Wednesday 18 November 2020

marching on...

Long time readers will likely know a couple of things about me:

1) I like to run

2) I have been very lucky with my MS to be able to continue running.

I try not to take it for granted. I actually only really began taking my running seriously after my diagnosis. I think there was something in my head that made me more determined than ever to stay active. Multiple sclerosis is not something that I can really control; I can't change the way that my legs feel or the other ways that the condition is affecting me, but I do have some degree of control over my own determination to get out and to exercise. 

My first marathon was in 2015, and I've run six in total. My high watermark of this madness was between April 2018 and April 2019. In that time, I ran four marathons. At the beginning of October 2018, I ran the Chester marathon in a time of 3:58... that was a PB of something like 22 minutes. My last marathon was a glorious day spent accompanying my wife to a personal best at the Vienna marathon in April 2019. We got married in the city in 2007 and have some wonderful friends there, so it was a joy from start to finish. I haven't retired from running marathons and half intended to get one booked for 2020, but.... well, lockdown happened.

Actually, more than lockdown happened. MS seems to have taken more of a grip on me over the last few months. Since my symptoms first appeared in 2005, I've always had a certain level of loss of sensation/pins and needles in my legs and feet. It does feel weird to run on legs like that, but it's amazing what the brain gets used to. Over the years, I've increasingly had problems with cramp in my legs. Initially this was in my calves, but it's slowly spread so that I was getting muscle spasms in my thighs. There's also a fair amount of stiffness. I've been accustomed to staggering around a bit like an old man when I've been sitting at my desk for a while, but now this seems to be happening more and more often. After resisting for many years, I now take a very small dose of baclofen (a muscle relaxant) before I go to bed. I may need to start taking a higher dose soon.

I'm falling over a lot more too. The loss of flexibility in my left ankle and strength in my left side has always made me a bit prone to this. I drop my left side as I get tired and start scuffing my left foot, which leads to stumbles. This is happening more and more often, meaning that I now go out running wearing knee and wrist guards (my knees have taken a frightful pounding from this and are now sore most of the time). 

I could stop running, but I don't want to. In fact, although I might be running more slowly at the moment, I'm actually doing more miles in lockdown than I think I've ever done before. I managed about 1220 miles in 2019 and I've done 1382 so far this year with 7 weeks still to go. I'll probably go comfortably over 1500 miles for the year. I'm still capable of running more quickly, but my default pace now seems to be a rather sorry plod because I don't really trust my legs any more.

I'm not telling you any of this looking for sympathy. It's just that I'm starting to acknowledge something that I've tried to ignore for more than a decade now: my MS is progressing. The official shift in my diagnosis from relapsing-remitting to secondary progressive a few weeks ago was recognition of that simple fact.

My own sense of self and wellbeing is bound up in my ability to run. For better or for worse. I'm going to keep running. Of course I'm going to keep running. I'm just slowly starting the process of coming to terms with the fact that I'm not bulletproof and that I can't control the progress of this godawful condition.

 You adapt, though. What other choice do you have? I'll always have that 3:58 marathon, eh?

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