In April 2022 I completed my first 100-mile run around the Lake District. Two days later I caught COVID, and for the next 11 months I experienced 'Long Covid' and was unable to run or train without post-exertional malaise, or 'crashes' of symptoms. At 26 I thought it would never happen to me.
With no promise of recovery or timescale, losing my coping mechanism and identity was undeniably the most difficult period of mental health I have ever experienced.
But every setback brings an opportunity, and I urgently needed to find a new way to keep my head above water. I discovered open water swimming instead and found some joy in the moment.
In March I was able to start running again with 4 x 30 second jogs. Gradually, my exercise tolerance has continued to improve.
So... on August 5th I'm going to attempt the Frog Graham Round - a classic swim-run challenge in the Lake District, running nearly 40 miles with 15,000ft+ ascent and swimming 2 miles across 4 lakes (Bassenthwaite, Crummock Water, Buttermere and Derwentwater) - carrying all of my equipment and supplies for the duration.
There is no time limit, I'm just grateful to be out there and confident my body will be ready. If you're going to make a comeback, you might as well throw yourself in the deep end.
But for what good?
The last 11 months have been a reminder of the healing time in nature, and having our own toolkit to deal with life's peaks and troughs. I know not everyone is as fortunate to have this at their disposal.
In 2020 I co-founded Mind Over Mountains, a mental health charity combining hill-walking and mindfulness in nature, alongside time with professional coaches and counsellors in an unpressured, unhurried setting.
I'm going to raise £3,000 to help more people build their own natural toolkit and find the light in those dark moments.
Can you help?
£10 could fund our phone system at Mind Over Mountains for a whole month!
£30 could fund a set of coaching cards for use on one of our retreats.
£60 could fund a follow-on coaching or counselling session for an individual participant.
£90 could fund the full cost of a bursary place on one of our wellbeing walks.
£275 could fund the full cost of a bursary place on one of our weekend retreats.
Anything you could give really would mean a lot to the charity and to the challenge, which I hope can turn a negative into a positive scenario.