My relatively short running career was going well up until April 2018. I had caught the running bug, I had joined an amazing running club, I had achieved many goals such as sub-20 5K, running my first half marathon, running a marathon, running an ultra marathon and completed a 50-mile race in Paris. And then Crohn’s threw a spanner in the works!
Out of Action
In March 2018 I was unfortunate enough to have a visit from a delightful perianal abscess, which as always required surgery. The timing was’t ideal and I had to have surgery 5 days before my 50-mile Paris race. Having had many abscesses and how they are cared for post-op (i.e. left open) I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run Paris. But for some reason, perhaps me mentioning the race to the surgeon, he decided to sew up the wound. Out of the 6 or 7 abscesses I’ve had, that’s the only one that was sewn up. This gave me hope for Paris and later in the week I completed the race.
A couple of weeks later in the beginning of April I had yet another abscess and post-surgery my Crohn’s became a lot worse rapidly and I was in the midst of a bad flare up. I had another race planned for later in April which involved running 50k and drinking 11 beers (The Beer Ultra). That race was paid for including the accommodation in Buxton so I decided to give it a go and see what I could manage. I managed just 9 miles before I had to pull out. And that was pretty much the end of running for 2018.
I completed a parkrun in May at a very slow pace and then failed a few more so from that point onwards I decided to throw in the towel until I was healthy again. There was little point in trying to run, feeling awful, failing and then beating myself up for not being strong enough to battle through it. I was better off accepting that I needed to take a break, get better, then get back into it. I was still actively involved in the running community and my running club through offering my photography services at different races.
There is Hope
As soon as the flare up began I started a course of steroids which didn’t little to help matters and then went back onto Humira injections which had worked in the past but like the steroids didn’t help the flare up. I was left with a choice of either trying a different treatment or have surgery. I chose surgery and knew that come 2019 I would be back running.
Whilst I knew that I would be out of action for some time (essentially taking a full year out of running when adding up the time for the flare up, surgery and recovery), I knew that post recovery I would be back to normal and possibly in a better position now that I wouldn’t have to worry about rushing to a toile.
What’s Planned for 2019
Since starting running it quickly became an integral part of my life so there was a huge void when I stopped. I’m rather excited about lacing up the trainers again and hitting the trails and tarmac again, especially the trails. I used to love plotting random new routes on the OS Maps app, heading out not knowing what to expect and photographing the sights along the way.
I’m unsure what’s going to happen when I start again but I’m fully expecting things to be difficult and I may even need to do a crash C25K course and attend some parkruns. I’m going to be eager but I have to be realistic and know that I’m not going to be able to jump into 40+ mile weeks for a while.
I’ve already started with daily walking and gentle core exercises and when my body is ready I’ll head to the swimming pool as a way of gently reintroducing myself to exercising. And then it’ll be time to lace up the trainers and head out running!
A tweet posted by Team Costomy UK gave me some idea of when I’d be able to race. Being able to run a 10k race four months after surgery would be an amazing achievement. Emma Joy started training 7 weeks after surgery and whilst I will be listening to my body and not pushing things, I’m confident that if I don’t encounter any set backs I will be able to start training around about the same time as her.
Whilst the temptation is there to book races for later in the year as a motivation tool, I’m trying to be sensible and waiting until I start running again before considering what I can achieve this year. That said, I have got races which were booked before I elected to have surgery.
Gozo Half Marathon (or less)
Last year a dozen club members headed out to Malta for the Gozo Half Marathon and heading out there again this year. I had already signed up to go back in July 2018 before deciding to have surgery but at the moment everything is booked apart from the race. In addition to the half marathon there is also a 10K and 5K race plus a 10K and 5K walk. All races cost the same – 14 Euros – so I’m sure I can switch races on the day depending on my progression over the next few months.
St Illtyd’s Ultra
For the last two years I have meant to run the St Illtyd’s Ultra in West Wales but due to my illness I haven’t been able to run both races, although I have still supported the race. I have a place in this year’s race which takes place in early May but there’s no chance I’d be able to run 50k so soon after surgery and I’m not even going to contemplate trying.
Like the previous years I’ll be heading down there to support the race particularly as some club members are running.
Lundy Island Trail Race
The next race I’ve got a place for is the Lundy Island 15K Trail Race. This race was launched last year and I was fortunate to get one of the limited number of places. It took place in July so when the flare up appeared and I started to take Humira in May/June I was hoping that things would have improved in time but that wasn’t to be the case. I was so disappointed to miss the race but I’ve got a place for this year so I’m hoping that I’ll be fit enough in time to undertake the race and if not, there’s also 2020.
A Run With No Witty Name
A low-key, friendly race in Wiltshire that took place last October. The 50K race is the sister event to the tough Beyond the Far Side race which I took part in earlier in 2018. As I couldn’t race A Run With No Witty Name the race director kindly transferred my place to this year and hopefully I will be able to run it this year.
Races I’m Looking Forward To Running Again
Rogue Night Races
Everyone has their favourite races and there were a few standout races that I loved running and am keen to run again. The Rogue Runs night race were by far my favourite races including their Severn Bridge Race. How could you not love running though a forest at night with shoe-sucking mud and water features, aka ‘shoe washes’, to clean of the mud. I’ll definitely be running the 2019/20 series of races.
Whilst I’ve enjoyed photographing the club at Cross Country races, I’ve missed being a part of the action. Cross Country were always tough but after being out of action for so long I’m actually looking forward to trying them again. I’m looking forward to contributing again and running the courses I’ve yet to run.
There’s also the annual races such as Welsh Castles Relay and Rack Raid. I’ve been lucky to have been selected for the Welsh Castles Relay in 2017 and would like to be considered for Rack Raid in the future.
The Elusive St Illtyd’s Ultra
And as already mentioned, the St Illtyd’s Ultra is a race that I’ve never been able to run so 2020 may be the year that Crohn’s won’t scupper!
The Infamous Christmas Tree Costume
And who knows, the infamous Parc Bryn Bach Christmas Tree may get another airing!
Soon after surgery I started following stoma/colostomy on Twitter including Colostomy UK and their sister account TeamColostomyUK which supports those who are more active. They very kindly offered to send me a running vest which I’m keen to wear to both support them and raise awareness. It’ll act as a motivator to get back running and like I’ve raised money for Crohn’s and Colitis in the past, it would be great to raise some money for Colostomy UK.
2019 will be the year I fight back against Crohn’s Disease!