This week it dawned on me that it’s been 2 years since Crohn’s Disease took control and put a stop to me enjoying running. Crohn’s had affected running prior to April 2018 but it was at this point that things because too much and I decided to stop running.
Rewind to 2018
I started off 2018 trying to discover my limits and continuing to try out new races and distances with a timed race in the West Country. It was a 12 hour race with 5.3 mile loops around a hilly, extremely muddy course. It was soul-destroying but I managed to get around 5 times (26.5 miles) in 6h 45m.
March 17th me tackling the Eco Trail Paris 50 mile race which was my longest race to date having DNF’d at 49 miles into Race to the Stones. Crohn’s almost ended the race before it started when an perianal abscess appeared 3 weeks before the race. A course of antibiotics didn’t clear it so 5 days before the race I had surgery to remove it. Fortunately I recovered from the surgery quickly and made the start line.
The following month I travelled to Buxton for my second Beer Ultra which involves drinking 11 beers and running 50km. Unfortunately I started the race in the middle of a bad flareup and could only manage 3 x 5km loops.
I struggled on after this race but it reached a point where the symptoms of the disease were proving too difficult. Still, I got to enjoy a great day in the Peak District enjoying beers and photographing the other runners.
Post-Surgery False Hope
Things were looking so good after surgery. I was soon exercising again starting with walking and swimming and then running even completing a few races. But the Ken Butt wound wasn’t healing and there was the added complication of the parastomal hernia that had started to form in early May.
I was getting back into running with regular 5k and 10k training runs to get the times back up, the occasional parkrun and I even managed to get in a 13 mile runcommute from Cardiff to Newport. I was feeling excited about the prospect of running the races I’d missed and working my way up to being able to run ultra distance races again. I’d even started to work on a big challenge for 2020. But the week after completing my bucket list race on Lundy Island in July, I was back in hospital having surgery to see what was happening with the Ken Butt wound.
The wound was taking a long time to heal and there was a chance that the wound was linked to an existent pilonidal sinus. The exploration under anaesthetic didn’t reveal much and only an MRI would be able to determine if there was a connection between the two. With the wound still open and a question mark hanging over whether there was an internal connection between it and the pilonidal sinus, I stopped running. I haven’t run since.
Trying to Keep Interested
After I stopped running again in July 2019 I tried to maintain my interest in running by keeping active with the club and by photographing races. The photography became a big feature in my life and by 2020 I was photographing races every week. I got to know a lot of different runners from local clubs but my interest in getting back into running would wax and wane.
Mentally it’s been a tough ride and when I was feeling up I’d be keen to start again but when I would feel down I’d feeling like calling it a day. Then there’s the issue with the wound which never seems to fully heal (it’s still not there!). On a number of occasions I’ve got so close to it healing but the fragility of the new skin has meant that it’s reopened again, and when it reopens it means at least another two weeks before the skin covers the wound again. And with the new skin also looking so fragile, it’s difficult to gauge when it’s safe to start running again. It’s a struggle keeping motivated when you think the end is almost in sight but then you get setbacks.
Being stuck inside during this lockdown is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that even though I was unable to take part in any races, they’ve all been cancelled but on the flip side, I’m no longer able to do the things I was doing to compensate for not running such as walking in new places and photographing races.
I’m hoping that when the wound is finally healed, the motivation will still be there so that during lockdown I can at least use some of that time to get back to working towards the races and distances I used to enjoy.