13 In Lifestyle/ Self-care/ Wellbeing

How Running Became My Pillar of Strength

How Running Became My Pillar of Strength

As children we read fairy tales, hear bedtime stories and create our own magical world with our vivid imaginations.

At school we are taught the fundamentals required in education; arithmetic, spelling, reading and writing, as well as certain rules and standards we should embrace. At home, values are instilled in us – how to act, behave and what we should and should not do, all determined by our parents version of right and wrong. A sometimes confusing array of other people’s beliefs, values, morals and attitudes program and mould our young brains from an early age. Is it any wonder that when we grow up, we sometimes get confused, lost, make ‘mistakes’, and beat ourselves up if we are anything less than perfect?

Once upon a time I believed in fairy tales.

I believed that if you married it was meant to be forever. You were supposed to be loyal, supportive, share your journey together and have fun doing so!

Having preferred to take what I believed to be a much more exciting road of world travels, freedom and adventures, that belief lay dormant, only surfacing shortly after I hung up my backpack, settled down and fell in love, marrying a man who I thought was my soul mate.

It was only a few days into the marriage when I woke up to the fact that my husband had a severe drinking problem, stirring doubt, fear and a deep panic within. Deep-seated beliefs started to stir and cause chaos and confusion – this wasn’t what marriage was supposed to be like! My conscious mind told me to leave, to run away, yet there was an even deeper pull from my subconscious mind, beliefs that seemed to bind me to stay even though I couldn’t work out why. One part felt obliged, bound by duty, to stick with this man, while the other part wanted freedom and a life of fun, love and happiness. My husband hid behind a veil of addiction. Smoking, drinking and dark, negative thoughts – black moods only alleviated by a bottle or three of wine. This is when I started running.

Running to experience a sense of freedom, for temporary relief and to escape the black cloud of my home life. The loss of what I thought a marriage was supposed to be, and the confusion of feeling weak-willed because I couldn’t find the strength to leave.

Running became my pillar of strength.

Running led me to meet new people, friends who became my support team. I joined a triathlon club and participated in my first triathlon, adding swimming and cycling to my list. Running was my saviour, my escape from the harsh, unhappy part of my life. From feeling trapped in a situation that I desperately wanted to flee but felt stuck and unable to do so.

Running and the friends I met gave me joy. The mental toughness required in the training sessions and the exhilaration of race day gave me strength, excitement and  purpose. Running helped me cope with my husband’s black moods, his drunken behaviour at social situations and glassy alcoholic glazed eyes. It gave me an escape from the time he tried to kill himself, a sad and sorry cry for help. Running helped me to do what I now term my greatest act of compassion – to let him go and to allow him to choose his own path of self-destruction. And so running became my springboard for courage to finally walk away and to forgive myself for doing so.

Running also became medicine for my soul, my motivator. It inspired me to challenge and push myself, and took me on an incredible journey which included representing Australia in a long distance triathlon and competing in one of the toughest races in the world – the Hawaiian Ironman.

Running was my saviour until I left my marriage.

It was at that moment that the Universe, somehow knowing that I had learnt what was necessary, decided it was time for a new chapter and a new lesson. And so one day, virtually instantaneously, I was unable to physically run. My tortured soul had manifested in my physical body and I had to stop. Although that story is for another day, I look back now and realise it was meant to be so I could grow and transform.

Running was and always will be a reminder of the part it played in helping me to find the strength to let go and move on. Today, running symbolises the freedom and power we all have inside of us, as well as the choices we have and the paths we can carve in life. Running was integral in creating my amazing life today. One with a beautiful caring husband, my dream business and a deep inner peace and calm. Today, when it feels tough to run, or when I am having a ‘scrunchy’ day, I smile because having healed myself, I now run because I can!

Whatever challenge you are going through, know it will pass. It will not stay forever. There is a higher power at work out there, so believe in yourself and hold on to the truth that something amazing will rise up out of your adversity. Set yourself an intention to learn the hidden lesson and be open to receive greater wisdom. Find something that inspires you and focus on it. Whether it’s a physical pursuit, a hobby, music, art or reading inspirational books, know that in your darkest moments you will get through it. Imagine it like a fuel that propels you towards something bigger and better.

I know because I have experienced and lived it and have come through the other side, shining and happy. I know you can too.

About Mandy Napier BSc

Mandy Napier BSc (Hons) is a coach, educator and speaker. As a former Ironman triathlete she understands the commitment required to be successful. Dubbed the ‘Mindset Alchemist,’ Mandy now inspires, educates and coaches people to re-program their mindset for success, tap into their limitless potential and change for good. She is a columnist in a Sunshine Coast publication, ‘Business Matters ‘, and frequently writes about mindset, health and wellness in a variety of publications. Recently, she co-authored a book called ‘Heart to Heart: The Path to Wellness’ with other inspirational people, including Janine Ripper.

