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RED January

View profile for Iftakhar Ahmed
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It's been just over a week since I finished RED January and surprisingly, I feel like I could do another month of running every day. The effect that exercising has had on me is nothing short of incredible - I feel energised and motivated to continue. Although in my mind I have become stronger with an ever determined and persevering attitude, I must let my body rest for a few days before returning to my normal fitness routine.

Every January before this year felt like the longest month ever – pay day felt like it would never come, the days were still very short and getting back into the work routine after the Christmas break seemed a struggle. All in all, January was never a good month. In fact, research shows this month is meant to be the most depressing month of the year for a variety of reasons and previously, I have totally understood why - not this year!

When I started on 1st January, I set myself a target of running 5km in the quickest time possible by the end of the month. My first 5km time was nearly 40 minutes but then I dared to ask myself- could I possibly run 5km in under 30 minutes? It wasn’t going to be easy and would require dedication, mental strength, grit and determination and by day 28, I was running 5km in 24 minutes and 44 seconds! I started getting compliments from friends and colleagues that I had attained a leaner figure by losing body fat and maintaining muscle mass. More importantly I began seeing a difference in my mind set.

I have always been someone who never gives up no matter how tough the going gets and RED January has reinforced this for me. There were times when I felt like quitting – times where I seriously considered stopping the treadmill or stopping on the footpath not because I was physically injured but because I felt like this is all I can do, I cannot run any more, I give up. Do you know what? Sometimes life is like that – when times are hard, it crosses your mind that it is all too much and you want to give up because you feel you cannot give any more.

Those suffering from loneliness, depression and mental illnesses experience this every single day and need our help. I realised quickly that running is a lonely sport because it is just you and your mind – how fast or far you run depends on your mind set. There were days where I was running and questioning myself ‘why am I even doing this?’ but then reminding myself this is for MIND. This is for RED January. This is for all those that are suffering from mental illnesses. This is to raise awareness for this fantastic charity. This is to inspire those that are suffering to ask for help and support. My fellow RED January runners and I are in this together, we are running for the same cause…and within moments I would raise the bar, notch up my speed and continue with my renewed purpose for running and finish my 5km in the fastest time I could.

I was really pleased that I had people asking me about MIND and I was redirecting them to the charity’s website for further details. This has been the best January I can remember and more importantly, I feel I have more than just achieved my aim for the month. I wanted to raise awareness for MIND (which I did) but along the way, I raised money and got myself into shape too!