Why I am running six major world marathons for SurvivorsUK
They say each journey begins with a single step. For friend and former SurvivorsUK client Alex Donnelly-Palmer, lacing up his trainers one morning was the beginning of a journey to recovering and thriving after abuse – a journey which has taken him around the world.
Alex is currently undertaking the huge challenge of running the six World Major Marathons to raise funds and awareness for SurvivorsUK. This Sunday on 23rd April, Alex will take on the London Marathon. It’s an outstanding achievement and if you would like to support Alex on his way you can donate to his fundraiser here.
Here, Alex shares his first steps to getting help and finding peace while pounding the pavements.
In the summer of 2019 I was slumped on my bed in the depths of depression. It was one of the lowest moments of my life and there wasn’t a way I could see myself getting out of it. I needed to do something – it was either something very stupid or something very sensible – and thankfully I chose the latter. I managed to pull myself up out of my bedroom, down the stairs and lace up some trainers. Then I left the house and ran….to where I didn’t know…how far I had no idea, but I needed to escape.
And that was where my running journey 2.0 began.
I did run (very briefly) in 2006, vaguely trained for the London Marathon, ran it – collapsed on Tower Bridge, was stubborn enough to continue the next 14 miles to get a shiny medal and two knee operations later abandoned the running journey!
Back to 2019, the run was a success. It cleared the head enough for me to realise I needed to get some proper help and start working on myself rather than continuing down a self-destructive route.
My survivor journey started a year earlier when I was having grief counselling. Half way through my fourth session something inside my brain clicked, a door inside my head opened. As a 40-year-old sitting in a small room in Crawley, an experience from 22 years earlier started to consume me and images came thick and fast of the abuse I had suffered. It wasn’t until a few months later when I was in Santorini that I was able to articulate what was happening and I reached out to SurvivorsUK via the messaging service for help.
What was going on? Why was this happening to me now? Why was something so significant in my life only just emerging into my existence?
I still struggle with how that night was trapped away for so long.
During the pandemic I ran, I ran a lot! And as 2021 began I made the conscious decision I wanted to talk about my experience and try and help anyone I can who had been through a similar experience to me. This is where the marathon challenge began!
I signed up for NYC 2021 and got a coach and a personal trainer (there was no chance I was going to risk my knees again). There were a few bumps in the road, the first being America not opening its borders in time for the 2021 marathon, so I had to add a practice marathon which took place in Barcelona.
Now half way through the challenge I am realising my new running life, it’s been the joy of a lifetime and to run with the SurvivorsUK logo on my front makes it all the more special. I have successfully completed marathons in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo, with London coming up on the 23rd April and then Chicago in the autumn and hopefully Boston in April 2024.
What the last four years has given me is a new hope that there is a life beyond my abuse, and things will and have got better. For anyone reading this, if this resonates with you then there is a way to find happiness again – it takes time and small steps, but life is there to be lived.
Donate to Alex’s fundraiser here
£10 could support a survivor to receive sexual health services in a safe and supportive environment at Clinic26
£12 could enable a survivor to have a 45-minute support session with one of our emotional support workers.
£20 could support a survivor to attend a group session