Our impact Inspiring stories Triathlon keeps me on journey to mental wellness by Marius Pelser *This Blog first appeared on the Triathlon Scotland website. 2016: I regularly wake up with a level of fear I have never experienced. I am constantly checking everything around me and am starting to struggle facing each day. There was a point when I stopped at work and sat in the car for about 15 minutes because I couldn’t get myself to walk into the building. I needed to speak to someone. The conversation and subsequent letter from the psychologist confirmed my suspicions. For many years I was willing to lay my life down to protect others and that has now caught up with me. The report was quite clear; “…symptoms consistent with a post traumatic stress disorder presentation. The symptoms meet the four main diagnostic criteria for PTSD (i.e. intrusions, hyperarousal and negative alterations in mood and cognitions) with functional impairment in the occupational and social areas of his life.” Fortunately, I had just discovered the world of running, well jogging in my case, earlier in the year. I started running to lose some weight. I was close to 100kg and wanted to make a change. I also noticed that when I had been running I would feel better, sleep better and my mood would be more upbeat. I had started doing a few ParkRuns and got to the point where I was able to run the whole distance, albeit at a snail’s pace. After the diagnosis I decided to up the effort level and see if I could do a 10km run. In 2017 I quickly progressed from the 5km ParkRuns to 10km runs and then into 2 half marathons. I wanted more and heard from another parent about the Edinburgh New Year’s Day Triathlon. That afternoon I signed up and started looking for training plans. I had no idea what to expect but I wanted a big challenge. 1st January 2018 and it is a bit wet when I report for my first novice triathlon. Nervous, excited and any other emotion all at the same time. My family is there to support me and all I want to do is finish. I line up next to the pool, the adrenalin kicks in and its my turn. I jump in and start swimming. I’m not sure quite how, but I am actually overtaking some people. Swim complete and on to the bike leg. The cold wind quickly turns the skin on my legs blood red as I speed downhill for my first lap around Arthur’s Seat. Three times I went round, I thought I was going to collapse from exhaustion. Coming in to T2 I was so tired I got off my bike about 10 metres before the dismount line. I racked my bike and off I went to face that dreaded hill for the last time, and this time I need to run it. I finished the race, exhausted, smiling and eager to do it all over again. Yes, the bug bit me. I was now a triathlete, or so I am told, and wanted to do more. I realised that I had very little experience and need some friendly advice, which I found in Edinburgh#3 Tri club. The club made me feel welcome even though I was probably the fattest, slowest, most inexperienced person that ever joined. I didn’t care, I wanted to learn more. Triathlon gave me the challenge I needed, both physical and mental. I needed the next event to test myself. I found the test I craved in the Tri in the Park event in August 2018. I entered not only my first sprint but also my first open water swim. I was petrified. But, as I have come to experience, triathletes are friendly people. They help each other, give advice and essentially just want to try and have a nice day out, with a bit of racing on the side. I finished the race in some times that surprised me. I am still not a podium finisher (don’t think I will be either) but I enjoy the challenge on both the body and mind. I am now deep into my training for my first middle distance triathlon. I am hoping to complete the Outlaw Half in Nottingham on the 19th of May this year. I am still nervous and excited. I don’t know what to expect on race day but know that I will not be alone thanks to some friends from Edinburgh#3 who will be racing on the day and I will be doing this to raise funds for Support in Mind Scotland – a charity in Scotland which provides support and services to people affected by mental illness, and for whom I have become an ambassador and board member. Triathlon has not only changed my weight and waist size. It has also made me mentally stronger. I can face every challenge and, if it doesn’t go to plan, I know that I can learn from the experience and try again in the future. It is a principle that I now apply in my personal and business life. I still get days where I feel black clouds gathering above my head and I would rather sit in a corner than go out and train. I can now also face 70% of these days and say, all I need to do is take that first step, pedal or stroke. The rest will follow no matter how fast, slow and difficult it feels. When I am done my smile is back and I am ready to face another day. Marius has his own blog about his training challenges he completes which you can read here. If you would like to learn more about Support in Mind Scotland you can have a look at their website here and you can donate to his challenges via Marius’s Just Giving page here.