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Meet Nikki Owen, your new Stroud Times columnist

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As an author, Nikki’s written the best-selling Subject 375, The Killing Files, and The Girl Who Ran published by Harper Collins in the UK and translated into more than 15 languages worldwide.

A playwright, scriptwriter and endurance athlete, born in Dublin, Nikki now lives in Stroud with her two daughters.

I’d collapsed on the floor. Unable to move, I wasn’t sure what was happening but I knew it wasn’t good. I’d been out running that night with Stroud athletics club. It was the year before Covid, I was going through what was already a long, sad divorce, and that night, I was glad people were there. I’d felt odd on my training run, a bit sick, definitely stressed, but ignored it, running as I have been since I was a kid in daps when I’d use the sport as a mode of transport because we had no car and minimum money and I wanted to see my friends in a village six miles away from home. Running allows me to travel, think, heal, hope, rage and smile. Running is in my soul.

Anyway, back to that night. Long story short, my heart was in trouble. I was carted off to hospital, ended up staying in for four days and told I might have sudden cardiac death syndrome. I was, if I’m honest, a bit scared. I had to stop training, go steady and wait for some big tests to figure out what was happening. And for a bit, it floored me, utterly. I cried, didn’t know what was next, kept working, writing books as I do in my job day-to-day, trying to not overdo it so my two teenage daughters wouldn’t worry. I definitely for a while, understandably, felt sorry for myself. And then, one day, I woke up, wiped my face dry and said, okay, I can’t, right now, do what I used to do, so what can I do? It was a game-changer, that thought, that outlook. I couldn’t run (or compete in triathlons, as I had done) but I could gently swim, walk, do yoga, be with friends, lean on them for strength, get better. 

So, that’s what I did. Come July, I got a (good outcome) diagnosis (thank you, NHS) with life-long medication to help my heart. By September, I was competing in triathlon again, switched to long, slow endurance running, and this July I’m running a 145-mile non-stop race from London to Bristol.

With COVID, this past year has been tough on all of us, often immeasurably so, the sustained stress it’s put us all under, the worry for loved-ones, the unnatural lack of social human contact. We’ve been up, down, unable to do the things we’ve become so used to and that sucks. And then, we’ve all had to ask ourselves, okay, we can’t do that, so what can we do? And that? That outlook? It takes grit.

It’s that finding a way to somehow keep going, that ability we have as humans to be resilient whilst giving ourselves the permission to feel, that’s what helps us survive. Life can be hard. And then we climb back up, dust ourselves down, wipe our faces dry and, knowing our fellow humans have our burdened backs, we ask ourselves, okay, now what CAN I do?

Nikki Owen is an author and runner living in Stroud

Instagram: @nikkiowenwriter

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