Donato Esposito is aiming for his fifth star in Berlin this September, but his Majors journey so far has been about more than just the miles and medals.
The 59-year-old from Birmingham in the United Kingdom has worked for more than 40 years in a number of roles including as a mental health professional for the National Health Service.
Now he has combined his skills as a freelance mentor and coach with a number of creative projects, including his YouTube channel.
“Not long after I started running, mental wellbeing started being discussed more readily in the running community,” he says.
“During the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon, the official charity was Heads Together and a TV documentary showed the journeys of a number of people managing mental health challenges, who took up running and highlighted the benefits of running.
“Science has proven that many forms of exercise, including running, improves our health not just physically, but mentally. Our bodies release endorphins when we go for a run and we feel great. Some call it the ‘runners high’.”
It’s also important, says Donato, to recognize the moments where taking time out from racking up the miles is the best thing to do for body and mind.
“If we have periods when the high is not there and we feel like running is becoming hard work, that may be one of the signs that our bodies may need a rest, so take some time off running. It’s okay not to be okay.”
Taking up more relaxing activities like yoga or meditation is something that can help lower stress levels during those low moments, he explains.
“Sometimes, all we need to do is stop and breathe if we are feeling stressed or anxious. Several times I have ignored the signs that I needed to hit pause which resulted in injuries that forced me to stop. I have learned to notice the warning signs quicker through my experience with running and marathon training.”
As we wait the return of the Majors and many other aspects of ‘normal’ life, try some of Donato’s top five tips below that could help you during these uncertain times.
1. Virtual Races
Find a virtual event to take part in and then share the joy of completing the event and any rewards you may have received along the way.
2. Reaching out
It’s OK not to be OK. And it is OK to ask for help, especially during these challenging times when we feel isolated and lonely. Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we as humans love to interact in some way. If you’re finding life difficult, reach out to people you trust and tell them you’re struggling. It’s amazing how helpful our friends can be. And if we see someone who may be struggling, reach out and ask them “how are you?” and “how can I help?”
If you feel uncomfortable speaking to friends or family, there are many charities who have qualified staff that are there to listen and start a conversation with you.
Find what gives you joy, do something that you love. For me, I love talking to people but during lockdown that was not physically possible so I would phone friends each day and chat. I also started a open chat room with anyone who wanted to talk.
4. Try something new
Many of us enjoy our running but when we may have to stop through injury or all our events are cancelled it can have a negative effect. I know the feeling all too well as I lost motivation when racing stopped last year so I decided to take on some new adventures. I started cycling more and travelled many miles along routes I’ve never been before. I found a sense of freedom. I also started writing on a daily basis, journaling and poetry. I love writing poetry so much I decided to publish the poems and changed my social media name to “poet with pace” and came up with this debut poem:
I’m the poet with pace,
Often seen running with a red face,
So follow me now,
And I will show you how,
To run with poise, panache, elegance and grace!
Being grateful is the single most powerful thing we can do to eliminate fear and anxiety. Think of something you are grateful for, however big or small it may be. Vividly picture it and hold that feeling inside. Give it a try.
For me, I am grateful that I have started back to training for races and am very much looking forward to running the BMW Berlin Marathon this September for the first time. Maybe I’ll see you there?