My Story - Running helped me after a brain haemorrhage

My Story - Running helped me after a brain haemorrhage

To support Time to Talk Day on Thursday 1st February, England Athletics are encouraging people to #RunAndTalk to improve their mental wellbeing through running and to break down the stigma associated with mental health by getting people talking.

This is Melanie's story:

Melanie’s running journey began in September 2012. It was an unexpected and quite wonderful revelation, but was preceded by a life-threatening illness.

Since graduating from the University of Manchester with a degree in Sociology, Mel had a successful career in various field sales roles and in 2003 started a job as a corporate account manager for a mid-sized telecoms and internet service provider. After a particularly busy time at work, and whilst getting ready to go away for a long weekend in Amsterdam to celebrate her fiancé’s 40th birthday, Mel suffered a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage, a type of stroke caused by bleeding in and around the brain. After eight hours of brain surgery at the Salford Royal Hospital, and nearly two months in hospital Mel was able to return home.

When she first got out of hospital, everything seemed amplified and quite overwhelming. In addition, she was absolutely shattered. For the first 12 months of recovery, Mel struggled with the ‘normal’ things in life. It also quickly became apparent that her short-term memory had been affected so she really struggled with things like being in a supermarket, where all she seemed to hear was the bleeping of tills, hustle and bustle of people and a cacophony of things all at once.

Mel was advised to exercise to help her cope with everything that was going on but found going to the gym was pretty impossible, as there where large numbers of people all doing different activities, music playing and people talking. Her specialist neuropsychologist was keen to get her participating in group situations, and getting her heart going but she was struggling to find something, apart from walking, that she could do. Mel disliked running with a passion and the memory of cross country runs at school and sprinting on sports day filled her with horror.

However, one day a friend recommended going for a run and they ran for about a mile along one of the local trails by the river. Mel remembers that she actually quite enjoyed it, ‘there was no noise, no pressure, just lovely countryside and peace’.

She tells us how things progressed from there, ‘The next week my friend suggested joining the beginner’s group she ran with. This filled me with terror and I asked if they knew about my issues. The group leader called me up that day and we had a really good chat about what the group did, and my challenges. His simple question ‘What have you got to lose, except an hour of your time?’, hit a chord. So I went that Saturday and have never looked back.’

Living day-to-day is still a huge challenge but Mel is now back at work. Joining the group allowed her to be outside, interacting with others, but at the same time managing her issues and in her words ‘achieving amazing head space’. She now regularly runs 3 or 4 times a week and even enters events.

With the support of Macclesfield Harriers, Melanie completed the Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course to train as a group leader and is now an England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador helping to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and promote mental wellbeing through running.


To support Time to Talk Day on Thursday 1st February England Athletics are encouraging people to #RunAndTalk to improve their mental wellbeing through running and to break down the stigma associated with mental health by getting people talking about it.
During the week of 27th January to 2nd February 2018 we’re encouraging people to run one mile or further and to have a chat with friends, family, colleagues or other runners. This can be done at a time and location of their choice or by joining one of the organised runs at an England Athletics club or RunTogether group.


Who to contact if you need urgent support

A crisis is any situation in which you feel you need urgent help. For example, you might feel in crisis if you are having suicidal thoughts and feelings, you are having thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, or you have seriously hurt yourself. The information below might help you in a crisis.

Samaritans: Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to listen to anything that is upsetting you, including intrusive thoughts and difficult thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Their national number is 08457 90 90 90, their freephone number is 116 123, or you can email

Mind: Mind is a national organisation which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

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