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Dream, Believe, Achieve. Learning to live with Scoliosis.

Welcome to the first in my series of blogs for the fabulous runr community. 

I’m not a fan of huge, boring introductions, so I’ll start with a few facts about me to introduce myself…

I like to run. A lot.

I live in Yorkshire.  It’s very hilly.

I’m a cop.  I work long hours and 24/7 shifts.

I have Scoliosis. 

I love Las Vegas.  No relevance, just putting it out there.

I began running in 2008.  Which coincided with me joining the police.  I was overweight and lazy as a kid but when I started running and entering races, I soon learned that I wasn’t too bad at this running lark.  It didn’t take long to realise that running had become my “escape.” In my job, I deal with some horrific situations, and it became apparent that I was using running to help me deal with this.  Sometimes, you can’t help but take work home with you and there have been many times where I have gone home and cried after a shift at what I had been dealing with.  So, I set myself constant running goals and whenever things get on top of me, I focus on goals to take my mind off things. 

My ultimate running goal was to run a marathon.  I started off with 5 and 10Ks but then it wasn’t long before I realised that something wasn’t right.  As the running distances increased, I started to get horrific back pain.  Pain like no other.  No form of medication could ease this pain, it was just a case of sitting it out.  When it hit, I would just lay on the floor for hours waiting for it to pass.   But it was always so hit and miss.  I imagined that it was because I wasn’t a “proper” runner and that I was running like Pheobe from friends.  So, like many other runners (and don’t deny it, you’ve done it), I ignored it, in hope that it would go.

In 2012, I fell ill.  I was sent to the hospital where I had scans and X-rays.  It turned out, I’d caught Whooping cough.  Nope, it wasn’t the Victorian Ages, it was 2012 for crying out loud…  But my X-rays had showed something else… My spine wasn’t how it should be.  I had Scoliosis.  I couldn’t even pronounce the word let alone know what it meant.  I heard the words “You’ll have to give up running” and nothing more.  So, I left the surgery knowing nothing at all about this condition. 

 

Now remember in the introduction where I brushed over the part where I have Scoliosis? I spent a few years doing this, refusing to accept that anything was wrong. 

So, what is it, I hear you cry!  In non-medical terms, basically, my spine is curved.  I have lumbar scoliosis which means it affects the lower part of my spine.  It was established that I was born with the condition, but due to my previous inactive life style, it had gone unnoticed.   It would have presented itself eventually and by that time, it may have been a lot worse.

Of course, I just carried on as normal. Only it wasn’t normal.  It was excruciating pain. I had decided at this point, for some unknown ridiculous reason, that I was going to attempt a sub 4 marathon.  This was Manchester 2015.  The wheels completely fell off and my back gave up at mile 19.  I ran/walked the last 7 miles in absolute agony.  4:13 I finished in. I was angry, upset, in pain and I’d had enough.  But I wasn’t going to quit.  I decided to go back to the Doctors and hoped that I would get a more understanding Doctor.  It took me months to build up the courage to go back to the surgery.  It meant that I was finally admitting to myself that something was wrong.

But this was where my life changed forever.  I was introduced to a specialist.  She’s called Anne.  She’s a retired fell runner so she understands me.  We started right from the beginning.  My whole posture was adjusted.  Let me tell you, this took some time to get used to, and then I had to learn to run in this posture.  I have specific exercises to do and have physio a few times a week depending on the pain.  I learned that Yoga and Pilates helps too.   I’d also like to add at this point that the specialist help I receive is not funded by the NHS.  They can’t decide whether or not exercise helps or hinders scoliosis, so until they decide, I have to pay for the specialist help myself.

I’d like to say that it’s all a bed of roses now but it’s far from that.  Scoliosis has led to all kinds of other complications but I won’t bore you with all that.  I still get immense pain, sometimes it’s simply from just standing still or sitting down for too long but it rarely happens during running now.  The main thing is, I’ve learned to deal with it.  Even down to the shoes I wear, nothing is how it was prior to meeting Anne.  It would have been easy to give up on everything; stop running, quit my job and rely on benefits, but those who know me, know I’m not a quitter.  Don’t get me wrong, I know this won’t last forever and there’s a chance I could need spinal surgery in the future.  But whilst I’m fit and raring to go, I’m going to keep at it…

And you’ll be pleased to know that my sub 4 dream has been achieved, in fact, I completed York marathon in 3:51 in Oct 2016.  Oh, and I have run quite a few marathons now, including the Las Vegas marathon. Of course, I’ve moved the goal post, and I’m now training for a sub 3:45 marathon…  

Dream. Believe. Achieve.

If you'd like to follow Sam's running journey then we will be featuring some more of her blogs but please also give her a follow on Twitter & Instagram.

 

Twitter: @marathon_sam

Instagram: marathon_sam

Thanks Sam, really inspiring stuff!

 

 

 

 

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