Andy Baddeley is a double Olympian, 3:49 miler and holds the fastest time ever clocked in a parkrun.This is why he is supporting Time To Talk day on 4 February and encouraging you to #runandtalk:
I sometimes think that I chose the wrong career. I love so many things about running – the fresh air; incredible scenery; amazing locations I've been lucky enough to travel to; battling the elements; seeing improvements, and that post-run euphoria to name a few. But I don't enjoy the solitude. Or to be more precise, I don't enjoy the loneliness. Sometimes the solitude is a welcome escape from a stressful day, but the loneliness is never fun.
The pinnacle of all my hard work is a race, a major championship, standing on the start-line in front of thousands of people. Alone. Only I can run the race, and I only have myself and my thoughts for company in the call room for up to an hour beforehand. I'm ok with that. I've worked hard for those moments, and I've prepared meticulously so that I can deal with that situation, focused on myself and my goals, and controlling those things within my control. But it's not easy, and there are no teammates to fall back on for support.
Even during day to day training, I'm often reminded that I've chosen to pursue excellence in a sport where I'm on my own. Solitary runs in the rain, snow or mud, getting in the miles because I must, because it is my job, not because I am loving every moment. Never has the sense of isolation been so acute as when I became seriously injured in the years following the 2012 Olympics.
This time the loneliness stemmed from something outside my control – I chose to be a runner, but I didn't choose injury. I lost my routine and I lost the therapeutic benefits of exercising outside. But more importantly I lost my absolute favourite thing about running, the thing that gives me energy, purpose, satisfaction, pleasure and motivation – I lost the time spent with other runners, with my training partners and coach. I lost the support that comes from talking on runs, talking about the banalities of everyday life, but also talking about how today was a great day, or more importantly how today seemed like a pretty bad day.
It was on losing this regular contact – these taken-for-granted friendships, the time spent with the people who have seen me suffer, who have shared my pain, and shared my joy – that I realised how vital it was to my mental and physical wellbeing. I also realised that was why I had chosen running as a career in the first place. Those shared experiences, those people who pick you up when you're having a bad day, those people who understand. Those connections.
I've blogged about the depression that I have suffered since the London Olympics, a blog that was both difficult to write, and difficult to share. But my experiences, and the response that I received have only served to further highlight to me the importance of talking. Of talking about mental health, of checking in with your friends to see how they're doing, not just to hear they're 'fine', but to really listen. The running community is an incredible thing, we are a family who have all had our struggles, and who all have our own motivations and goals. I'd encourage everyone to reach out, to run and talk, to help and support.
Time to talk Day is on 4 February - you can show your support
For more information on Time To Talk please visit: www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday
To pledge your support to #RunAndTalk or to find out more please click here.
Mental health help and support services
If you are experiencing mental health problems or need urgent support, or find some of the conversations that come up on Time to Talk Day difficult and need to signpost someone for further information, there are lots of places you can go to for help.