My whole life I had been a very sedate person, sure I liked walking now and again but running, no thanks ma'm. When I was 29 I got diagnosed with MS and a long confused time was ahead of me. I was often fatigued and had to nap a lot.
In November 2007 I started working for the MS Trust and at an event I met a lady with MS that had run the London marathon, I was in awe of her, thought she must be a superhuman. She had the mantra of “MS isn't a sprint it is a marathon”, and I guess she was right. We are in this for the long run. But actual running still wasn't for me.
But work I started to meet more and more seemingly normal people who were signing up for the British 10 as the ASICS 10k was known back then. And by normal people I mean people who weren’t super-duper athlete types. But 10km...it was so long? How did these people do it??
I decided to see just how long 10k felt, so I signed up with my friend Gayle and walked it, with a few bursts of sprints as soon as we saw some MS Trust blue T-shirted cheerers on. It was a wonderful event, the crowd making you feel awesome and the atmosphere really lifting the mood.
Then in 2016 Gayle suggested that we should do the couch 2 5k program to get us a bit active. The first session was awful! I spoke to a personal trainer that I knew, and she said, “you need to just go slower, the app might say run, but that doesn’t mean sprint”. OH, I thought and decided to give it a go. Slow jogging it was. That first time a few weeks into the program when we ran 20 minutes without stopping, we were giddy. So, we decided to go for the 10K in London again, the atmosphere was so great we thought maybe it will carry us. And you know what? It really did!
We had completed the 5km program and could officially run 5 km without stopping, so the plan was to run 5 k and any extra we could manage. The atmosphere again was amazing 5 km came and we kept going, 6,7 and 8 and I was starting to flag, but Gayle said, “let’s keep on, we can run this whole thing! And we did and we were awarded with the most amazing runners high afterwards. I couldn’t wipe the proud grin off my face! It felt like it was the coolest thing ever. And my MS riddled body and brain had done that!
As I started running regularly, I suddenly started noticing a great improvement to my fatigue. I had more energy after a run weirdly, plus my dreadful cog-fog would clear during a run. The days of daytime napping were suddenly long gone, and I would sleep better at night too. The thing I thought would absolutely-for-sure-never-ever happen to me, was that I well and truly caught the running bug. In fact, now I almost MUST run, in order to keep my MS fatigue in check. I am still a rather slow runner, but that doesn’t matter, it is still a run!
Last year I ran my 5th ASICS 10k, I've taken part every year since 2016 (apart from 2020 when it was cancelled due to the pandemic). This year around the time of the 16th anniversary of my first MS relapse I will be taking part for the 6th time. I have since taken part in lots of running events, and yeah, even run the London marathon twice (I know, I know utter madness). But the ASICS 10k still remains my favourite, maybe because of the atmosphere, running around all those amazing London landmarks, the crowd cheering you on, the music playing, or maybe because it started off my love of running, I don’t know but to anyone thinking of doing it I can just say” YES go for it”.
And for those out there who have considered signing up for the race but are in doubt if they can do it. Take it at your pace, the ASICS 10k is obviously not a marathon, but equally it isn’t a sprint either. Find your good pace and try to enjoy it.
I am very aware how privileged I am as a person with MS who can run. MS is very different from person to person with MS, and mobility is an issue for many. And it can also be a rollercoaster for the person who has it, one day I might be able to run, the next I am stuck on the sofa. The important thing, if you have MS or not, is to be kind to yourself, and appreciate what you can do. The first ASICS 10k one I did, I walked it and it was still an amazing day. So, get that blue running vest or t-shirt on and I hope to see you in London in July!
Are you inspired by Helenas story? Find out more about the Asics 10k