I was diagnosed with MS nearly 20 years ago. The first years were really tough both physically and emotionally. In 2004, I decided to change my life: I stopped smoking and started to practise yoga daily. I progressively got better but it’s only since I began the OMS programme seven years ago that I feel healthier and stronger than I ever was.
This is why I wanted to raise money: to show my gratitude and help support OMS amazing work. I’m very thankful to all those who sponsored me.
I had run a half marathon before, in the UK. It had been a nightmare. After 16 kilometres, shooting pains started to run along my spine and arms, and I had pins and needles all over my legs. I kept moving forward but I doubt anybody would have said I was running. ‘Dragging myself along’ seems more accurate.
For a while, I was hesitant to give it another try and I probably wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for such a good cause. Once I made up my mind, my aim was to finish the race with a smile and I made sure I was really well-prepared.
Luckily, my husband Peter is an experienced runner and he became my ‘coach’. I started to prepare in October but we agreed to wait a few months before deciding which race I would run. I wanted to run in Lagos in May but I was ready to switch to another one if my coach thought I wasn’t ready!
My weekly programme included a long run on Sundays, an easy run on Saturdays, threshold run on Thursdays and intervals or hill training on Tuesdays. But given that we live in the Algarve hills – and that I don’t like hill training – I must confess that I tended to skip the hill training. The first few weeks were quite tiring but it got easier over time.
When I started training, I also decided to work at the gym with a personal trainer once a week. Luis, my PT, manages a running club so he was more than happy to help me prepare for the race. When I met him, I told him ‘I’m 52 and I was diagnosed with MS twenty years ago so I really need to strengthen my body. You need to push me!’ I often wish I hadn’t… He really got me to work very hard on my legs, gluteus, upper back and posture, each time adding with a smile ‘You need that for running!’
I also kept my yoga practise as it felt so good after all the hard work. Even though I lost some of my flexibility, yoga has helped me in particular to reduce stiffness and restore balance after running.
My biggest ‘fear’ before the race was the heat. When my body temperature rises, the old MS symptoms reappear. This always happened when I ran over 15 km. With outside temperatures of 27-28 degrees, I expected to experience pain. But there were water stations after 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 km and I was able to pour water on my head and back every 2 or 3 km. I basically ran soaked in water. This made a huge difference.
Peter was waiting for me at the finish. He had run the race too but was done half an hour before me… He was getting worried, expecting me to be in terrible pain because of the heat and also because the course was quite tough. But for the first time ever, I didn’t have any pain at all. I arrived with a big smile on my face, singing ‘Happy’ and he couldn’t believe it - I’m not allowed to say he burst out crying for joy and relief.
I kept the smile on my face for a long time. I’m absolutely delighted I raised money for OMS and ran this race. So if you ever have the opportunity to challenge yourself for OMS, make sure you’re well prepared and go for it!
Véronique is an OMS facilitator, having presented at the AMEX 2017: 7 Steps to Overcoming MS Event in Brighton on the 22nd October 2017.
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