How Running Saved My Life

Running Mental Health


It happened like one of those perfect storms where everything goes wrong at the same time.

I was a few months into my first job as an Analyst in London, commuting back to Manchester every weekend for the obvious reason: a boyfriend. It took me a while to realize that the relationship was actually over because it didn’t end like the others. There was no big fight, no cheating scandal. Just two people’s lives moving fast in very different directions.

I was so excited about moving permanently to London. My best friend was living there and we couldn’t wait to start spending more time together. Even though we had been living in different cities, we would often visit and spend our holidays together. She had just spent the year abroad in Paris and Rio for her final year of uni. I visited her in Brazil over Christmas, where it was just the two of us wreaking havoc in Leblon, which I wrote about in my recent blog post Travel Stories: Once in a Lifetime Experiences.

That she would suddenly disappear from my life was the last thing I could have imagined. So you don’t get the wrong idea, nothing sinister happened to her, but she did one day disappear from my life entirely. One day, she simply stopped speaking to me and wouldn’t return my calls or texts. No explanation, no word, no warning, nothing. The way she did that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through, worse than any breakup. It felt like someone had ripped a hole in my heart. I pleaded and begged a thousand times for her to talk to me, to say something, tell me what I did. It was so confusing, frustrating, infuriating. I didn’t want to believe that she could do something like that.

At the time, I had no idea what was happening or why. Although eventually I came to accept it, some days were harder than others. Each morning, I would force myself to get up and go to work. While on the bad days, I burst into tears the moment I got home. I was also really lonely having just moved to London with no other close friends in the city. I felt depressed and didn’t want to do anything or see anyone.

Then one day I got this crazy idea to dry my eyes, put on my trainers, and just go for a run.

It was sometime in July in the middle of summer when the sun sets late in London. I knew nothing good would come from staying at home every night. Probably I’d call someone or do something I’d later regret, so running seemed like a good distraction and form of exercise. This was around the same time that trap music became the next big thing and I was obsessed. Lunice, Flosstradamus, TNGHT, I made a trap playlist on Spotify, pressed play and began my first run around the perimeter of Hyde Park. By the time I got home and had showered I was so exhausted I would watch one or two episodes of Sopranos and fall straight asleep.

I realized that by making myself tired and exhausted, it didn’t hurt as much. It felt like I could literally outrun my problems, freeing myself from them even if just for the night. By morning they would have caught up. I started looking forward to going home when I could put on my trainers and run. I stopped crying. The runs were hard, but I much preferred the physical pain of pulling air into my burning lungs than feeling sad and empty at home.

I ran no matter what, no matter how tired, how late, or how much it was raining.

After a few weeks, I started to notice significant changes. I started feeling better, a lot better. I was sleeping well, thriving at work, and feeling positive again. Like a dark black cloud had been lifted. As I got stronger, mind and body, I started making friends again. Eight weeks later, I met my husband.

Looking back, I realize what a dark time in my life that was. I was headed in either one of two directions, up or down. All I know is that I managed to find a healthy way to cope with loss and pain that might have saved my life. Although unintentional, running became a behavioral coping therapy. The alternative might have been to do something self-destructive. While running worked for me, everyone is different and there are also many different types of depression. It’s not always easy to know the difference between feelings of sadness or loneliness and something more serious. If you’re not feeling well and not getting any better, please seek help.

Several months passed before she finally made contact.

At first, she didn’t want to admit the truth but eventually explained she had cut me off because of her boyfriend. He had given her a choice, him or me. It was a form of manipulation on a level I thought only existed in movies. But it was too late. By then, almost a year had passed and life had moved on.


Running Mental Health


Photo Credit:

Feature Image Photo Credit: Photo by Philip Ackermann from Pexels

Lara Olivia
Lara Olivia

Freelance writer and blogger obsessed with food, travel and good stories.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook


  1. 25 March 2018 / 11:18 am

    What a great story! I started running again and it definitely improved my life! I hope to see the changes as yours! Great post 🙂

  2. 18 March 2018 / 3:45 pm

    Oh wow! This type of thing still happens? Having to choose between friend or partner? Where is the balance?

    It’s good you found a way to shake off the situation. You’re in a good place.

    Can’t help but think about your friend though. Does she know how much worse the partner’s demand can get?
    We all need a balance. Family, good friends and partner….

    • 18 March 2018 / 3:48 pm

      Crazy huh. She got in touch a few times over the years after that happened, so I know that she eventually left the guy and is doing well. Although our friendship didn’t survive, life moves on and I’m sure we both learned a lot from the experience.

  3. 15 March 2018 / 2:40 pm

    Friendships ebb and flow sometime. While I can’t say running would do it for me, yoga definitely would. Sometimes physical health can help our mental and emotional health.

    • 16 March 2018 / 2:35 pm

      That’s very true. It’s also natural that friendships will change as we change.

  4. 14 March 2018 / 6:00 pm

    Yes!!! It is almost like taking a mini vacation!! Exercise makes everything better!!

  5. 14 March 2018 / 2:19 pm

    Sounds like you found running when you needed it the most–and now you’ll always have a powerful connection with it. Exercise is so cathartic!

    • 14 March 2018 / 3:33 pm

      What a lovely way to put it. I love running because anyone can do it anytime, anywhere; and it’s a solitary sport. For other things, like yoga, I need a teacher and classes, so less accessible 24/7 in moments of crisis!

  6. 14 March 2018 / 8:32 am

    It’s really hard to lose a friend, and especially with no explanations. But having the courage to leave it all behind and move forward is the best you can do for yourself. Life goes on, we need to go out there and live our lives to the fullest, no matter what!

    • 14 March 2018 / 9:28 am

      There are much worse things than losing a friend, but at least the experience taught me a lot and helped me grow and be stronger. Life goes on, through good times and bad. It helps to know some of the little ways that help you get through it.

  7. Jasmin
    13 March 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your friend and her relationship that (at least to my ear) sounds a bit abusive. I’m happy for you that you worked out your way up again, this actually inspired me so much that I’m going to give it a go, as long as if my knee agrees with me 🙂

    • 13 March 2018 / 11:06 pm

      Ah yes running can be a bit tough on the knees! Doesn’t have to be running though, for some it’s yoga or meditation, the idea is just to find something good for you that you can focus on. Best of luck!

Looking for Something?