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My Running Journey by Rich
I was born in 1972 with aortic stenosis (a heart murmur) which meant that the valves in my heart would not close properly. This meant that I was always a bit restricted to what sports I could do as I didn't have the level of fitness of the other kids.
 
Over the years I have tried various activities but always struggled. I took up scuba diving for a short while in my 40's but that had to stop due to heart issues. In August 2017 I had my annual heart check up and was informed that my heart valve was closing and if untreated I would have possibly 2 years left to live. I am quite a layed back guy and not a lot fazes me and like most things this did not . In fact I decided there and then that I would get into better shape ready for the surgery so I entered the great south run in October and trained gently for that. I completed in the GSR in 2hours. After Christmas I got the call to say my surgery would be 11th of February so the tests began.
 
 
On the 2nd of February I collapsed at work and was taken in early to hospital and put on bed rest being told that I could drop dead at any time if I dont stay rested. I was even being wheeled the 3 meters to the loo which was quite amusing . The week passed and i was taken to Southampton for my surgery. Here I was told the night before that my heart was more complicated and a lot more surgery was needed on it.
 
I had the choice of a pig valve or a mechanical one for my aorta. If you ever get this choice the pigs valve needs major surgery to replace every 8 years and you survival chances diminish slightly each time and the mechanical one lasts forever but you have to take blood meds and it's really really noisey, it's like you have swallowed a really loud ticking watch. I chose the mechanical but also had to have a new ascending aorta new mitral valve, Inner aorta stents and a few other bits and Bobs.
 
 
I was still calm about the surgery even watch you tube cideas of it the night before(yes I'm strange) but if it's your time it's your time. I did actually flat line and die all be it for 2 minutes during surgery but I was saved phew . My recovery was not great . The blood meds that give you to start had a reaction and destroyed all my platelets in my blood this made my blood thinner than water . This is very rare (just my luck) so I had to have another 4 weeks in hospital trapped in my bed having blood transfusions and lots 9f medications to bring my blood back to normal. Now these weeks were the most scary horrifying and painful weeks I've ever known . Both mentally and physically. But it was during this time I decided I was going to try be the person fitness wise I have always wanted to be .


MY RUNNING JOURNEY BEGINS.

From.my hospital bed I decided the best way to get motivated was to book a race. I looked on facebook and saw the wickham 10k race in July and thought that sounded nice so booked it . After I eventually got out of hospital in mid march I was unable to walk more than a few minutes but each day I tried further and with in a few weeks I was able to walk around the block. Keeping at it I soon started very small jobs building up some distance and by july was ready for the 10k . It was tough and hilly but the best thing as well as completing it was I saw some runners having fun on route that looked from a local club. I asked them about it and was told it was BAFFINS FITCLUB and it was a running club for normal people just wanting to run for fun and be social.

 

So I joined up and have never regretted it. I started to enter more races. My fitness and speed improved and in October I again entered the great south run again for the heart foundation . This time I ran with my daughter Jessica and as she is not a runner we had a nice slow run . Then I started to get the taste for race medals so I started entering lots of small local races with Believe and achieve and Rural running events mostly.

In February 2018 I entered my 1st half marathon the coastal and it was tough but made me realise that my biggest challenge would be doing a marathon so I entered the coastal one for December. That year I also did the GSR again. This time alone and was shocked to get 1hr 25mins! Such focus on the course it was incredible. It was then marathon training. I choose to do good with my efforts so with help of a friend decided to run for CYSTIC FIBROSIS KIDS PORTSMOUTH and was relentlessly fund raising for them. Even having a full page piece in the news regarding my journey and what I was hoping to achieve to help raise more funds.

I managed to raise £1000 and so had extra determination to complete. With the help of my run club and in particular Nikki Tout who ran the whole way with me I managed to get through all the mud and pain to finish this thing I never imagined I would do in my life. I actually cried at the end so emotional I was . The news was there at the end for a follow up story and I made it to the boxing day edition of the news too.

On Christmas day I had a message from the amazing Jeff Clark at RURAL RUNNING to say he was so impressed with my determination and my story that I was to be their runner of the year and would have free entry to all their races that year. Extremely grateful challenge was excepted and so I entered all their races . I had the marathon bug too now so entered another 5 marathons including brighton which unfortunately my plantar fasciitis that I had got training meant I ran the full 26.2 miles in extreme pain but one thing about me is I am not a quitter and nothing will stop me.

I actually managed it in 4hours35 mins despite the agony. After the mont st michel Marathon I did another one a week later the wickham one . I did the relay for life weekend and clicked up 100km and then later the coastal ultra marathon. All in all in 2019 i ran 43 races . 5 x marathon 2 x ultra 1x 20 miler. Most people know me as the guy who dresses up fancy dressm usually a inflatable costume of various things my favourite being TURKEY MAN at the santa challenges. 

There are a few reasons for keeping all this up. 1 obvious one is the benifits to my health and not wanting to let bash of open heart surgery beat me . I unfortunately lost my father to the same thing 11 years ago and I wont have it beat me. I also like to think and have heard feedback from many people that by what I have done and achieved I help to inspire them to do the same which is a amazing feeling. The fact what I do also helps me to raise money for charity is a big added bonus.

My story and fundraising also seemed to win the hearts if the Portsmouth people as in 2019 I won the PORTSMOUTH NEWS WE CAN DO IT PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD at an evening at the Kings Theatre being handed my award by the lord mayor. That has to be a highlight of my life.



I'm not done yet . This year because I have a I can do it mentally I went for a swim at the local.pool in January to give my foot a rest and despite not having swum before except slashing in the pool on holidays I thought why not swim the solent. Yep after one swim and my fiancee Nikki already thinks im crazy I entered the Swim for the IAN PRATT MND FOUNDATION so am now noonly training for the 4 marathons I have booked this year but also training to swim the 4 miles across the solent so am in he pool every other day and yesterday got my 1st half marathon swim And so the story continues and I hope to continue to inspire and stay healthy.

This is no only mr but the backing of a great running club founded by the amain ladies Helen Mayhead and Julie Fuller and all the other amazing coaches there and my fiancee Nikki Tout and support.

If anyone would like to help support my swim the link is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-harris73
Any help would be appreciated for me and the charity.

You can follow me on Instagram @tickyricky72

Thanks and all the best to you all

Rich harris

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Many thanks to Rich for sharing his story.

If you would like to share your running story then please get in contact with us at info@runr.co.uk.

Happy running!

Team runr.