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Helen El Mkhattat

My running journey began in March 2018, I weighed almost 16 stone and at 5’6”, that’s clearly not healthy. I’d had a pretty rough ride mentally in the few years leading up to becoming my heaviest, although I have never been slim or sporty, even at school I used every excuse under the sun to avoid PE.

Let’s begin with 2014, I’d already suffered a miscarriage (on my wedding day) and then after finding I was pregnant again, I gave birth to our daughter by emergency c section in Aug 2014. Sadly our beautiful little girl, Laila, passed away at 5 days old, she was too poorly for this world and she took her last breath in my arms. Following our utter devastation, I then went on to have a further 6 miscarriages. I think overwhelming grief and crashing hormones sent me seeking comfort in the fridge. I had tremendous support from my hubby, but the effort to extract myself from the sofa became pretty hard work.

Fast forward to March 2018, after becoming so down on myself, I enrolled on a week long bootcamp, boy was that a mistake! It wasn’t really meant for an obese, unfit and unwell women like me. I felt like I was back at school again, when no one picked you for the sports team as you were so rubbish. Noone talked to me no matter how much I smiled and took the mickey out of myself. I used humour to cover my weight issues. The strenuous exercise combined with home sickness totally broke me. I ended up doing a midnight flit on day 3.

However, that dreadful experience sparked something in me. I wasn’t going to be the fat fool any longer, I would prove I could do it and stuff the lot of them. My house backs onto a canal, so it has a beautiful towpath, I set off one Sunday morning at 4am so no one would see me, clad in tracksuit bottoms and walking boots (I had no trainers), and ran from barge to barge, the next time, I ran from barge to the second barge and so on. I will never forget the elation at running my first mile non stop.

Amazingly running suited me, the solitude, the fresh air, the ‘me time’. I took it slowly, listening to my body as I had spent 40 years sedentary, I didn’t follow any plans or diet programme, I just realised I needed to find a way of life that I could stick too. If I hurt, I stopped but mentally found the strength to push through the arguments I had in my brain.

Running gave me time to process the death of Laila, all my miscarriages, my work stresses and also the day to day obstacles life throws at us all. I’m not sad, I’m pragmatic, I can’t change what has happened but running can absorb me, running can save me. Physically I lost 5 stone, I’m healthy, I choose the right things to eat to fuel my runs (took a while to get out of the diet mentality of no carbs!), I now run about 20-25 miles a week. BUT mentally, now that’s the big reward, I go for a run and process life, I get back after achieving a feat of physical endurance, I’m upbeat, I love life and that’s all thanks to running.

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