I am doing my first marathon in London this spring because I love running and what it has done for my life. I have dreamed of doing a marathon ever since I was a young kid, when I was going through a lot of heartache. But I never really thought that I would get there.
I had a very deprived upbringing and life was very tough for me growing up. My mum and dad divorced when I was five. My parents fought for custody of me and I remember feeling caught in the middle. I ended up living with my mum in the week and spent the weekend with my dad.
Dad started to sexually abuse me when I was seven. I didnât understand what was happening. At that age, I didnât even know that it was wrong; I thought it was a normal part of life. I was a very confused little boy.
I self-harmed between the ages of nine and 11, I guess as a cry for help. When the abuse was at its worst I would cry every morning at breakfast, even when my dad was there. I remember becoming a teenager and getting friendly with girls, which was the moment I started to realise that the things that had happened to me were wrong.
When I was 15, the abuse stopped. My dad played the role of a good father at that time, taking me and my friends out and everyone thought he was amazing. What my dad did was very clever. He had complete control and power over me. He was so manipulative that I even decided to keep living with him rather than with my mum when given the choice. I felt like everything that happened before could be forgotten.
I eventually went to the doctors when I was in my 20s and was referred to counselling. I had hit rock bottom. But through therapy I learned coping mechanisms. I used to get flashbacks and I would collapse on the kitchen floor. My wife would have to literally pick me up. In my mind, I had go back to the worst incident of abuse and I would stay there. My counsellor told me to focus on the present to help me to keep control of my mind. The first time this brought me out of a flashback, I cried, realising that there were ways out of those bad memories.
As a kid, I was always really good at running long distance at school but I didnât keep it up. Then, when my father-in-law got a serious illness in 2007, I randomly decided to do a half marathon to raise some money for charity. I was going through a bit of a bad time, suffering from the depression that had plagued me since childhood, and was really overweight. But I thought I would give it a whirl anyway.
The last thing I expected when I began forcing myself to pound the streets was that it would give me a whole new lease of life. But I quickly became aware that running helped my anxiety and panic attacks. I had time to think when I was on the road and everything that had happened began to make sense and heal. I was quite unfit but kept building up on my running until I got to a point where I did the Great North Run in 1hr 37mins and raised £1,000 for charity. It showed me what you can achieve, physically and mentally, if you work at it.
After that, running became a medicine for me. I didnât need anti-depressants; I needed to run. Iâm not saying that the anxiety and depression and everything else stopped completely, but running definitely helped to reduce them. So I have kept it up even when I am not training for a particular event.
Running the London marathon for the NSPCC is the icing on the cake. The charity has been really important to my life and I am full of admiration for what they have done to help me and others: itâs a charity that means a great deal to me and my family.
Other victims of abuse should know that if there is something you want to do or achieve, you should go for it. If you know that you are good at something, like I knew I was good at running, it is just about having the belief in yourself to make it happen.
Given the journey that I have been on, running the London marathon will be a great achievement. I canât wait to hang another medal on my wall.
You can sponsor Craig at https://www.justgiving.com/Craig-NSPCC