How Running’s Changed My Life – True Stories (compiled for UK Athletics 10/08).
“A simple tingling in my legs, that’s how it started. One minute a fit-young lad about to take his GCSE exams, the next, tingle...intense-pain...wham...paralysed. It was that quick, within a few hours I was thrown into the frightening scenario of being laid in a hospital bed, unable to move: wires and drips surrounding me...unpleasant at the best of times, but at 16years old, even more so. That was me, Tom Foulstone, 10 years ago. Rather unluckily i was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder called Guillanne-Barre Syndrome, a condition in which my own immune system was attacking my body...it was actually eating away the myelin coating on my nerves, the bit that conducts all the tiny electrical impulses that make our bodies move! I was rushed to hospital and spent around 4weeks on a ward, slowly recovering. I had lost the ability to move my body from my neck-down, and the left side of my face. I suppose I looked a little like i had had a serious stroke.
Eventually, I started to slowly regain some of the feeling and movement back in my body. Just a tiny twitch of my big toe -just a twitch, a twitch of hope - there’s always hope. The tiny movements steadily progressed, and soon i was moved to a young-disabled-centre to continue my recovery. This involved many hours of intense physiotherapy, I basically had to learn how to walk again from scratch...and with a good portion of determination, coupled with support from my family, I was able to make a slow, but complete recovery! The paralysed Tom was reborn...and filled with an overwhelming feeling...the cliché of 'Living life to the max'! So, 10 years on, I’m pleased, and tremendously proud to say that I am a keen runner. Yes, that’s right; paralysed-Tom is a runner! I love the feeling of the air whizzing past my ears...of my legs moving, moving fast, feeling each step. My heart beats like a drum...during Hill-Sessions it often feels as though it will explode...it’s an amazing feeling...I’m running! I know quite a few of us runners have mantras which we use to gauge our leg-speed, or to push us on if we are feeling tired during a race...my manta is simple...'I run because I can'.
I represent Hallamshire Harriers of Sheffield, a tremendously welcoming and well respected club. I’m also proud to be a Harrier, and to wear the red-vest when i race. My training plan varies depending which races I am training for, but this is a typical week for me... Sunday = Long-Run, Between 10 to 16 miles.Monday = A.M, 5k. P.M, 4.5miles tempo.Tuesday = A.M, 5k. P.M, Hallamshire Harriers Road/Hill session.Wednesday = A.M, 5k. P.M, Treadmill session up to 9miles, Core Workout.Thursday = A.M, 5k. P.M, Hallamshire Harriers Track session. Typically 800s 0r 400s for leg-speed.Friday = Rest day...maybe just a 'Throw-Away' run of 3miles, without a watch.Saturday = A.M, 5k. P.M, 7miles, 2Warm-up, 2Tempo, 1Race-Pace, 2warm-down. The schedule is pretty flexible, and it really important not to let the running control my life! On the other hand, commitment and consistency are two of my favourite words...if i am scheduled to run 5miles, I will run 5miles...or if I am scheduled to do 50 press-ups, 49 is simply not good enough. I’m a firm believer that you get out what you put in. So that’s my story. I am Tom Foulstone, and i run. I am just a runner... anyone can be a runner; it just takes a little bit of commitment. Everyone has their own story, and each story is special because it means something to that person. May it be running for personal goals, in memory of someone, or simply to get fit... running is certainly special. It’s important to remember your own goals too.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in setting personal bests, or beating previous course records...well, forget all that and simply remember my mantra... 'I run because I can'.”
For Preston-based Graham Ballard, life started out as a battle and has continued to test him throughout his entire life.
Born thirteen and a half weeks early, Ballard – the only surviving baby from seven conceived by his mother – subsequently endured thirteen weeks in an intensive care baby unit and his parents were not notified of his disability (he was suffering from cerebal palsy) until aged three.
Advised to put Graham into a home as his life expectancy was not thought not to be higher than reaching his teenage years, his parents introduced him to sport to aid his mobility. At aged eight, Graham began horse-riding, as he was too weak to walk; appearing like he was drunk - as he’d struggle for a few steps before constantly stumbling. But at aged sixteen, Graham could ride by himself and had a stronger desire to try more sports.
Unfortunately, due to suffering from epilepsy also, Graham struggled to find people who would take him into their training groups. At aged eighteen, after taking to swimming for a while, Graham found success at football and; due to his noticeable speed – was advised to take up sprinting.
In his first competition during his college days, Graham won three medals and got the running bug. He soon joined “CP Sport”; a disability scheme, based in Nottingham to enable him access to more competitions and at the 2001 World disability Championships, he amassed three medals over the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in the T36 category (a classification which means all four of his limbs are severely affected).
Despite losing his girlfriend in a car accident whilst he was away training in Portugal, Graham once again overcame adversity and continued to succeed in athletics with regular Great Britain appearances since 2002. Graham has medalled at every single major championship - bar the Beijing Paralympics, due to injury and home-sickness - and is now aiming for more success on home turf in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Mick and Phil Curry
If you ever needed a pep talk, you could do worse than have a chat to Mick Curry. Along with his son Phil, Mick has completed 278 races since 2002, including 27 full marathons and 162 half-marathons.
Mick and Phil wouldn't run without each other, but this is no ordinary partnership: Phil has severe physical and mental disabilities and is completely reliant on his parents for round-the-clock care, so Mick pushes Phil around races - no mean feat considering Phil is now a young adult.
