Picture the scene, I’m in the prime of my fitness and career, slim, athletic even, 39 years old, February, cold winter evening in North Yorkshire. I’m prancing about trying to keep warm with my then wife, waiting for the start marker on a ‘night run’ through some forest, around some lake, falling into some stream…snow, ice, the fun (sarcasm). A couple of expected outcomes at the end of this short race, and some UN-expected, the expected? I’ll fly round, kick a*se and beat the opposition, navigating soundly as my military skills and natural sense of direction kick in…
Then the un-expected happens, I’m half way round severe cramps kick in – now this is a shortish run I might add approximately 11km, I jump a step-over post/gate, misjudge and land straight into a freezing stream that somehow avoided being frozen over, of course the resultant ice-cold water splashes into my t-shirt, down my legs… and continue to fall, land face first into the muddy bank, the stream fully inviting itself into the rest of my body.
I crawl up, shake off and try again. Cramp. Severe cramp, to make matters worse, a young boy flies past me… oh the injured pride (he coincidently beats me in the end well done him! I will meet him again one day and out run him, vengeance – anyway I diverge onto another story..). So I try to continue, the cramp invading it’s way up my leg to hit my hips. My quads and calves are in severe pain, but I don’t give up.
I eventually finish the run, I think 3rd or 4th last. I was in excruciating pain. I kept needing ‘nature breaks’.
Two days, later I’m in hospital, my blood sugars are in the high forties (mmol), I’m starting to lose my eye-sight.
I am diagnosed at nearly forty, with type 1 diabetes. I was in incredible shock, it was obvious as I laughed it off, saying yeah ok mate to the doctor. He begun to inform me of what meds to take and how to inject etc, I said what incentive do I have to take an injection over simple tablets? – he just shook his head in disdain at my pure ignorance of the condition. He patiently explained different variants of the condition, informed me that I am insulin dependant, and as a cursory matter stated, your incentive? Life. I got the point.
This condition had profound implications on my life, apart from the obvious, you know, injecting for life etc etc, it also meant my military career was over, 24 years, boom. I joined at age 16, I knew nothing else, the Army was my life! Then my eye sight getting worse, I Panicked. I went into a deep dark depression. 5 weeks go by, I’m at my worst point, yet I had a break through, the one strength that kept me going, keeping my head above water, my children, I have five, beautiful children, of whom I’m very proud, all of them are my life.
They pulled me back from the abyss, I recovered. I recovered my eyesight after a few more weeks.
What did I do? I decided I will not let this ‘obstacle’ dissuade me. I shall advance to a better place, I shall defeat this enemy, displace him or divert him. For everything I will endeavour to do from this day forward, is to either succeed or fall forward trying to. My first proving ground would be to show the Army, that yes, I may not be ‘deployable’ but I am thoroughly capable. I proved this. 7 Weeks, after full recovery, I decided to prove a point. I first resigned my position, with a full pension in the bank, thus removing their power to discharge me and having final say. I took charge of my future, and planned my new life for the remaining year of my army career, but more appropriately at the time: The weekend before going back to work, my then wife and I decided to attempt the Coniston 14 miler in Cumbria, UK.
The run, consisted of a road race, up and down steep rises in the road for 14+ miles, accompanied with unseasonably hot weather, with clear visibility.
I flew passed other runners at 7 minute miles, hearing derisive comments like ‘pfft, he’ll blow out soon’ envious people who had a perceived disregard for my determination to prove I am capable despite my condition, I continued, I began to naturally slow down, to 7 min 30 miles, I finished it in under 1 hour 20. Flying past the finish line, My then wife, who is my best friend now by the way, came in a respectable time later. I was in tears, tears of joy, of success, of validated proof and compassion.
I proved that T1D will not beat me. That year I go on to smash several more runs, ultra-marathons including 30, 40, 64 milers. Some in the dead of winter, some in the glorious summer heat, all cross-country (fell running). I felt good, I felt young. I felt like a conqueror.
Morale of the story,. you can have a condition yes, but one can still live life to the full. That lives with you not you with it. Your choice. You have the power within you – you simply just need to have belief.
Just to close off on my first post, I don’t edit, so any bloopers, enjoy 🙂 but a note to all out there – believe in yourself. Be the best you can be.
Thank you for reading 🙂