The fight began with the common cold. The immune system kicked into action, the cold was defeated. But for some reason the message didn’t get through to the immune system to stop fighting. It turned on itself. The nervous system is like electrical cables running through the body. On the Sunday night my mother had a tingling in her hand. The following morning she’d lost use of her arms. That night she was on life support. Her immune system had eaten into the electrical cables; her nervous system destroyed by her own body. From that moment she was locked in. Totally paralysed. Unable to move. Unable to communicate. (We improvised with a letter board and her blinking her eyes). She had been struck by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Months passed and slowly her nervous system rebuilt itself. Today, several years later she is almost back to her old self. We wrote of the experience on her blog about Guillan Barre Syndrome (GBS). GBS is thankfully rare condition, but can strike anybody. Think about that the next time you come down with flu.
So why am I telling that story? In three weeks I’m running the London Marathon. When I say that to people, the reply is inevitably “which charity are you doing it for?” I didn’t expect this. I wasn’t doing it for charity. But I am now. And the charity I’m doing it for is GAIN, the charity who supports people with GBS and funds research into this dreadful condition.
I’m not a runner. I hate running. But I’m curious. I remember the first London Marathon on TV when I was a child thinking “when I’m old enough, I’ll do that”. Every year when the marathon comes and goes I remember that thought, do nothing about it and promptly forget about it. Social media changed things last year. I saw a tweet that the ballot for entries for the marathon had just opened. Curious. I entered. No-one ever gets through the ballot, and if you don’t get through your fee goes to charity, so I didn’t really think twice about it. Several months later, what wasn’t supposed to happen did happen. I got a place. Better start training.
Before receiving the acceptance letter I had barely run 5KM that year. Dragging myself out of the house was a chore. A painful chore. I hate running. Technology eased the pain. A Garmin became my new toy and Strava became a close friend. On a recommendation I got a trainer (my 7 year old daughter was amazed that I have a trainer that skypes. But Daddy, trainers are on you feet!); Kris tells me what to do and I dutifully obey. Soon I didn’t hate running so much. Running in cold, windy wet January evenings even started to become something to look forward to. Not only was I getting fitter, weight began to fall off me. (That might also be down to my giving up alcohol and, following reading This book experimenting with going vegetarian, and as much as possible following a plant-based diet). I recalled my time in Northern India in Ashrams and Buddhist retreats. Mindfulness. I used mindfulness to stay on track.
Just finishing the marathon, getting around the course became a pretty lame goal. I’ve started thinking in terms of pace, personal bests… I ran the Surrey half marathon in just over two hours (I’d have done it under two but I needed a wee half way round… That taught me a vital lesson on hydration!) On Sunday I ran 21 miles. In three weeks it’ll be 26. So please sponsor me. When you learn that a relative has this unknown condition called GBS, GAIN provide fantastic support. And with their help hopefully we’ll better understand GBS and one day it’ll be a thing of the past. Not much time now. Please sponsor this awesome cause.