I am a father of three, who has Rheumatoid arthritis and Haemochromatosis.
I suffered for many years, trying various treatments and was doing no form of exercise for close to 10 years. I found this hard, as I’d always been active and played all types of sport. I piled on weight and didn’t feel like myself for a long time.
About five years ago, after a year of weekly treatment for my HA, I ventured back to the pool. Even after swimming one length, I was exhausted. But I persisted, and that one length gradually became 40.
I never knew what triathlon was until a friend of mine mentioned he was doing one. I thought this sounded awesome, so my goal became a sprint tri. It took me seven months to train for it and I found that my arthritis was improving; I was much more flexible, had more energy and felt less sore.
I did my 1st sprint five years ago, and years later got enough courage to join my local triathlon club Pulse TC. Since then I have completed many more sprint triathlons, two Olympic distance, and one 70.3 Ironman.
Last year I signed up for my first marathon and was also put on the waiting list for a full hip replacement. I trained for three triathlons and Dublin City Marathon.
Having been to Lefkada in Greece, and run on some of the lower hills, on my return a few months later on a windsurfing course, I decided I needed to run up the highest mountain called Stavrota, 1,158m above sea level, which I’d seen on my first trip.
My son Joe and I did our research, and Joe looked it up on Google Earth for routes. We asked locals but were told there were no fixed paths up. We made a cycle trip the day before to see how far we could get by road but turned back about halfway because of the steep climb being too hard by bike.
The following day after planning the route, I set off at a crazy 4.30 am andJoe stayed at base for safety in case I needed to call for help. The temperature was still 27 degrees but was more comfortable without the sun on my back.
Loaded with my backpack and lots of fluid, a banana and locally baked cake to celebrate at the top, I set off passing a few people just on their way home from a late-night out!
Most of the way up was winding roads and I came across a few problems farm guard dogs, two of which sent me into an unplanned sprint!
Lots of eyes reflected in my head torch; foxes wondering what this crazy guy is doing so early. The road turned to track, then back to the road and the only other person I passed was a farmer on a motorbike with two dogs on the back.
Eventually, the road veered off to another direction, so I had to figure out my own way to the top. It was a tricky steep climb mostly on all fours, with loose stone falling under my feet all the way but assistance from branches on low shrubs and a combination of moves got me to the top!
Two things I hadn't planned on, it was so windy!I could barely stand up - and… I was at the wrong peak! The peak I wanted to climb was further along, so someone more ups and downs over large boulders got me to the top - and I could just stand up enough to get a photo.
Sheltering behind the boulders, I watched the amazing sunrise with my celebratory cake - water had gone by now, but I had made it - mission complete! The views were amazing, windy but lonely with just a few high birds and some mountain goats. The hotel and beach looked a long, long way away - I texted Joe to let him know I was there and on way back.
Now to get back, if possible before the hotel free breakfast closed! I set off on a different route, again no fixed path and a scary mix of loose stone took me into a thorny area of bushes. After a lot of crawling, I got through with lots of scratches to the skin to find a safe route back via a vineyard and olive tree-lined tracks.
The last few miles were flat but very hot - and one last dog chased me back to the hotel to meet Joe with the free breakfast just before they closed! Breakfast and shower - then windsurfing with Joe - looking at the mountain I had run before breakfast :)
I started running at age 45! Late to the party, some might say, but it was time to stop the slide into an unhealthy middle-aged lifestyle. So, I decided to do something about it and tried my local Parkrun.
12 months later, I gained my 50 Parkruns t-shirts and was running sub-20 times. I joined a running club, became a qualified run leader with England Athletics and took on the London Marathon.
This year, now 51, I’m running London Marathon for the second year and will be rocking my Aftershokz Aeropex every step of the way. I use them on short runs, long runs, even as a Run Leader with our beginner's group, as I can have background tunes and still chat to people starting out on their journeys...
AfterShokz is the best piece of running kit I’ve ever come across!
I was playing in my first hockey match after taking some time off to recover from surgery on my left fifth metatarsal. A few minutes into the game, I went to change direction, heard a click and felt a sharp pain down the outside of my foot. A mix of pain and dread washed over me as I took my next step which confirmed I had broken the bone again.
Following a second operation, I was lying in bed feeling so frustrated, knowing I'd have to go through all the rehab & recovery again. My rehab had previously involved swimming & cycling which I'd enjoyed, so set myself a very ambitious goal to work towards. I'd seen some triathlons on TV and had already entered the London Tri for charity the following year, but wanted to really push myself. I wanted to finish Ironman.
Over the following year, I competed in several shorter distance races, building fitness and knowledge about the sport before deciding which race to go for. After that, it was a case of knuckling down, following the plan with one clear goal in mind, running down the red carpet.
Two years post-op and countless hours of training later, after 12 hours in 40-degree temperatures, I crossed the finish line at Ironman Frankfurt!
Looking back, there are two key areas I reflect on:
Firstly, I probably should have taken more time and followed the rehab advice more closely after the first operation. This may have helped prevent the second break.
Secondly, trusting the process, there are many times where the enormousness of an Ironman seemed beyond me, but I stuck to my plan throughout. This is something I still adhere to with my current training for the ETU Championships in Sweden later this year and remind myself of whenever I have an off day.
I ran my first marathon, the Edinburgh Marathon, last May andI burst into tears when I crossed the finish line. I never thought I would be able to run a marathon but it turned out I could! Who'd have thought?
After Edinburgh, I scrolled through my messages with my husband and found my first ever run, which was on Christmas Eve 2017 (before I used any app to track my runs, I just ran and then spammed him with sweaty, post-run selfies). I remembered that run very well - I don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in my misery but it was probably because I wanted to literally run away from everything - my anxiety, my negative thoughts, my troubles. I'd struggled with depression and an eating disorder in the past, and recognised the signs in myself that I was entering a dark place again.
So I ran. Then I ran again for a second time a couple of days later. And again for a third time a couple of days later. And I found that my mind, which had been spiralling into a vortex of negativity, didn't have the capacity to do that, and also keep up with my body whilst I was running. It wasn't that I ran away from my anxiety and didn't deal with it; rather, the act of being able to concentrate on something purely for myself allowed my mind to quieten down and helped me manage my anxiety.
There was a period of time when it was physically more difficult to run because I was on Roaccutane for my skin (another story for another time, but, in short, I had a generally positive experience on it). Now, my mental health ebbs and flows, but, crucially, it is manageable. And my journey brought me to the finish line of my first marathon - and I am now about to run my second.
My family and friends helped me emerge from that dark place - but running helped me even more, because, truthfully, it was an unexpected source of support and relief!
I'm looking forward to the future and what it'll bring - and seeing what else I'll be able to achieve.