Since last November I’ve clocked up 27 races and over 235 miles running in events up and down the country. I now have three more races to go to hit my target of 30. My fundraising journey will end with the New York Marathon in November – the month in which my brother, Adam, would have turned 30.
Adam Bramwell was a talented and hilarious guy who loved golf, music, football, his friends and family, his dog, and getting likes on Facebook through his ridiculous sense of humour. He was a unique character who wanted to live his life doing only the things that he loved.
Sadly, on the 12th April 2016, Adam took his own life after an ongoing battle with anxiety. He was just 27.
It’s incredibly difficult to come to terms with a loved one taking their own life. I was left with feelings of confusion and guilt. Adam did reach out for help, so why did his life have to end?
After receiving support to help me understand more about what Adam was going through, I can now acknowledge that as a family we did do everything that we could to help Adam. But it made me realise that mental health still needs a lot more research and awareness to better help others.
This is why I decided to run 30 races in 12 months, to mark what would have been Adam’s 30th birthday and to raise funds for three fantastic mental health charities: Mind, Mental Health Research UK and SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement By Suicide). I’ve called my project 30 for 30.
It’s been a challenging campaign both mentally and physically. My last race was the Simplyhealth Great North Run – one of the world’s biggest half marathons for which over 57,000 people signed up.
A friend of mine who had taken part in the Great North Run previously commented on how relaxed I seemed to be about it. I really thought I was taking it all in my stride, but I think I must have been subconsciously panicking because on the day my anxiety went into overdrive!
The alarm went at 4am for a 5am departure. My stepdad had his picnic ready for the day and I felt lucky to have people in my life that would get up that early on a Sunday morning to taxi me to Newcastle and wait around whilst I raced Mo Farah…
Things took a turn for the worst though when I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed on the way. My chest was tight and I was worrying about doing the run.
I had read that there were more people that do this race than the New York marathon and I had a sudden realisation that I had under-estimated it and not put enough thought and prep into the day. This started to make me panic a bit and wonder why my chest felt the way it did. Had I done too much running? Was I damaging my body? Maybe I shouldn’t push myself so much? All of these ridiculous, negative thoughts.
We decided to stop off at a service station to take a break and get a cup of tea. We were still about an hour away but the place was full of Great North Runners – looking a lot chirpier and more up for it than me.
We pulled out of the service station and with only an hour to go in the car, I longed for more time. I told Andy to stop talking to me for a while whilst I tried to calm down. I can’t describe the feeling and it sounds so dramatic now… it was just an overwhelming, crushing feeling that I couldn’t shake.
I think I had subconsciously been worrying about my upcoming races. Worrying about having a lot to do before I go away on holiday. Worrying about my health. Worrying that this was race number 27 and worrying how I will feel at the end of all of this. Worrying about worrying. All these little things. But that is OK. Once I had recognised this and taken a little break, everything seemed simple again.
We pulled up in the car park of the metro station that I had chosen to travel from at random on my rushed logistic planning. The car park was full of other runners doing the same. Runners were getting ready in their silly outfits and I put my Mind t-shirt on for the first time.
Somewhere in the hustle and bustle, my anxiety subsided…
Looking back, I realise just how frightening anxiety can be and I think I was lucky that I had such a big distraction (well, 57,000 other runners!) to bring me back around from my panic. This anxiety is what my brother had been living with but at a much more intense and chronic level. In some ways, that experience and the understanding I have gained about Adam’s illness has made me even more determined to complete my challenge.
My 30 for 30 challenge won’t bring Adam back, but I wanted to do something significant in his memory, as not making it to 30 under such tragic circumstances is something that needs addressing. So I hope that my challenge will raise enough money to make a difference and help somebody else who might be struggling like Adam did.
By Emma Bramwell
Anyone already signed up to take part in the Simplyhealth Great South Run still has time to run on behalf of Team Mind. More information can be found here http://www.mind.org.uk/simplyhealth-great-run-series