Sports Travel International Lock Down Stories – Natasha Meehan on Running for Wellbeing.
6 star World Marathon Majors finisher Natasha Meehan’s running journey has been an emotional, and at times, incredibly difficult one, but also one that has brought her new friends, world wide adventures, and countless happy memories. Natasha has often spoken about the positive impact that getting outdoors and into running had on her mental health and wellbeing, even through the toughest of times. So, we caught up with her to hear more about her incredible and inspirational Six Star Journey, and to find out how she has been getting on throughout the challenge of the coronavirus lockdown…
Natasha first took up running after her sister died of Cancer. When she experienced further loss; her best friend, her mother, brother and niece, Natasha found that, especially in terms of her mental health, running became her life saver.
“When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, and going through treatment, she asked me to run the women’s mini marathon with her to raise money for the cancer support group. Sadly she didn’t get to do the run, but our whole family did it for her.
The first year I walked it. The second year I walked and ran. It made me want to get fit. I joined a local group called ‘Forget the Gym’, and then went on to join a local running club. That gave me the confidence to start trying longer distances.
First it was, “maybe I’ll do a half marathon”, and then “maybe I’ll do a marathon, just one.” I did my first marathon in 2015 and just got the bug. I met a really good friend through the running club, Veronica, who I’ve run my marathons with.
Running has been like therapy for me. When I go out, I lace up my runners, and just go. There is no better feeling, it gives me focus, and clears my head. It has saved me a fortune in therapy.”
Natasha has now completed all six World Major Majors; Virgin Money London Marathon, Tokyo Marathon, BMW Berlin Marathon, Boston Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the TCS New York City Marathon, which she ran in November 2019.
“I had completed both London and Berlin when someone asked me if I was doing all six majors; I’d never heard of them before and I thought “that’s insane!” But, after I did my third major, which was Tokyo, I knew I’d do all six.
Tokyo was just amazing. It’s just completely different, not like Europe or the States. It is so far from home, and the culture is unique. There was a lovely group of people there with Sports Travel International. It was so, so good.
One of my most memorable marathons was Boston. I’d never have qualified for Boston; I’m just not fast enough. So to be able to go with Sports Travel International opens the door for more average runners.
It was challenging and very warm, but the atmosphere of the crowd was amazing; the pure energy of the supporters. Don’t run with your headphones in at this one, you’ll miss out on the energy of the crowd!”
Some marathon experiences have come with big emotional challenges for Natasha. She navigated the loss of her brother shortly before London. Then, her mother passed away a few months before Chicago, which impacted her training and resulted in injury.
“Although she was ill, my mother passed away quite suddenly, and my training went to pot. I wasn’t training, and then I just went out and did 18 miles and pulled my Achilles. It was just the worst marathon for me. I was taped up like I was going into battle, the flight got delayed, I lost my nutrition at the start line, but I made it nonetheless. I broke down as I came over that finish line.”
Natasha’s sixth and final world major was New York, which she ran in November 2019. She had saved New York until last as it was a city her sister loved.
“New York was a very emotional journey for me. My sister had lived there for years; she loved it. My running journey had started with her, and it (running) gave me the gift of life. So, it felt right to complete my majors there.
As ever, my friend Veronica ran it with me; she has been an amazing support.
Travelling with Sports Travel International has also been fantastic. They’re just so organised. Takes out the worry about logistics, all you have to do is train and run. It’s just nice to hand it over to someone else.”
Although Natasha’s running journey is far from over, with several marathons in her sights for the future; like many runners around the world her 2020 racing and training plans have been put on ice by the global COVID- 19 pandemic. We caught up with Natasha, to ask her about her experiences during Covid-19, and find out how she is managing to keep running in lockdown, even during the 2km area restrictions.
“First thing I do when I wake up is just take note I can breathe. I think how lucky I am. I am so very grateful for my health, and that I can still go out and run.
Instead of focusing on where I can’t run, I focus on the fact that I can run. I am lucky, as there are streams and fields and an estuary within my 2km zone, so even when lockdown was tighter I could still enjoy beautiful scenic routes.
I ensure that everyone I pass by I smile and say hello. Yes we must keep our social distance, but that does not mean we stop smiling at strangers we pass by, or start looking on them in fear as a possible carrier of the COVID -19 virus.
Sometimes we need goals, like an upcoming race, to keep us focused and, let’s be honest, lord knows when the next races will be. So, my advice? Keep your goal and focus to be all about you. You didn’t put in all that hard work building up to a 5k, 10k or even a Marathon to let the weeks slip.
These weeks are all about maintaining your fitness and, importantly, your mental health too.
Remember that it’s not all about exercise though. I know I have so many photos printed and saved on my computer from all my marathons, and all those memories stored in my head. So maybe it’s time to take time our ease back on miles and let your body rest up. Soak up all those good happy vibes, and maybe start a scrapbook of all your running memories.
Why not share your best event memories with us on our Facebook page, or let us know what you are looking forward to, which events you want to compete in, and where do you want to go, when this is all over.