Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with exercised induced asthma. To say it was a shock was an understatement, I then went on to develop pleurisy and then 3 years of ongoing issues with chest and lung infections. I was given so many antibiotics that at one point the doctor had to stop for fear of me becoming immune.
My body and my mind were fried, I had nothing in me and people would refer to me as if I was a completely different person. My energy and zest for life were gone and I struggle to even climb a few stairs never mind running 30 miles a week as I had previously.
From an early age, running was an escape for me and I loved the sense of freedom and strength it gave me. The challenge would inspire me to do more and push forward. Running was me and runners were my people, my community.
Living on the South Coast for so many years was incredible, I could run into the wind along the seafront and push myself to my limit and then allow it to carry me back. October was my favourite month; the weather was changing and there was an ever so slight nip in the air. Each day was unpredictable and could be dry and sharp, or wet and windy. Whatever nature threw at me it made me challenge myself, and I loved it.
In 2011 I was training with a friend, who ironically had asthma, as we had both set out to do the Great South Run. She was new to running and we pushed hard to get our schedule met and train enough to be able to run together. Then one day, whilst we were out, I could not breathe. Each time I tried to take a breath it never felt like it went to my lungs, then muscle panic set in and each breath got sharper and shorter till I went dizzy. Obviously, by this time we were walking and my friend asked if I had ever been tested for asthma. It hadn’t even crossed my mind and I just discounted it as a bad day.
Over the upcoming weeks, my breathing got harder and harder until I fell ill with a horrible chest infection a month before the Great South Run. Frantic I went to my GP begging for anything to make me better, and as a fellow runner, he prescribed me antibiotics and told me I’d be fine.
I then had 3 years of hospitals, inhalers and antibiotics and I shrivelled into someone I didn’t recognise. My alcoholism overtook me and I was gone.
Previous attempts I had made various attempts to run again had failed. Each time I would go out I was pushing myself to the same level that I was previously. After each run, I would be frustrated at how little I thought I had achieved and was continually comparing myself to the person before the illness. To overcome my sense of failure I had resigned myself to never running and found Yoga and Walking and enjoyed them both but not with the same vigour or sense of achievement. I even bought a road bike and whilst I enjoyed that it still aggravated my asthma and just didn’t give me the same buzz. Running had given me a purpose and achievement, I had resigned myself to a life without it.
This year, driven by a friend, I joined a community running group. I went to support her but two months later I am still going. They are a community and not a club. Everyone has a different pace and goal and no one is too good or not good enough. Not knowing me or my past they have all made me feel welcome and part of something, which is the first time in a long time that has happened.
They have recognised my nerves and there is also a member with asthma who understands the pain and challenges I am facing.
Taking it gently I go twice a week with one short run at the weekend and very quickly have seen a positive change in my eating habits. The runs are 5km and I have even managed two 10km. I am still not able to run the whole way nor am I close to the strength and stamina of my younger days but I am trying to not factor in my past achievements.
Today, whilst running, this article came to mind. It has inspired me to write about my achievement and that I have a strong sense of self. I feel like I am coming back to me. That shrivelled up lady of old is no more. My run today was short, tough and my breathing was painful but ever so gently I pushed through. Today I pushed myself just a little to achieve more
I am not striving for any great challenge or event in the future, I am allowing myself to be proud of what I have managed today and to feel a sense of achievement.