Running has given Mick and Phil - and Phil's mother Dawn - a new lease of life, but in return they've given back so much support, friendship and awe-inspiring guts to the sport, motivating the thousands of runners they meet at races. http://www.micknphil-marathonlads.com/
The 52 year-old Port Talbot Harrier competed for Wales as a senior at ultra-distance running and has been running since 1980. Holling started to run for Barnsley after playing rugby league and soon won the Welsh 40-mile Championships in 1997 then ran for Wales for a couple of years. He then however, broke his ankle in 2002 at work as a fabricator welder and it took 2 years to get back into the Welsh squad – finally in 2004. In 2007, he finished 2nd in the Welsh 40-mile and propelled himself back into the Welsh team before winning the super-tough Comrades marathon.
Holling next ran a 100km race for Wales then a 10km fun run in Cardiff, where he slipped at 8km and broke the same ankle. Determined to fix this niggling injury, Holling aqua-jogged, as he “wouldn’t let anything hold me back – I had to carry on training.”
Then more bad luck struck – he fell over the wall outside his house and broke his neck and also suffered lacerations to head; losing 5-pints of blood – Holling had to be fitted with a collar with screws put into his head to hold neck still. After 10 days, he was back back walking around the wards; helping the nurses to clean up, but then the doctors suspected spinal damage so Holling was forced to have an operation yet still joked “when can I start training again?.”
Just 4-weeks later, Holling ran a 12-minute mile race off aqua jogging and was so determined to get back to running, he did more rehabilitation exercises than instructed by his physiotherapist. By the summer of 2008, he had managed a half-marathon in 1:50 and a 10-mile race in 1:30. Holling now plans to get back to his former fitness but explains it’s “so hard because of my manual job. Now, I still have sore shoulder muscles but I won’t give in – the only way back is to continue to race!”
Stuart quit smoking in 2001 after 17 years of being a heavy smoker but soon found he replaced one unhealthy habit with another – junk food. Stuart’s weight ballooned from around 13 stone to a staggering 21 stone and he soon found he couldn’t even muster enough energy to have a kick-about with his kids.
Stuart was also born with his left leg shorter than his right, which with this rapid weight gain, meant he was putting a lot of strain on his left side.
A concerned colleague encouraged Stuart to take up jogging with his local jogscotland group - Peterhead. After getting over his first night nerves Stuart was surprised to find that there were a variety of ages and sizes at the group that all shared the one goal – to improve their fitness and feel better about themselves. Stuart found the combination of progressive walking and jogging agreed with him and he eventually found himself jogging for the whole session.
Stuart has now lost 5 stone in weight, and completed three 5ks and seven 10ks and moved up to the immediate jogscotland group. The most recent 5k was The Co-operative jogscotland 5k challenge in Aberdeen, around 30 Peterhead jogscotland members came down in a bus to enjoy the 5k which is aimed at beginners.
Stuart encourages other people to take part in jogscotland: “I feel very proud of my medals and all I have achieved. A few years back I wouldn’t even been able to fit into my Peterhead jogscotland T-Shirt!
“I could never have achieved all this on my own, and I owe it all to the Peterhead jogscotland group. Through all the encouragement they have given me I feel like I am half the size I used to be…thank you jogscotland!”
Catherine only started running because of her mum, who died of cancer in 2003. Her last piece of advice to Catherine was: “You are wasting your precious life, and I want you to do something about it.”
At this stage Catherine was heavily over-weight and on beta blockers to try and ease the terrible migraines she kept getting that would put her in bed for three days.
She decided to take her mother’s advice and run in the Great Scottish Run 10k in 2006. Having not done any exercise for 30 years Catherine was exhausted just by running to the end of the road. But she stuck it out and found she could get a little bit further with each run.
Catherine managed to run the whole way round the 10k and finished with a time of 1:01:39. Although the run was suppose to be a one off, the sense of achievement Catherine felt and the amount of money she raised for her mother’s hospice inspired her to keep on running. This year she beat her 10k PB with a time of 49:47.
Catherine finds her life has changed dramatically since taking up running: “I’ve become a happy and confident person and I have met lots of nice people because I joined jogscotland.
“I no longer need medication since I lost weight and became fit, so you see my mum was right when she said “everyone has to die but not everyone lives”, and I intend to live!”
Catherine was 50 this year and to celebrate she ran in her first half-marathon in Inverness. She just ran in the 10k in Glasgow at the Great Scottish Run and later on this year the Great North Run. Catherine has also been successfully in obtaining a place in the Flora London Marathon 2009.
Nicola Bamford: runbritain.com editor
Most runners will be able to relate to my story of how I got into running, as it centres on bereavement; and unfortunately, we all have to face this unhappy time at points in our lives.
Two days before my thirteenth birthday, my mother passed away after years of illness.
Although deep down her death was expected, I never gave up hope of her getting better and I remember praying so hard in those final few days of her life. “I knew 13 was an unlucky number!” I remember despondently saying to my dad as I officially reached my teenage milestone. The poor man must have been beside himself; pondering how on earth to salvage his young daughter’s future and her usually chatty, bubbly personality.
Just a few weeks later however; after throwing myself back into school to keep my mind off this difficult time, I overheard a friend telling another they were going to the running track in the nearby city – I had always been a sporty child, so politely asked to join them – it would be fun, I thought and at the very least, it would keep my mind active and distract me from the pain I was going through.
And so it did. Within three weeks of simple training just three times a week, I was on the cross-country racing circuit and winning medals – and despite thinking of my mum on a daily basis, now 10 years later, I’ve never looked back since. Through all the pain in training and races, the disappointments and heartaches I’ve endured in this sport I love so much, the foremost incentive to keep working hard and to never give up or get too despondent derives from the promise I made to myself and my dear mum; that I would do everything in my power to make her proud. I really hope I have done and will continue to so.