I came to running in a roundabout way. I’d recently been discharged from hospital following a mental breakdown. I needed something to occupy myself, and my very supportive and athletic girlfriend suggested we go for a run. I was slow at first, but running quickly became the way I found peace with my body and calm in my mind.
I needed it. My best friend had raped me at the start of that year, and that was what led to the breakdown. He had supported me while I was recovering from the trauma of being sexually assaulted as a teenager, so it was even more of a betrayal.
I went through a lot of turmoil, and it was only really with the help of a dedicated charity – Rape Crisis – that I started being able to make sense of my life again. The first time I attempted to run a marathon, therefore, I ran for them, and raised over a thousand pounds. Unfortunately I did not finish, but I came out of that determined not to let the distance beat me again.
Between then and finishing the London Marathon 2017, I had my eyes opened. A good friend disclosed that he’d been sexually abused as a child; another told me about being sexually assaulted by a girl we were at college with. Both of these men were traumatised, struggling to make sense of life again, and going through exactly the same turmoil that I had. But for them, it was a lot harder to find support.
Big charities that support female rape survivors have a lot of branches. The funding for these is under attack but they still reach out to a great proportion of the country. For men, I realised, while trying to support my friends, the landscape is really bleak. This was how I came across SurvivorsUK. Around the same time, I learned that the prevalence of rape against men is much more common than many people think. These men are just as deserving of support as women, but there is so much less available to them.
So I resolved that the next time I ran a race, I would fundraise for SurvivorsUK. I had given back to the charity who saved me, and now I wanted to make sure I could help others access the same kind of support that was so life changing for me. I took on the Vitality 10k in London in 2016 for SurvivorsUK and shortly after that, they offered me a spot in the London Marathon 2017. I signed up straight away!
They were brilliant at supporting me. Even though they’re a small charity, I really felt like they’d all got behind me – seeing the faces of SurvivorsUK folk around the course kept me going. At mile 25, I was exhausted. I’d hit the wall and I had nothing left, and I heard someone in the crowd – as I discovered when everyone met me at the finish line, it was Andy, the CEO – yelling my name and cheering for SurvivorsUK and that gave me the strength I needed to pick up the pace and come round the corner at Westminster feeling strong again.
So if you’re one of the lucky ones who has your own spot in the marathon this year, and you want to fundraise for a worthwhile cause, supported by a great group of really dedicated people, I definitely recommend you get in touch!