Hannah Smith

Hi! I’m Hannah, I'm a pretty average 28 year old living in surrey. I work in a coffee shop that is part of a mental health charity and I really love running. And dogs, I really love dogs! Over the years I have suffered with my own mental health and running has been my way of coping.

I started running a few years ago after an accident but a lack of knowledge lead to a string of injuries which resulted in me giving up. Last summer I decided it was time to give running another go. I had been a bit ill and realised I needed to make a change and take some time to look after myself. I downloaded a couch to 5k app and got started again. This time was completely different, I actually enjoyed it. I went down to my favourite park three times a week and dragged myself along the river and back, following the prompts. The day when I ran for a continuous 20 minutes was amazing, I had no idea my body could do that! After just a few more weeks I was done, I could run for 30 minutes, not 5k but that would come, fingers crossed! I felt a bit lost without the prompts so set out in search of a new goal. I saw an ad for the London winter run and signed up with a Cancer Research charity place. My new goal was set and I now had a reason to go out running through the chilly winter. I am not at all a fan of being cold but I learned to embrace it.

During training for the London Winter Run, I had one of my favourite runs ever. My sister and I pulled on Santa hats on Christmas morning and went for a run along our normal route. There were so many cheers and kids waving, it was so much fun, and made Christmas dinner feel like a reward we had earned! We chatted that day and decided that from the new year we should attend Parkrun. What a great decision! If you haven't been to park run yet why not?! if you want to run with a group of supportive, friendly, inclusive people then this is the place for you!

In February I got to the London Winter Run. I had never covered that distance before and I was so nervous. I have suffered with anxiety in the past and being there at the start of this race, surrounded by 10,000 other runners and a seemingly insurmountable distance ahead of me, it took a lot to keep my panic attacks at bay but I did it! Getting to that finish line will stay with me forever, I felt like I could achieve anything afterwards. I went home and instantly booked two more 10ks over the next few months, all while wearing my medal. I have never found a treatment so good for depression and anxiety than running. I wish I had found out about it sooner!

After more training than I had ever done in my life, I had completed both of the 10Ks and my medal count was now up to 3! Once again, now that the races were over and with no deadlines looming, my motivation was waning. It was at this time that I discovered the Instagram running community. What an amazing, encouraging, friendly, supportive, inspiring group of people!! I started seeing a lot of them doing Run Around Europe, cheering each other on, comparing and being proud of their achievements; I wanted in! The week I was struggling the most, i just couldn't bring myself to get out and run, I won a years membership to Run Around Europe. It was so perfect!! The next morning I got out of my house and ran. I had set my sights on Cambridge and knew it wouldn’t be long until I was there. Knowing that not only were my runs all adding up to something, but also that I was now part of a community was the boost I needed. Seeing how far my body had carried me was amazing, such a sense of achievement.

Since then I have signed up for a handful of 10ks and on top of that, my first half marathon in September! As if that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, I also signed up to a ragnar relay with some awesome people, something old Hannah would never have done. Running really has changed me! But i think my proudest achievement this year, is that I have now started a beginners running club in partnership with Richmond Fellowship. I have benefitted so hugely from how running has affected my mental health that I want to share that with everyone. If i can help even just one person to get out for a run and feel better then I will be over the moon!

I’m excited to see how far all of my training this summer will get me and can’t wait to see where the adventure heads next!!