Starting from scratch: Bupa Great Birmingham Run
Amy Porter is one of Freedom from Torture runners at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run 2012. As she begins her training, Amy gives us an insight into her experience of running a half marathon – and explains what has driven her to sign up for another, just four months later.
I was never a keen runner at school. I'm not a tall, leggy sporty type who used to glide gracefully around the running track during cross country sessions. I was known to duck off into the bushes at the back of the field with friends, only to wait for the 'sporties' to pass by a couple of times before we'd join in for a jog to the finish line, hoping that the teacher wouldn't notice we'd skipped a few laps.
Years later at university, I reluctantly started pounding the canal paths of Birmingham whenever I was feeling guilty from an evening out and a late-night stop at the chippy. I didn't really enjoy it, and never ventured more than three miles at a time.
So when a friend suggested that we run a half marathon in March 2012, I said yes, half expecting that it was just one of those things that you never really 'get around' to. However, I'm pretty ambitious and don't like to back down from a challenge. So, I picked a worthy cause to run for and my friend and I spurred one another on through our training sessions. Finally, the big day came around.
An uplifting run
Torrential rain poured down and strong winds buffered us from the start. The first seven miles felt good: the solidarity of running alongside so many other people was uplifting. As we passed the seven-mile mark my partner sped away from me up a hill, and knowing that I was only half-way filled me with dread. Huge self-doubt began to set in. I made it over the peak of the hill, but at the sight of the next one I panicked.
From nowhere, tears began to stream down my face, I started to hyperventilate and soon I realised that I was hardly breathing at all and had to stop. A kind fellow runner stopped to check that I was OK. I replied that I was fine, and just kept thinking of all of the people who would be let down if I failed to finish and collect my sponsorship money. So I kept going. With support from lots of spectators and despite being soaked to the skin and at times almost knee-deep in mud, I managed to cross the finish line after what felt like a whole day, but was actually only two hours and 17 mins!
I couldn't believe that I'd finished. I was relieved that I'd overcome my demons half way around and made it to the finish line. Still, I certainly didn't fancy running another one anytime soon!
However, I recently attended the Freedom from Torture West Midlands Open Day and found that they were looking for runners for the BUPA Great Birmingham Run. After listening to the stories of several survivors of torture, and hearing about the crucial role that the West Midlands centre has played in their recovery, I felt compelled to get involved. Their amazing stories of survival and bravery, in the face of the kind of traumatising experiences I could never even contemplate, made my mid-race panic back in March seem like the most insignificant experience. Multiply what I felt in those few moments by a million, even a zillion, and I don't think you would even come close to the feelings of loneliness, panic, heartache and helplessness that these individuals had experienced for months, even years of their lives. The pain of my training will be nothing compared to that.
Completely out of practice, I'm starting from scratch. My first training run of three-and-a-half miles left my legs feeling achy and my face resembling a beetroot. But I know that I'll do it, inspired by the stories of Freedom from Torture survivors. I hope that by running I will be able to contribute in some small way to the rehabilitation of present and future clients at the Freedom from Torture West Midlands centre, so that we can ensure that there are many more positive survivor stories to come.
Please help out by sponsoring me. Anything that you can donate would be hugely appreciated! Thank you.