Last Sunday, along with around 39,000 other people, I ran the London Marathon. 26.2 miles is a distance that demands respect and requires months of mental and physical preparation. Every single person who finishes a marathon has achieved something extraordinary.
I’m not like other runners. I have multiple sclerosis and I have lost 15% of the muscle on the left-hand side of my body and much of the flexibility in my left ankle. When I run, this weakness puts pressure through my knee and my hip; the left side of my body drops as I get tired; I begin to scuff my foot as I take a stride, sometimes resulting in falls. To combat this, and to keep running, I wear an ankle cuff with an elastic tether that hooks into my shoe to try to prevent my foot dropping. I certainly have fewer tumbles when I wear it, but the cuff scars my ankle as I run and the transferred pressure onto my foot often leaves me with pressure sores and blisters. A widespread loss of sensation across my body means that I can’t feel my feet and suffer from a dislocating numbness in the muscles of my thighs. I run with a distinct lurch as my body tries to protect my weaker side and I have to grit my teeth to fight off a fatigue that goes beyond tired muscles; I wake up in the night as the muscles in my legs spasm and cramp.
Frankly, it’s amazing that I can run at all, never mind finish a marathon. Why do I do it? Because every run I complete is sticking two fingers up to this horrible condition; proof that I might have a progressive neurological condition with no cure, but that I haven’t let it beat me.
I’m not dead yet.
I’m not a fool and I know what this disease can do. I’ve been in enough MS clinics to see the walking sticks and the wheelchairs and to know that I’ve been distinctly lucky so far. To many people with MS, a marathon is an impossibility. To some, it’s a triumph just to get out of the house. Together with my wife, I’ve raised nearly £12,500 for the MS Trust this year. That’s a humbling amount of money that will make a massive difference to the lives of people affected by MS. As well as running this marathon for myself, I run for them.
Take that, multiple sclerosis.
Thanks for being part of our journey at the 2016 Virgin London Marathon.
You can still sponsor us here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TCMS