|Benjamin, Bethany and me before the race|
There didn't seem much point in just running a race for the sake of it. It seemed a small leap to turn it into something a lot more positive, so I decided to fund raise for my rehabilitation centre, Icanho. I contacted them and they were delighted that I was doing this for them, they even supplied running shirts that had Livability branding. (Icanho is part of the Livability charity).
I have previously posted about running after a stroke but it does seem sensible to restate some of the issues that I face whilst running. Most people who see me would not know that I have had a stroke; I walk without a problem and I can run. What these people don't know is the struggles that I face when I run. The first one is my vision, I cannot see anything to the left or low down. If I am not vigilant then I will not see anything coming from my left whether it is a car coming out of a drive or people out for a walk. What is worse is that I cannot see where my feet are going to land without looking down. Eyesight is amazing, fully sighted people have a horizontal vision range of 210 degrees and a vertical vision range of 150 degrees. So in theory we do have a bit of vision in the back of our heads. I have lost about 40% of my vision field and this is a significant problem when running. If I am running then I have to concentrate the whole time, I cant just switch off and let the yards and miles go past. I have to be careful about whats around me. More importantly I have to concentrate where my feet are landing as i cannot see them. Fully sighted people when they run they can see their feet all the time although you don't realise it. If I am on rough terrain or even on some of our dilapidated pavements and roads then I need to make sure that I don't stumble or fall. So far while running I have never fallen although i have stumbled many times. This tends to happen when I get tired during a run. I get lazy and assume I know where my feet are landing and then that's when things go wrong.
You would probably think that my vision is the biggest problem I face while running, but it isn't. The biggest problem i have running relates to my cognitive issues. As mentioned earlier I have to concentrate the whole time to make sure I am safe. To most people this wouldn't be a major problem but to me it is. I have to concentrate to make sure I don't trip, to avoid other people and to make sure I am running a sensible pace. If I dont run sensibly then this will cause me severe cognitive problems. I will explain later how this can affect me.
Now onto the race. I was very happy that my children Benjamin and Bethany decided to join my fundraising effort. I shouldn't really call them children as they are both grown up and living in different parts of London. Stephanie was chief cheerleader. We got to Wimpole Hall early as I wanted to have a chat with the organisers as they had been very kind to promote my fundraising and had been in contact with me a few times after my stroke. It was nice to meet them in person, they also introduced me to the official starters of the race, all of them had suffered a brain injury either through a stroke or traumatic brain injury. It was nice to know that there would be others cheering me on the way.
After doing a warm up we were ready to go. Ben was going to try and run quickly he is a lot fitter (and younger) than me. Bethany decided to run with me, its not that she isn't fit but she wanted to run with me, which was appreciated. The start of a race is a stressful time for me as people are jostling for position and for space. People will change direction right in front of you without warning. That's fine but if you are partially sighted then it's a nightmare. Bethany ran on my blind side (left) this is the best side although I didn't see her at all during the race. Running on my blind side means that she protects me to an extent from people swerving from my blind side.
Once we got clear of the initial crush we settled into a reasonably quick pace. I wanted to run about 58 minutes for the 10k as that would be a tough target but my real aim was to finish in a faster time than when I had my stroke (59:57). Just after a mile we were faced with the main hill of the race. It was about 170 feet and was under a mile to make the climb. Most of the climb was in the first third of a mile. To set that in context 170 feet is the equivalent of a 17 storey building. The hill was a bit of a killer and that slowed us down considerably.
The race was mainly on rough farm tracks at this point which is difficult for me cognitively as I need to be careful of my footing. During the middle part of the race we were keeping a decent pace and were comfortably on for the target time. After 3.5 miles there was another hill and although it wasn't as severe as the first one it slowed us right down as Bethany developed a stitch. Mind you I was grateful for the rest as I was starting to struggle. The track at this point was through woods and was quite rough. As I mentioned earlier when I am tired I start to struggle cognitively. It was at this point that I started to have cognitive problems. As the terrain was uneven for the majority of the race I had used up all my reserves of mental strength. I started to babble incoherently, I was talking in a made up language and I had no control over it. I know this worried Bethany as she had never heard this before. I managed to put a thumbs up indicating I was okay. I could tell that she was concerned but I was okay physically. We continued for a little while and fortunately the path turned into grass paths through fields and was much easier terrain for me to negotiate. For this reason I began to recover my cognitive function and I was able to talk to Bethany in English. She was relieved.
|Finishing the race|
After finishing I felt very tired (the after effects of my cognitive problem was still an issue) but absolutely elated on having completed the race. I was proud of Benjamin and Bethany for running and supporting me before and during the race.
The local paper printed an article about my race and it was also on their website. http://www.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/brave-dad-completes-10k-race-a-year-after-stroke-1-7990364
Whilst part of doing the race was to tell my stroke that I wasn't beaten and that it would not stop me from achieving goals, the main purpose was to raise money for Icanho. At the time of writing the amount we raised is £2200 which was vastly in excess of what I thought we would raise. I am proud of this achievement and I know that it will make a difference, however small, to other brain injury survivors. You can still donate to Icanho by following this link. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/davidswalesicanho