SOLIHULL mum-of-three Becky Doyle has revealed how running has helped her cope with severe depression and her youngest son’s battles with life-threatening illnesses as she prepares for her second Great Birmingham Run half marathon in October.
The wife of former Blues goalkeeper Colin Doyle has also benefited physically since pulling on her trainers for the first time two years ago – losing an incredible two stone as a direct result of her running.
But it is the huge boost running has given Becky’s mental health that has been an even bigger positive, as it has helped her manage six-year-old son Liam’s ongoing struggles.
The 38-year-old admits she became ‘more afraid of living than dying’ after Liam was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis as a young baby in July 2010.
Since then, he has also been treated for pneumococcal septicaemia and strep B.
Liam has seizures most nights – a condition common in children with brain injuries – which means Becky rarely has an undisturbed night’s sleep.
And she became so low worrying about Liam that she admits she couldn’t contemplate living if he lost his fight for survival.
However, all that began to change when she decided to go for a jog two years ago to lose weight.
“I was put on anti-depressants after Liam fell ill and was on them for just under three years,” recalled Becky, who is also running half marathons – Oxford and Solihull – on the weekends that sandwich the Great Birmingham Run.
“I wasn’t coping very well and was more afraid of living than dying,” she added.
“Liam was so poorly and I was saying things like ‘if he dies, I’m going with him’.
“That’s how down I was – I was in a really horrible place.
“But within four months of running, I’d come off the tablets – and I’ve not needed them in two years.”
Becky started off running just 200 yards as a complete novice – but quickly got stronger.
She added: “Running has effectively saved my mental stability.
“Sometimes, I’d burst into tears when I was running, but I’d just keep going. It made me feel alive.
“These days, when I’m struggling, I just pull on my shoes and go for a run.
“Depression is often a taboo subject, but every household has probably suffered it in one form or another.
“It’s something I’ve had to accept to live with but, with the benefits from running, I’m controlling it now. Depression isn’t controlling me.”
Becky’s love of running has even boosted hubby Colin’s pre-season preparations.
She says the towering keeper, now at Bradford City, has never been in better shape after accompanying her on training runs.
“Colin kills himself in the gym every summer to get his body fat down,” added Becky, who recruited Blues boss Gary Rowett and 11 other runners to run the London Marathon in April in aid of Liam’s Smiles, the charity she set up after Liam’s diagnosis.
Becky has become a fundraising inspiration after running a marathon, six half-marathons and five 10kms in two years.
So far, she has raised an incredible total of almost £200,000.
Through Liam’s Smiles, this has been donated to charities with links to Liam’s plight, with Meningitis Now the main beneficiary.
In October, Becky will be channelling her marathon efforts into raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of her granddad.
To sponsor her visit: www.justgiving.com/Liam-s-Smiles1
To join Becky and almost 12,000 people who have already signed up for the Great Birmingham Run, visit: www.greatrun.org/great-birmingham-run