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‘It gives me an excuse to out myself’ – Jozef’s marathon story

With less than three weeks to go to the London Marathon 2021, one of our fab runners Jozef shares his mental health journey, why this has been a freeing experience, and the importance of self-soothing

On October 3rd we are very proud and excited to have two fantastic runners taking on the London Marathon 2021 in support of McPin!

We heard from Rowan last week, and today Jozef – a dad of two living in London – sat down to share his story with us.

You can listen to him here, support him here, and read the full transcript below:


JM: Talking to people about mental health I get excited about it – when you’re talking to people and you can feel their genuineness about it, because so much of it is awkward unless you’re in a group or online or a counsellor or something.

If you’re talking in general about mental health you can see on people’s faces the way they go into defence mode and I pick up on that quite a lot because I’m quite an open, hyper, chatty person, I’m very sociable. 

KL: Yeah, well I wonder if because you’ve opened it up with the running side of things, if that almost makes it a bit easier for people to start talking about it because it’s like ‘oh there’s the marathon, and it’s for mental health!’.

JM: Yes, because you can’t just go ‘alright, look, I had…’ – to try and recap – I had to take two months off in my last job because of ‘stress’. The doctor said ‘take two weeks off, I’m signing you off’, and it was really weird because this is real – I’m being signed off work. So that’s quite a lot of weirdness to deal with in the first week, because you feel like you’ve failed something.

KL: Yeah I guess it’s a weird situation to be in. 

JM: Yeah, it’s weird isn’t it, talking about it in a grown-up way, but in a real way and then I was like, ahh I’ll be fine to go back after two weeks, and the doctor said, don’t be stupid, in a way, this is your one opportunity to rest, and I didn’t realise what it meant until…oh my god it was the best thing that could have happened to me because it forced you to have a rest and that’s – it’s quite hard to accept in the first bit because you’re like, oh, I’ve been ‘discovered’, or this is me, and it’s all a bit weird because it’s nonsense. And I was so lucky in the fact that I really felt how grateful I am for having two months off out of this workplace to get my head in a space where you’re not doing a 9-5 or the Matrix kind of, on the treadmill – 

KL: Plugged in.

JM:  Yeah, so it gives you enough space that you can just come down a bit and stop. So it’s like, when do you ever get that? When you have – if you don’t make time for yourself, whatever that is, self-soothing, walking every day, exercising, whatever, meditating – then I was dealing with it like the majority of our culture does and socialising and drinking and trying to deal with it that way but it didn’t work for me because it ends up crashing, but in the crash you get the chance to rebuild then.

When I’m running or if you’re doing anything else that gives you that same feeling of freedom of all of this mess, that’s when you can start to self-soothe and love yourself a bit better because you’ve got time to think.

And probably just to mention, which we’ve spoken about, I was diagnosed last year with ADHD, which has been really interesting to try and learn more about that, and that massively answers a lot of questions I had with my life, I guess – it makes things make a lot more sense.

I’ve never sat down with someone to go right, I’m going to talk about my mental health, so that’s why this is a really liberating experience because I’ve sent my marathon and working with your charity is such a like…Like I said in the emails, I am so grateful for this because this gives me an excuse to out myself.

Close friends and family aren’t going to be surprised that you have ADHD or mental health issues I guess, to a certain point, because you can be quite anxious sometimes or depressed sometimes, that’s normal, but to do it on a scale that this is doing it, it’s quite weird because you’re like, is this going to be my thing now? Is that going to be my label that people quietly label me with? 

KL: That’s interesting.

JM: Yeah, that’s the thing you have to – but what’s the alternative? So this has given me a real opportunity to do something. Like I said, I like running – I like moving. It’s not just running because running gets such a like ‘ohhh, running’s the answer to everything’ – it’s not that, it’s just a natural thing to a lot of people.

It’s cheap and free and you don’t need equipment other than maybe some supportive shoes if you need that, it’s not – I think that’s why it’s such a big deal because whenever do you get that time to yourself to connect, you know? 