If you would like to learn powerful mind tools to help you deal with life’s ups and downs, achieve more, be and do more, then check out Mandy’s self-paced online course which is a great starting point for transformation.

To access your free Success Tools click here.


Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

  • Penelope James
    February 23, 2015 at 1:12 am

    Your beautifully written story speaks to me and to so many of us who have gone through a major disillusion in life. Yes, once we believed in fairy tales and that prince who would appear and carry us off to “they lived happily ever after land”. Being married to an alcoholic takes its toll, I know. You or anyone married to an alcoholic tries to make a go of it, ignore, pretend, or immerse oneself in something else. You found freedom in running. I chose the corporate world and the chains of drink. Until the day when I too sought freedom and found a way to release myself from this bondage. I echo your words, “Whatever challenge you are going through, it will pass.” It’s hard to believe this when you’re in the thick of despair and see no way out, or so you think. But I have learned that challenges are only opportunities in disguise and there is light on the other side. Many thanks for a poignant and thought provoking article.

    • Mandy Napier
      February 24, 2015 at 9:31 am

      Thank you for your feedback and I am glad you found freedom from your chains too. I love your remark you made about challenges being opportunities in disguise – that is so true and it all comes down to the meaning we put on situations. I am glad you enjoyed the article

  • Mackenzie Glanville
    February 23, 2015 at 9:18 am

    It touched me when you wrote “running symbolises the freedom and power we all have inside of us, as well as the choices we have and the paths we can carve in life”, for me that is how I see my ‘writing’. Writing is my freedom.
    You have shown amazing courage and strength. A very dear friend of mine has been working on saving her marriage for years now due to her husband’s alcoholism, it is very hard on her and their young children. I have to believe that her adversity will pass and she will rise to new heights in her life. You are inspirational! And I love ‘The Path to Wellness’ I have been devouring it.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Mandy Napier
      February 24, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Thank you for your kind words. We often don’t see our own courage and strength at the time, and I hope your dear friend can find courage and strength to do what is necessary for her situation so it can turn around for her. Glad you are enjoying the book! With kind regards Mandy

  • Lynne Thorsen
    February 23, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    It takes true courage to let go and find your own path, thank you for sharing your story!

    • Mandy Napier
      February 24, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Thank you – I see now it was courageous, but I guess when we are going through these times we don’t quite see it like that! It’s wonderful to see it from the reader’s perspective. Thank you.

    • Mandy Napier
      February 25, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      My pleasure .-.

  • Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
    February 24, 2015 at 12:01 am

    I fear that running is what too many of us do in the face of adversity. Instead of facing up to the problems, we run from them. I am glad you found a safe and healthy place to run to… until you couldn’t.

    • Mandy Napier
      February 24, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Yes, I think that we often run away – the old fight or flight survival mechanism. I wonder how different the world would be if we all faced up to our fears instead of running away! Very different I think. Regards Mandy

      • Lynne Thorsen
        February 24, 2015 at 6:00 pm

        I believe that ‘running away’ is not always a bad thing. It can give us the time and distance to get out of a bad situation and become clear on which path we will now take. It can also provide the catalyst for change. It is only negative when we don’t acknowledge that we are running away and we never stop to discover our true path.

  • Ann Mullen
    February 27, 2015 at 2:44 am

    I married an alcoholic and stayed with him for 30 years. I am very proud of you that you left early. Your running sounds like a wonderful way to achieve balance. I don’t know why you suddenly couldn’t, but I know that must have been tough. My sister was a concert pianist who played a circuit in Europe. One day while playing her hands cramped up and she stopped. She put her hands in ice for a while and finished her last concert. She still cannot play the piano and is deeply sorrowful about that. I remind her of all the adventures she had and she starts having better thoughts. This is a good article. Thanks for publishing it.

  • Mandy Napier
    February 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Ann, thank you for taking the time to comment… Sorry to hear your sister cannot play still – not sure why either, however, I think when we can view it from a different perspective, we can heal it. As I tell my clients, and I use it myself, if an opportunity we wanted doesn’t happen, or we lose a client, etc I imagine that another greater opportunity can now present itself in the ‘space’ it left for me. Seems to work for my clients too. If I hadn’t of been able to run I would probably never have found my purpose in life as a Mindset and Performance Coach, and now see it had to happen for me to be open and able to make space for other things….. However, at the time I certainly wouldn’t have seen that… Thank you again… With kind regards Mandy

  • Muriel
    March 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    What an inspirational story! It takes courage to rebuild a life after what you have been through. Well done!

  • Send this to a friend