After 16 months of dealing with a chronic Ken Butt wound, both physically and mentally, it was time for me to try running again regardless of whether the wound has healed or not. The wound was constantly on my mind and affecting me mentally so I needed to try and find a balance of managing it whilst getting back into running.

Why I Stopped Running

Back July 14th, 2019 I had completed the 14-mile Lundy Island Trail Race, a race that I had missed in 2018 due to Crohn’s Disease. Despite it being a tough race (lack of fitness didn’t help) I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would love to return to give it a proper go.

It had been 7 months since surgery and I was still seeing a nurse daily for dressing changes for the Ken Butt wound and 5 days after the completion of the race I was having more surgery to see why the wound was taking so long to heal. Perhaps I shouldn’t have run the race?

Lundy Island Trail Race, July 14th 2019

July 14th was the last time I ran outside and post-surgery (relatively minor surgery) I consulted with my stoma team as to whether I should attempt to run again. As a precaution, I was advised not to run until an MRI revealed what was going on. Not running didn’t make things worse, but things didn’t get better. On September 20th, 2019 I was back in hospital having the Ken Butt refashioned.

I’ve Done Everything Right, But Things Still Went Wrong

Ever since July 2019, I’ve been good at resisting running whilst still trying to maintain some level of fitness through walking. No running post-Lundy Island led to an examination under anaesthetic followed by larger surgery in September and then on numerous occasions over the following months the wound would almost heal and then reopen. I reached a point where I was wondering whether I should not be walking!

Largely, it seemed as though the wound was doing whatever it wished in terms of healing and even though I did go on the treadmill once (and the wound did open up slightly immediately afterwards), it didn’t seem to matter what I was doing.

The Wound Was Dominating My Thoughts and Life

When you’ve lived with a chronic wound for so long, it can be exciting when you hear that it’s getting smaller and smaller and with a week or so it may fully heal. But then for whatever reason, the wound then decides to reopen again. It almost healed in January, it almost healed in February and it almost healed in March (twice) so when it started to reopen again in April I’d had enough.

Combined with the lockdown that is affecting people in different ways the monitoring of the wound was becoming a dominate part of my day-to-day life. I was taking daily photographs of it (I’ve mastered using the Apple Watch as a viewfinder and reaching between my legs with my phone!) and I was even repeatedly looking at them throughout the day trying to analyse them, almost as if looking at them would make it heal quicker.

Pre-lockdown when I encountered people from the running community, they would always ask how the wound was doing and whether I had started running again and my response was that I was almost there, just another week or two. It always felt as though I was on the cusp of having a healed wound but it never quite made it.

Mentally this was not helping and as a result I eventually started contemplating running again. If I was doing the right thing and it wasn’t improving then why not just start running again and see what happens?

Will Running Actually Cause Any Damage?

That’s the million dollar question. So far on just one occasion the wound has reopened slightly after a run on a treadmill so there is a chance that it could cause some damage but after struggling to deal with it for so long I felt as though it was time to do a bit more experimenting. If I started running more frequently again, what would happen to the wound?

I’ve been tempted to start running for a long time but each time I would always talk myself out of it for a variety of reasons such as not want to cause unnecessary damage, not to interfere with the treatment and not to make it harder for my nurses but after mentioning it to one of my nurses, it was decided that perhaps I should give it a go. I monitor the wound on a daily basis so I can quickly react if I think I’m doing damage.

As the wound is in chronic territory, there’s a real chance that it could be many more months before it fully heals and based on people I’ve spoken to with similar wounds, it could take even longer. So based on that, I could either accept that I may not run for an even longer period orI can accept that I’m going to have a long-term chronic wound, will be dressing it daily but I will be able to resume running. The latter is something that I think I could live with, the former would be harder.

Time to Experiment

Shiny new trail shoes

I’ve had a lot of time to think about the type of run that I’d want to do when I made the decision and I’ve even bought the new kit for it. I’ve always loved trail running compared to the monotony of road running so heading out into the countryside was a must.

Living in a city means that it’s not always easy to get to a trail but there are some fairly close by although it does mean having to climb a hill or two. Having walked around around nearly all the area around the house I knew of some good trails and based on the time of year there would be lots of bluebells to photograph.

Jumping the stream separating Craig y Wenallt and Craig y Merchant

The aim for the run would be to combine both running and walking – it was going to be a shock to the system running again and running on trails is harder than on the road. Armed with the OS Maps app on the phone I could make the route as long or as short as I wanted and by setting out to walk as well as run I wouldn’t be disappointed if I had to walk back due to being knackered.

The route consisted of a combination of woodlands trails, fields and country lanes with a large amount of climbing in the first half and then more downhill in the second. It was certainly tough but despite it highlighting just how unfit I had become, it was so good to be back out exploring the trails. In total the distance was 7 miles with me running around half of it in intervals.

Descending one of the bluebell-lined paths in Craig y Wenallt (with some extra timber and a parastomal hernia!)

Post-Run Feeling: Loved being on the trails again with the fast technical downhill sections through woodlands and the tough, but rewarding uphill climbs. I can’t wait to get my fitness levels up again to enjoy it even more.

The Second Run

Having enjoyed being out running again and despite feeling that achiness you get when you haven’t used certain muscles for such a long time, I was keen to try another run. I’d already tried out the new trail shoes so it was time to christen the new road shoes. I selected a pancake flat route which would allow me to focus on taking it easy and getting back into the steady, continuous running.

The route I’d chosen would be around 4 miles and I was determined to get around it without stopping either because I was needed a breather or because I’d encountered some cows to photograph! I started at a steady pace of 10:15 /mi and as the run progressed and I started to feel more comfortable I managed to get up to 08:45 /mi by the end. When I went through this process in 2019, I can remember feeling disappointed by running at a pace I wasn’t used to but this time around I knew that I needed to start at this pace to allow my body to get used to running and it wouldn’t be long before I could start picking up the pace.

Couldn’t resist photographing some cows at the end of the run

Post-Run Feeling: Again, loved it. It was tough, my legs hurt for a couple of days but I was itching to get back out there. And even though it was on the road, I chose a route that would be scenic with a chance of en-cow-ntering some cows.

The First Runcommute

When I used to work close to home I would regularly run the 3 miles to work and back but when I started working in Cardiff last year I only managed the 13 mile commute once (mainly due to everything that was going on). Now that I’m back closer to home I’m able to start runcommuting again. This week I tried it for the first time but made the mistake of running a bit too quickly so despite being just under 2 miles, I was knackered by the time I got home.

Post-Run Feeling: Again, loved running again but really need to slow things down until my body gets used to running again.

So How Has The Wound Been?

Surprisingly, it appears as though a few runs hasn’t affected the wound and it still appears to be healing slowly. Depending on the day that I’ve taken the photograph, the wound has either remained a similar size or has appeared to be smaller.

The Wound The Day Before Starting Running Again
The Wound After 3 Runs
Taken on Wednesday 6th May

What’s Next?

Based on the wound changing over time in the past the plan is to continue running to see what happens over a longer period of time. I’m seeing my nurse tomorrow to review the wound so will be interesting to see what her opinion is. I’m hoping that the diagnosis is good so that I can continue back on the road to enjoying running again.

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life. I had the surgery in 2019 and this is my journey having a 'New Bum'.

This post has 2 Comments

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  1. You’re an inspiration Rob. I hope it heals up and you can get on with your running, without worrying about it.
    Does that mean there will be less of your amazing photos of us running though? 😉
    See you out there soon.

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