New Year's Resolution: I Got Off The Sofa And Ran One Mile Each Day Of 2018

"Running is time to myself to think ... or not think."

In this week-long series, we’re talking to HuffPost UK readers who set themselves a new year’s resolution last year that you may be considering for 2019 – and stuck to it. Their motivation could be your inspiration. Here, Gillian Henry, a psychiatric nurse from Carlisle, Cumbria who’s raising money via Just Giving, shares her story.

I’ve tried running a few times but always ended up giving up, so in January 2018 I made it my new year’s resolution to complete the Red January challenge – which means committing to running one mile each day of the month.

I work as a psychiatric nurse, so I wanted to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind. Plus I was turning 50, so it seemed like a good time to set a challenge. But it was still intimidating signing up. When you put it on Facebook and then everybody knows about it, you think: “Oh my God, I’m actually going to have to do this now.”

My level of fitness at the start of the year was very poor. My breathing was a real struggle and I couldn’t run that far without stopping. But by the end of January, after raising more than £400 for charity, I realised how much the daily runs had improved my physical and mental health and decided to extend my challenge.

I’ve now run at least one mile every single day of 2018.

Gillian Henry

There have been days when I didn’t want to run. When it’s cold and rainy and frosty outside, it’s really not appealing. The toughest sessions were when I’d been on the night shift and then I’d have a quick sleep, wake up and go running straight away. But friends have encouraged me a lot. They say: “You’ve come so far, you can’t give up now.”

Other things happened in my life that have made me more determined to carry on. My husband left me and the kids – I’ve got a son who’s 21 and two daughters who are eight and 13 – and my mental health suffered quite a bit with that loss of confidence, self-esteem and low mood.

But running helped me to cope with all of that. It was time to myself to think, or not think, to enjoy what was going on in the outside world and not think about all that internal anguish.

Me with my three children and granddaughter.
Gillian Henry
Me with my three children and granddaughter.

It was while this was all going on, around May, that I started to run a continuous mile. To blot out the thoughts running through my head, I just kept on putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it I’d run a mile.

Since then my physical health has improved absolutely loads. I used to walk up a hill or go up the stairs in a shop and I’d be out of breath before I got to the top. But now I can do it, no bother. I can run about with the kids, too, and I’ve lost about three and a half stone, which us a nice bonus!

It’s helped a lot with my mental health. With everything that happened, I think if I hadn’t run, I could have easily hidden myself away and not seen anybody. But thanks to the challenge I’ve got out of the house daily.

I’m definitely more confident now. In the park at first I would never really talk to anybody. I would run with my head down, but now if I go past people I say “hello” and they often stop to chat.

On one of my early runs.
Gillian Henry
On one of my early runs.

I’m going to do Red January for charity again this year and I’m being pushed by my friends to increase my distance. One of them wants me to do a 10K race next year! We’ll see.

For anyone tempted to try running, I’d say try not to care about what anybody thinks. I used to think people would look at me and say “why is she running?” But nobody looks at you and thinks “oh my God, she’s too big to run”. People don’t really care. Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re really slow. When I started I walked most of it, but perseverance can make a huge difference. As long as you’re out there trying, that’s the main thing.

As told to Rachel Moss.