I’ve been talking about ‘aw I really want a massage’ for the last three years and I haven’t done it. It’s weird that I want to get a massage, because I exercise a lot or move a lot but I don’t stretch properly because I’m a bit lazy, and I know that would be really good and self-soothing but I’m like ‘ohh that’s quite pricey’! 

KL: Yeah whereas a night out is – 

JM: Yeah I said that to my brothers and friends and I’m sure I’ve spoken about it to other people but I talk about it as the ‘beer economy’. If you’re going to buy yourself a new pair of trainers or something for your exercisey stuff you’re like oh wow, that’s quite expensive, but when you’re out on a night out and drinking that stuff away, you don’t question that.

 It’s not about replacing stuff, like ‘oh running’s going to save me’, it’s about changing your lifestyle to incorporate it as a serious thing, like self-soothing means self-care and take that seriously. And it’s only when you’re having the quiet times – which is meditation, which I haven’t really been able to successfully do, other than when I’m jogging, because then you’re actually meditating but you’re also – 

KL: Moving

JM: Yeah, but it’s, I don’t know, it’s consistency – I’m not out every day at 5 in the morning like ‘oh I need to do this’ – knowing that if I did that I would feel a lot better than I do. And that’s another one that’s a bit of a stomach punch, when you talk to people about your – depending on what everyone’s got – when it’s like ‘ohh you’ve just got to do this or do that’, it’s not as helpful as it sounds. ‘Oh have you read this, or done this, well you shouldn’t be doing this then’, and I’m not really asking for the answer, I’m just asking to share this feeling. 

KL: Yeah it shouldn’t be underestimated.

JM: Yeah.

KL: I think it’s so nice that you’ve shared your story. For a lot of people it’ll be the first time they’re hearing it as part of the marathon and your fundraising, and I think it’s so nice you’ve had people coming back to you and opening up as well because, like you said, some people might not have places they can go to but then they hear you telling your story and suddenly that is somewhere they can go.

JM: But what surprised me is certain people who’ve gotten in touch that I never thought would. I thought, how am I going to do this? How do I fundraise now – I don’t have many friends, I’m not on certain platforms, I’m not really out living the social media world, so for certain people to get in touch, it’s been like wow, that’s really nice, and some of the comments –

The hard ones are the anonymous ones, because they’ve made very generous donations, or very kind words and I don’t know who that is so I can’t thank them, and I don’t know if I’m opposite them, chatting to them, or – it kinda feels weird, but then people have their own reasons for that and it’s quite nice as well, because if they’re making a generous donation, to not put your name to that – 

KL: Yeah that’s very selfless.

JM: And I’m very happy that I’m – it’s emotionally affected me in a positive way how well it has been received. I thought, oh my God this is going to be tough fundraising, not being in an office physically, not having certain groups to – because it’s like, what do you do? I’m going to have to do a bake sale!

KL: I knew you were going to say a bake sale! Can you bake?

JM: I’m going to say yes actually. I don’t blow my own trumpet much – which I’ve probably done for the last hour chatting here – but I will say yeah I can bake, I have baked a couple of times and it’s not been bad.

KL: Well the people need a bake sale then. 

JM: Yeah I think I’ll do a bake sale because that kinda…

KL: I think if anything not being in an office, not seeing people as much, this is a really nice way for them to connect.

JM: And I think that’s what comes back to this. Whatever embarrassing, or whatever’s going to come of this, me talking quite openly about things – which people do at the time, it’s not like this is new – it’s just, for me I’ve gone full circle and let everyone in my family know, let everyone at work know, let everyone on my WhatsApp know, and all of that – it’s kind of like OK cool, we can move on now. That’s how I’m feeling.

You can support Jozef’s fundraising here and to keep up to date with his running journey follow us on Twitter @McPinFoundation

Music for recording from Uppbeat:

https://uppbeat.io/t/prigida/beacon

License code: TPI7XCIBCAVXMPR3