We hope you are looking forward to University Mental Health Day tomorrow as much as we are! This year, the theme is ‘active mental health’ and our Wellbeing Coach Wilna Gracias ,who is organising this year’s event, was keen to reflect on the benefits that her passion for running has brought to her own physical and mental health. To take part in UMHD 2017 and #moveit4mentalhealth, check out the timetable of events here. We look forward to seeing you there!
Why I Run – Wilna Gracias (Wellbeing Coach)
If you would have told the 15 year old me that the older me would be a marathoner, I would have laughed in your face.
Back then I was your average overweight teen that spent most of her time in front of a TV and/or on the couch doing homework. In an effort to feel good about myself, I tried all the fad diets and extreme weight loss techniques out there (remember Taebo and sweat suits). However, I failed after each attempt and each time was left feeling powerless. I turned to food to soothe these feelings and hence added to the stress.
Fast forward to 2010. I’m living in New York City working as a social worker, and overall, feeling pretty accomplished. They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere and to the outside world, I had made it. With two degrees under my belt and a growing career, I had it all. Except for that feeling of failure and powerlessness that was associated with being overweight. It crept up when I looked in the mirror, when I went shopping for clothes, and even when I made choices about what to eat. I could no longer deny it or cover it up-I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin. It was time to do something. I chose to RUN.
I ran my first half-marathon in April of 2010 and haven’t stopped running since. I’ve run over 9 half-marathons in 2 different countries (US and UK). I have also run 4 marathons with Team for Kids, including this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon just last week. Team for Kids is a group of adult runners from around the world who add meaning to their miles by raising funds for New York Road Runner’s Youth and Community Services programmes. The funds raise provide low cost-health and fitness programs to kids who would otherwise have little or no access to regular physical activity. These programmes serve over 200,000 children in more 1,000 schools each year.
Not only have I shed the unwanted pounds and poor body image, I have re-gained control of my body, health, and life. So when I’m asked why I run, the truth is that it reminds me that I’m EMPOWERED. Running reminds me that I have the power to change my life. Running reminds me that power is believing in yourself and working towards your goals. Most importantly, running reminds me that power is not something you keep to yourself, but share with others. Thus far, I have raised over $6,000 for Team for Kids and hope to continue to do so in the years to come. I want to share to the gift of running with as many people as possible. It has changed my life and I know it can change others’ lives as well.