Running - an unexpected pleasurable side effect of illness

Early in 2016, I was adversely affected by a condition which, amongst other issues, rapidly increased my heart rate - the illness is an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid called Graves Disease,   My specialist stated that I was the worst case that she had ever seen, and I was advised that I would no longer be able to participate in any sporting activities until the condition was under control.  Being an active person, and an avid social squash player, this proved to be an incredibly difficult time.  Fortunately, after a number of months, my health improved and I was given the green light to get back into all of the activities that I loved.

However I had lost my confidence on the squash court.   If I had to move more than a few steps to go for the ball, I would hold back.  I was constantly monitoring my Fitbit heart rate  (a device that I will be eternally grateful for, as this initially provided me with an indication that something was wrong).    Now I felt paralysed with the fear of my heart rate rising, though there was no longer a medical reason why I could not just go for it.  So I decided that I would have to devise a plan to get my confidence back.

And that is when running first came into the picture.

After wracking my brain as to how I was going to get back on track (sorry about the pun), my logic was that if I could carefully build myself up by jogging around the local area, when i felt my heart rate increase I would be the one in control of my own actions.   I could hold back until I felt more comfortable, push myself a little bit out of my comfort zone, or go all out and go for a sprint.   After confirming this approach with my GP,  (just to be on the safe side), I decided to go ahead with my plan, and set about studying information about running and asking as many questions as possible to experienced runners.    And so it began - and I gently progressed the intensity of my new activity.    It didn’t take long before I actually looked forward to these sessions.  I very quickly realised that I needed to have a goal to help me to push myself, so i put my name down for a fun run.  It really didn’t matter whether I ran, jogged or walked the run - simply registering myself for an event helped me to keep focussed.  

That was about 4 months ago.

Since that time i have participated in 3 fun runs, have gone from strength to strength (and as a side note my squash has most certainly improved!)  

And I am really looking forward to participating in the Flying Brick Bellarine Sunset Run - it looks like it will be an amazing event. 

Running has now become a very integral part of my life. 

When I train in the early mornings through the local streets, people will wave, say hi or nod, or provide an encouraging comment as I pass by.  I truly enjoy the newfound communication.   I find ’training' time to be invaluable thinking, motivational, podcast or music time - in fact in the simplest terms it has become 'me time'.     And in a fun run environment, not only has the aspect of being physically challenged helped me to grow as a person, but it has also become an incredibly inspiring and positive environment where I see random strangers join together to help each other through. 

For me, running has not only improved my overall health, it has somehow given me more confidence and focus, I have met many wonderful and likeminded people, but most importantly it has reiterated to me that for all the effort that each person puts into their own health and wellbeing, there is nothing more rewarding than encouraging and supporting others to also achieve their goals.

Pam Cook, Mt Eliza, Victoria

2017 Flying Brick Bellarine Sunset Run 21km entrant