I had heard about Miles for Mind from a group of Welsh runners whom I had met (albeit virtually) at a book discussion of ‘Your Pace or Mine’ by South African ultrarunner Lisa Jackson. What started off as a formal meet up to dissect a book and meet its author turned into long-term friendships across countries and time zones. In January, a number of runners mentioned they would be running the winter edition of Miles for Mind. I promptly visited the website and decided to tag along from my own little corner of the world.
While I’ve been a distance runner for a decade now, this is the first time I have participated in Miles for Mind - a virtual endeavor that connects people and brings the running community together to raise money and awareness about mental health. They have four editions in the year, coinciding with the seasons. Their motto of ‘Four Seasons, One Reason’ strives to highlight mental health issues through the sport of running.
Regular running aside, what struck me about the event was its creative and colorful mileage tracker provided by the organizers. You had to set a goal at the start of the month, and fill in weekly achievements as you moved across and down the tracker – like a sporty crossword puzzle filling itself up. In addition, there was a Winter Bingo card with sixteen activities to check off through the month.
Here’s how I got along with my tracker:
~ The month kicked off with a bang! I managed to incorporate some miles on all days, achieving the highest tally in week one.
~ The pace was maintained in week two, again being active on all days. Even though the overall distance was lesser this week, I was happy to step out and get something done.
~ Week three suffered substantially due to painful period cramps. I just about managed one day, at a very leisurely pace.
~ I bounced back in week four, with six days on the road, and a weekly mileage slightly higher than the second week.
My goal for the month was set at fifty miles, out of which I achieved 39.39 miles. From the bingo card, mindfulness, local landmarks, sights and sounds were high on my list. Not being much of a selfie person, I innovated in those boxes, clicking what was required without featuring myself in the pictures.
True to its name, Miles for Mind focuses on the role of running in mental health, or conversely, addressing mental health issues through running. February was a relatively slow month – I didn’t get much done in terms of mileage, but I pushed myself to get out there, and that’s what ultimately matters. The first step out the door is always the hardest – it’s either too hot, or too cold, or too humid, or too tiring – an endless list of problems and excuses. But once the mind is strong enough to get you out on the road, the body catches up and plays along. It also works the other way round – pushing yourself a little to get to work clears out the mind to accomplish some more.
Running is often termed as meditation in motion, especially among distance runners who use the long distances to think over matters, clear out any stresses, plan the day, and generate new ideas and creative things to do. Some of my best ideas make their way to conscious thought when I’m running. For someone who spends a large portion of the day working at a desk, I love my time outdoors. Although a physical form of exercise, running exerts tremendous impact on mental and emotional health as well. There’s nothing like the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of animals, birds and insects, as nature takes you into its fold, with the road as your companion.
Events like Miles for Mind add that creative edge to doing an activity you love – they make things fun and you can join communities from places far and wide as you all strive toward a common goal. I had a great time making notes in the tracker and ticking squares off in the bingo card; it gave me something to look forward to every day and each week. And it’s so nice to see the charts filled up at the end of the month – visual proof of what you’ve been up to. Not to forget the immeasurable benefits of mental and emotional wellbeing from being part of something, achieving a goal, creating awareness, and working for a cause.
Many thanks to Renata for sharing her story and for taking part in Miles For Mind.
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