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How Running Transformed Mark’s Mental and Physical Health

Kim Westerman
by Kim Westerman
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How Running Transformed Mark’s Mental and Physical Health

For most of his life, London-based IT specialist Mark Bush found his greatest comfort in food. “In my 20s, I got into the habit of relying on food to make me feel better about my life,” he says. “Eating seemed to help me deal with any negative feelings I had.” But that comfort was short-lived. At a family gathering for Christmas in 2015, when Bush was 30, he stepped on the scale and was shocked to find he weighed 266 pounds.

“I realized right away how lucky I was that I hadn’t yet developed diabetes or heart problems, both of which are prevalent in my family,” says Bush. He vowed at that moment to change his life, thinking, “If I only lose one pound in the next year, it will be a step in the right direction.”

He began his journey by downloading the MyFitnessPal app, logging everything he ate and all his exercise, even the smallest snacks and efforts. The simple gesture of logging forced him to pay attention to his diet. He says, “As soon as I started to make better choices, the pounds started coming off. It wasn’t linear, but my mindest had changed, and I knew there was no turning back.”

By July 2017, Mark was 140 pounds lighter and solidly in the middle of his healthy weight range. He was thin, but he didn’t feel fit. While his primary exercise had been walking, he decided to buy himself some cheap running shoes one day. “I was never a runner. In fact, I never understood why anyone enjoyed running,” says Bush. He realized, however, he had never tried the sport, so he want to at least give it a shot and started to dress the part. “If I dressed in clothes I could run in, then I could … if I fancied it.”

The progression from his daily walks to a slow jog was a small one. Within minutes of picking up his pace, he saw his reflection in a shop window and broke into hopeful tears. He knew he’d found his next challenge, and he set a goal of running a 10K by January 2018, just five short months away.

“I signed up before I could give myself the chance to overthink it and back out,” he says. With his eyes on the prize, Bush trained regularly, running a little further each week. He did some shorter training runs during the workweek, but he really fell in love with his long, steady Sunday morning run. “It was on these long runs that I found the peace in my mind that for years I had tried to find in food,” he says. “I wish I had known sooner just how great running was for my mind.”

The race turned out to be everything he imagined and more, so he signed up for every 10K he could find after that. He loved the thrill of race day, especially the excitement he felt in the atmosphere. Then it occurred to him that he could — and wanted to — run even longer. He signed up for the Hackney Half Marathon that same May, just a few months away.

“As training progressed, I became more and more confident that, not only could I finish the race,” he says, “but I might even be able to do it in a decent time.” He was right. An hour and 45 minutes after the race gun went off, Bush crossed the finish line. He calls it the proudest moment of his life.

Now, he trains for full 26.2-mile marathons. As further motivation, he’s raising money for causes close to his heart. He’s fundraised for cancer research in honor of his grandfather, a cancer survivor, and he ran the Berlin Marathon to benefit WaterAid, a global nonprofit whose mission is to bring clean water to communities that don’t have access to this vital resource. “The idealist in me has never gone away, and I do wish we lived in a world where everyone had a fair and equal chance to live a happy and healthy life,” says Bush. “Unfortunately, there are still parts of the world where every minute, a newborn dies of infection from lack of clean water.”

Bush’s advice to others struggling with health and wellness? “This is not a short-term fix,” he says. “You are buying into a lifestyle that will completely reward you, physically and mentally, in the long-term. It’s purely about consistency and patience. To lose weight, you don’t have to restrict yourself completely; that leads to constant cravings. Enjoy the process and celebrate each little win — don’t get hung up on the setbacks.”

If all else fails, Bush’s philosophy is a pretty good fallback: “It’s better to be great at being good, than good at being great.”

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About the Author

Kim Westerman
Kim Westerman

Kim Westerman is a freelance travel, food, coffee and wine writer and a longtime writing teacher with an interest in mindfulness and contemplative studies. She lives with her wife and two young children in Berkeley, California.

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