Running has been one of my best friends over the past 12 years, since I completed my first marathon “fun run” in 2003. Whether doing a hilly 5km or the London-Cardiff relay with no sleep for 24 hours, it has frequently taken me out of my comfort zone, giving me the feeling that anything is possible in life. It has also been like a form of meditation for me and enabled me to stay physically and mentally strong when juggling the demands of working and raising a family.
I know that I am not alone. Many friends and colleagues have told me of the feeling of empowerment and general well-being they feel when running or doing exercise regularly. If I go on a 40-minute run in the morning, it not only energises me and gives me lots of creative ideas, it makes me much more effective at work.
Two weeks ago, a former BBC colleague of mine, the Australian journalist Peter Greste, was released from an Egyptian prison after being incarcerated for 400 days. I have followed Peter’s story closely because in 2009, I produced a Radio 4 Crossing Continents programme with him about a deadly African militia in DR Congo:
Peter is an amazing journalist, and his positive attitude to his ordeal exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit. When speaking to the media last week, Peter spoke about how he had kept fit in Tora prison in southern Cairo by running, kept mentally fit by studying and remained spiritually strong through meditation. It was actually during a Sunday run that the prison warden told Peter that he could pack his things as he was leaving prison. Despite a long period of confinement and uncertainty, running and other daily rituals kept Peter strong.
Of course, it is unlikely that most of us will find ourselves in such an extreme situation, but Peter’s story does demonstrate that running can have huge physical and psychological benefits if we find ourselves in a difficult or stressful situation.