that was because the Marathon had just emptied me? That is a question for another marathon.
During the 2021 period, I took up the sport of CrossFit which says a lot about how different my confidence level is now. CrossFit has a very strong community and culture, it can be overwhelming at first. It is mindblowing to me how confident I am walking into different CrossFit boxes considering that getting out of bed was once the hardest job in the world. I have next to no anxiety and very few doubts. I have the confidence to embrace failure. I have the confidence and tranquility to work with vulnerable adults and children. I have the confidence to help others with their weight loss without feeling like an imposter. I enjoy CrossFit, and as a strength and conditioning based sport that challenges you mentally, it has massively complimented my running and my confidence.
December 2021, I ran the Blackburn 10k again. Two years apart. I’d gone from 1hr and 14 mins to sub 57 minutes. I enjoyed it more too and mostly because the first 10k was with 20kg of physical and emotional baggage. Running is a lot more fun now. There is no negative voice in my head, It’s almost as though there is no voice at all on race days. I am guilty of getting to the finish line and not really knowing how I got there, nor taking in spectators because it’s often just me, the rhythm of my footsteps and breathing. It’s complete catharsis, especially when I know I’ve done my training in full. I love all RunThrough races but Blackburn 10k is my favourite and I am biased. I have a personal connection with it, I see the buzz it creates within the town and its influence is immeasurable.
The fact I often run races in a state of semi-consciousness is a sign of not just my weight and athletic progression, but my mental shift too. Every workout and run used to be a nasty battle. This translated into my everyday life too. I used to be scared to leave my house because of the amount of anxiety that my self-critic had put over me. I didn’t want to be seen. My brain was a mile a minute but that is all alien to me now. I get excited to go to sleep because I wake up with a goal and the confidence that I will achieve it. I look in the mirror everyday and don’t avoid eye contact. I can turn my brain off during workouts and runs and back on again. I enjoy addressing weaknesses and failures knowing that I have the perseverance to progress away from them.
One thing that drives me more now than ever, is knowing that other people are going through it too. I am driven to help others around helping myself. I work with a Non-Profit Organisation called The 180 Project, I always maintain that my social media inspires others and my DM’s are open to connect with others who are looking to lose that physical and mental weight: https://linktr.ee/shaneroymitchell.
So this passage, as long as it may be, is a very brief account of my journey and it’s only the introduction. I am a big believer in the butterfly effect. What if RunThrough didn’t host a run at Victoria Park near my flat. What if it wasn’t the week after my first ever race and I wasn’t impulsed by the runners high. I wouldn’t have experienced the positive minds at the event, I wouldn’t have been told about the 10k in my hometown. It goes on. There are many different systems that have changed the course of my life dramatically. However, I will never overlook the effect that the RunThrough community has had on my life; it has played a great part in saving it.
Shane Roy Mitchell