October was a very special time for me as I entered my first 10K race in Cardiff, South Wales. Whatever possessed me to do it you ask? How many of you who are reading this with a chronic illness have found they can’t be as active as they once were? For me it was like a light switch was flicked and I couldn’t do anything without being in pain anymore. Its debilitating, demoralising and can lead you down a dark path mentally with the mental health benefits you loose over night. My health journey has been quite the fair ground ride.
Born with Hirschsprungs Disease, multiple surgeries, 3 stomas and having a child which has the same yet more severely, we certainly lost the health lottery. Following stoma surgery last year and being in a much brighter place with my health, I followed my stoma nurses advice and after 6 weeks of rest I started walking, then slowly building up the intensity.
Running was something I had wanted to do for a long time. I would drive past people running along the road and think how amazing they were, and what an achievement it must feel like. I started slowly with just a few kilometres, and built up the distance to 5K before I met my beautiful running partner Nicola. She has the same running goals as me and we both aspired to run long distances so we started training together. I can’t tell you how motivating it is to run along someone. Nic is the most kind, caring, warm soul and I truly believe timing is everything, and I was meant to connect with her after my surgeries last Summer. Running along side each other time would just go and before we knew it we were up to 10K!
We had come so far and wanted a goal to aim for, so when we saw the Cardiff 10K advertised we went for it. We wanted to run for charity in the future, but used this race to get a sense of the event and see what we could learn to inform our training carrying on. The day came and the sun was glorious, it literally felt like someone was looking down on us willing us to succeed. The atmosphere was electric as we took off, and the warmth of the crowd and the cheering felt surreal. How did I end up doing this when a year ago I was still recovering from surgery?! The other runners helped with pacing and their reasons why pinned to their tops were humbling and triggering. All I could think about was my little boy and it took everything in me to not burst into tears. I used it as motivation to keep going and push harder, doing it for him to show him when he is older he can challenge himself too with his own ostomy and a feeding tube.
At around 3K the crowd was less as we weaved through the industrial part of the barrage in Cardiff Bay, and the atmosphere was eery. I had headphones in and switched between listening to music and listening to the surroundings without them in every other kilometre. Me and Nic kept checking in with each other and despite us saying at the start if we wanted to go ahead of each other we should, I couldn’t. I wanted to cross the line with my buddy and thats we did. We cried and hugged and it was safe to say we had all the feelings and more. I face-timed my little one who was with my Mum straight away and he asked me if I got the gold medal! A medal I got and a bright new running top which was lovely, but what I gained was the greatest sense of achievement in my body. The body that has failed me so much over the years and failed my boy had finally come through with something.
Here is what we learnt:
- Ask the paramedics/first aiders where disabled facilities are. The queues for the toilet portal loos were really long and I was worried about having to change my ostomy appliance. Security staff didn’t know about them so I went straight to the men in green and they pointed me to the disabled portal loos straight away. It was such a relief I can’t tell you!
- There should be water offered during the race and if so grab it. For 10K we didn’t feel we needed to take a drink around as we didn’t usually training at home, but the adrenaline we had made us run harder and faster, meaning dehydration and over heating were a risk. I made sure to sip the water to allow for better absorption.
- We fell into the trap of running fast from the start in excitement. We regretted it a third of the way in! Next time we will make sure to pace ourselves better and try not to get too caught up in the excitement of it all. I imagine this will be extremely difficult but we can try.
- Breathe! Again something we had to remind ourselves being new to all this. Especially with headphones in its easy to zone out and realise you aren’t breathing properly. Slow calm breathing was better for keeping the pace up.
- It was a very hot day and we felt we were over heating. A lovely volunteer Erin was worth her weight in gold telling us to pour some water over our heads to cool down. It worked a treat. Also putting our hands behind our heads and looking up to open our chests helped to stop feeling nauseous. Thank you Erin!
- For hernia prevention a waist band was essential when running. I use Comfizz 10inch Double Layer Waistband, Level 2 Support, which I have shared before working with Comfizz. My little boy lives in them and they are soft to the touch and very secure. Flange extenders can also be used to give extra security. Ask your ostomy supplier for samples ahead of time to ensure your skin doesn’t have a bad reaction to their use.
Most importantly listen to your body and don’t over do it. At the time it may seem like the best idea but you could affect things long term. Moving forward we have another 10K booked and the Cardiff Half Marathon, which we will be running for Noahs Ark Children’s Hospital Charity in Wales next March. Let the training begin!
Until next time, Rach x