On Sunday 16th April 2023, I ran 42.2km along with thousands of others participating in the Manchester Marathon.
It was my first (official) marathon and after months of training, I felt ready. I finished with a time of 3:05 (3 hours, 5 minutes; not 3 minutes and 5 seconds (not too sure that’s entirely possible).
But, let me catch you up to speed on why this marathon was so much more than a race, and how ultimately, running saved my life. In a world filled with diet culture and toxic messages surrounding our bodies, these beautiful vessels that carry us from day to day, its hard to turn a blind eye.
Growing up, I was intoxicated by the belief that a smaller body = happiness.
I had been on every diet possible, each becoming a revolving cycle of never-ending dismay. When I turned 18, I had booked my first holiday away with my girlfriends, and influenced by the ideal that I needed a “beach-body”, I began my attempt to once again shrink myself.
This is where my unknown love for running began. After returning from my holiday, I carried on running, genuinely enjoying the breeze that coiffed my hair and the noise of nature, first thing in the morning. As I was moving away to University, I decided to try and keep my running up; discovering new locations to run, meeting new people and ultimately, having fun.
Unfortunately, my first year of University was cut short by the COVID Pandemic in 2020. The year when we were locked down and locked into online workouts and a desire to come out of the pandemic “a better version of ourselves”. Side note, isn’t it ridiculous that we equate the way we look to the way we feel? To cut a long story short, I found out the long way that once we realise we are so much more than a reflection in a mirror, life suddenly opens its doors to us and we discover the unlimited possibilities of fun, food and freedom.
Running soon became a chore. Running longer and harder with little-to-no-energy in my tank, leaving me constantly depleted and depressed but alas, I HAD to be stick-thin, because as we know “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (explicit word I’m not allowed to write).
For context, I am a 6’1, broad-shouldered man, with legs as long as the Eiffel Tower, so you can kind-of imagine, that I was looking ridiculous trying to live in a body that wasn’t mine. People would begin making comments, advising me I’d already lost “enough”, or that maybe it was “time to stop”. Yet, I was deaf to these comments, blind-sided by the ability to lose more and more and more. Losing not only non-existent weight, but losing myself, my personality and who I truly was.
It finally came to a halt, when my older brother introduced me to therapy. From there, I would begin to realise that this was so much more than eating, so much more than running and my desire to fit into a smaller body was fuelled by so much more than I ever could’ve thought. The running stopped. The extreme exercise stopped. I was essentially banned from compulsive movement.
Throughout my recovery period, that spark of loving to run and be free, became something that pushed me to recover.
I set myself the goal, that once I was mentally and physically better, I would one day run a marathon. When you’re in recovery, it’s essential to realise that movement should be fun and not compulsive. This was a hard lesson to learn for myself; growing up surrounded by “Get Fit in 7 Days” and “Tone Up in 10!”. But I had a drive, a passion, a desire to recover and become the person who I was meant to be; a fabulous being, glowing from the rays of the disco balls of the dance floor.
When I truly committed to my recovery, embracing everything I had learnt, embracing the extreme hunger and ignoring the disordered thoughts as strongly as I could, out of the cocoon, came this butterfly. This being that I didn’t even know was inside of me. A person who was confident, strong
and fabulous (I love that word so much, I don’t regret saying it multiple times). It was only now on the other side, I could see how unwell I was.
The thought to run again came to me, 3 months after I had been discharged. Slowly, but surely, I began to run but this time, I knew I had to fuel more to ensure I didn’t fall back into the deathly hallows I once was. Pre-fuel, post-fuel, post-post-fuel, ALL THE FUEL! My body needed it and boy, oh, boy did I give it to it. And I still do! Our bodies do so much more than we know, so why should we ever punish them?
And that brings us back to the Marathon. The training was intense. The food was delicious. And I knew there was only one charity I wanted to raise money for, Beat.
Throughout my experience, Beat were always there
Whether it be the online support groups or talking to one of the Helpline team, Beat helped me more than they will ever know; it only felt right to do my part.
At the end of the race, I ran into my parents arms, they held me and although my legs felt as if they were going to collapse, in that moment, I felt weightless. It had all been worth it. That sense of accomplishment. That feeling of victory. To be able to be alive, well and strong; to see my parents tears; not those of worry from years before but those that fell with happiness and relief. I had done it.
And that is how I became a better runner. Well, not just that, but a better person, a better creative, a better being. All because I chose recovery. The best decision I ever made. If I can recover, so can you. Take that stride, and remember, recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.
-Contributed by Tim
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