Running for my Life is an honest account of Rachel Cullen’s life from childhood to present day. She openly shares her struggles with mental health and how she eventually overcomes her demons through running.
Rachel experiences the reality of mental health issues from a young age- she grows up in a dysfunctional home with a mother who suffers with bipolar disorder and disordered eating.
Rachel isn’t naturally athletic and from a young age, feels the pressure of being compared to her graceful ballerina sister Jane. She finds comfort in food and rapidly gains weight throughout childhood and into her teenage years. The book is interspersed with diary entries and flashbacks to periods in Rachel’s life when she was at her lowest ebb mentally and physically. The narrative switches between self-deprecating comments and humorous anecdotes.
Rachel describes feeling crippled with self-loathing and insecurities. She drops out of university and finds herself feeling trapped in the wrong career and failing marriage. Alcohol becomes her way of coping with a life that is spiralling out of control. Rachel constantly searches for direction in life and a way to fix herself, but nothing seems to bring the happiness she craves.
Rachel begins running at age 18, but she finds no pleasure in movement. Running is a necessary evil to help her lose weight, an ‘energy-depleting, laboured chore with the sole purpose of burning calories’. She dips in and out of running throughout her life, but only begins to take it seriously after the birth of her daughter, when she sets herself the goal of completing the London Marathon. It gives her purpose and some headspace away from her new role as a mother. Running becomes Rachel’s saviour- she finally finds contentment and freedom she has been searching for all her life.
I was completely absorbed by this book from start to finish. Rachel’s story is laid bare in a way that is relatable to so many people. It’s an emotional read- particularly the part where Rachel loses a friend to suicide. Her story is proof of the transformative effects of physical exercise on mental wellbeing. For anyone suffering with mental health issues, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Book review written by Lucy Edwards - Member of the Tough Girl Tribe.
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