Helena, who works for the MS Trust on the Information and Engagement Team, never imagined she would get into running.
As she prepares to run the British 10K for the third time, Helena shares her experience of running with MS and reflects on some of the reasons why she has been able to push herself way beyond her comfort zone.
10K? Hang on a moment, 10 kilometres, had I just run 10 kilometres? I looked at my running partner Gayle in bewilderment. “Did we just do it, did we?”
“Yes, yes, we bloody did it,” she laughed. We both looked at each other in astonishment as we stood by the finishing line at last year’s British 10K London Run, and then just collapsed on the street.
Let’s rewind a few months to the spring of 2016. My friend Gayle and I had decided to try and get a bit fitter by going for walks. The year before we'd signed up for the British 10K and walked it, with a bit of running when we passed the MS Trust supporters cheering us on. As we were out walking, Gayle started talking about trying to run the 10K this year. I thought quite honestly that she was crazy, I couldn’t even run to catch the bus without getting completely out of breath.
“Come on," she said, "let’s try one of those apps, a 'Couch to 10K' programme, we can do it!” I was very dubious, but we started anyway. The first few weeks felt like murder. I was so out of shape!
Taking it slow
Around this time I spoke with a personal trainer who told me, “Of course you can do it, you've just got to take it slow. No sprinting, just slow, slow running.” I took this advice on board and told Gayle at our next session that we needed to slow down. So we did. And lo and behold it worked. The running got easier. After a few weeks in we could run for 20 minutes. This might not seem much to you, but heck, I had never ever in my whole life run for that long.
20 mins became 5 kilometers of running. Still very slow running, mind you, but running, no stopping.
The big day
Then came the day of the British 10K. We were pumped, we were ready. Our plan was to go for 5 kilometres and then see where it would take us. The first 5K went ok, “Let’s go for 6,” Gayle said and I nodded, I was starting to get tired. Yes, I can do 6 I thought, my music inspiringly pumping in my ears. 6 became 7 and 7 became 8. We stopped talking to each other, but we made a point of high fiving each other as we went through each kilometre marker. In my head I thought, “Flipping heck, I am doing it, I am going to do the 10k!!”
At around 9 kilometres it felt very hard, but at the same time I felt like it would be pointless to stop now. So when one of my favourite Sparks songs came on to my playlist I grinned and bared it, and I could see the finish line. We stumbled across it, still not stopping, it was like my legs physically could not stop. “Did we just do it, did we?!”
As we collapsed on the ground, I looked at Gayle and said, ”This is the most amazing thing I have ever done apart from giving birth!"
Keep on running
I never thought I could do it, but I did, and I am so incredibly proud. Now nearly a year later I am signed up to do the British 10K again. Again I am running it with Gayle, who I never could have done it without last year. If she hadn’t believed in us, I would have given up.
What has changed this year is that since last year’s 10K I have kept up the running. Trying to go out one to two times a week for a run. Sometimes my MS won’t allow it, as I will be too tired and I know I have to listen to my body. But I do believe the running is very good for me, fighting MS with a healthier lifestyle must be a good thing, right?
Why I do this
I am running the British 10K for the MS Trust, and mostly I am running it for my amazing workmates in the Information and Engagement Team. These are the people that answer questions that people with MS have. People like me. When I was diagnosed 10 years ago, the MS Trust helped to calm me down. My head was filled with questions and I had to wait for 10 weeks before I got to see an MS nurse.
I now work for the MS Trust myself and one of the first things I was involved in here was setting up a Facebook group for people with MS to support each other and to ask questions about MS that the MS Trust would respond to. So I am running this year again, to show my support to my amazing colleagues and the fantastic people of the MS Trust Facebook group for the support they give to people with MS every day.
You could do it too
If you are thinking of signing up for the 10K but worry that you couldn’t do it, I’ll say, have a go. Go slow, use a training programme, it certainly isn’t impossible. You could even walk it or wheel it with a partner. Had you asked teenage me if I ever thought I would run a 10K, I would have just looked at you as if you’d asked if I could fly.
It was the most amazing feeling in the world to cross that finish line. It really made me feel like I was kicking my MS’s butt, even if it was just for the day!
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