Updated: Apr 18
Rachel Wylde is a leader with Jog Derbyshire Chesterfield. With a number of caring responsibilities over the years, things haven’t always been easy, but a love for running has brought opportunities for self care.
Rachel’s caring responsibilities started with her daughter – now 21 – who is autistic, has Noonan Syndrome and was born with a number of heart conditions, meaning multiple hospital appointments and ongoing worries and stresses. Later on she supported her dad in looking after her mum who had Alzheimer’s and more recently has been caring for her dad who is suffering from depression and psychosis.
Rachel explains the toll all this has taken on her.
She said: “Recently with my dad, for three or four weeks I was 24 hours his carer. Getting him up, washed and dressed, helping him with the toilet, making meals and trying to encourage him to take his food and his medication, then putting him to bed at night. I had to stay with him constantly throughout the day to keep him safe and out of harm.
“With all three of them it’s been a different type of stress. It’s constant. It never goes away. There’s always something on your mind, something to worry about, something that needs doing or wondering what’s going to happen when.”
For Rachel, running started as a way to raise money for charities close to her heart but it soon became apparent it was playing an important part in keeping her mentally and physically strong.
She said: “I started running in 2010. Because I couldn’t run I had to sort of set myself a challenge. So I signed up for a 10k to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and the London Marathon the following year. So for the first few years it was really geared around giving back to people who’d supported us.
“But over time it became more. Just time for me, to escape from what was going on. Going out on my own was a big chance to clear my head and just forget about things. Running out in the Peak District was a distraction from life.
“But I also like running with other people. It is just a good time to chat and get things off your chest. One of my running friends also has a mother with Alzheimer’s so we’d always have some trauma or major life event going on and it was just someone to offload to.”
Rachel describes how running helped the day her dad was taken into hospital.
She said: “The night my dad was sectioned, he was taken off in an ambulance about half past five and I had group in half an hour. Emotionally and mentally I didn’t feel up to doing anything so I wasn’t going to run. One of the co-leaders kindly offered to step in at the last minute. I then thought, I could either sit here and cry or go out and run to take my mind off things. So that’s what I did.
“Leading the Jog Derbyshire group makes me go out on times when I don’t particularly want to or I’m feeling like I can’t do it. Having the responsibility of other people is a good incentive.”
During February, Rachel signed up for Peak Running’s Run for the Trees challenge – aiming to run 100 miles during the month and this provided a welcome distraction to what’s been a tough month.
She said: “That’s actually come at a really good time. In the beginning I thought with everything that’s going on I’m not going to fit it in, which is when I thought I would combine walking and running. That was good because it came at a time when my dad was in the hospital. I was spending all day with him and that was hard. So at lunchtime I’d leave for half an hour and do a quick two miles walk.
“Then I saw, other people were running it, I should be able to. So even though I’d been at work all day, visiting my dad and not getting home until 9pm, when I got home I was putting my trainers on and going straight back out. And that was a good stress relief. The challenge was making me get out and I realised, this is doing me good, I do need to run.
“It’s quite nice knowing you’re planting trees for miles. I quite like the idea that I’m earning a tree with others in the group and that’s for my dad.”
Support from Rachel’s family and friends has been essential in allowing her to have that crucial time for herself.
She said: “I think it’s the mental health side of things isn’t it. It’s important for people who are carers to make time for themselves, get out and do things that make them feel better.
“If you haven’t got family to help it must be really hard. If other people offer to help you, take the offer. If you know someone who is a carer, think if there’s anything you can do to help them get out and have some time to themselves, even if it’s just for half an hour.
“You need to be in a good place physically and mentally to be able to be a good carer.”