Karen Slade - Marathon Runner

Karen Slade - Marathon Runner


My BAD marathon journey

I will never be in front, I will never be fast, but I will be there.  

By Karen

My BAD journey started a long time before my marathon journey was ever a thought.   Friends can recall witnessing episodes since my mid- teens and I constantly had a jippy tummy, ‘food poisoning’, ‘gastroenteritis’ ‘gastritis’ and more.  

Roll forwards to my late 20s and rushing to the loo was a constant daily reality, receiving a diagnosis of IBS and advised to  ‘not eat chicken’ and take lots of fybogel.  Hmm, incase anyone is wondering, it was not useful advice.    It was about this time that a friend suggested that we do a run for charity and so I started running. Very slowly, with masses of doubt but with the determination that we would make it and raise the money– and we did. 

Roll forward another 10 years and probably hundreds of tests, three exploratory operations, MRIs, CT scans and more.   I tried to keep running but had to give in to regular long ‘lie-downs’ when I felt totally exhausted by the draining symptoms and a busy full-time job.  Although it was always hard to start again, I persisted, and would came back to running even if it was a little 10 min jog/walk around the block – the fresh air and the freedom helped repair my psyche and keep the weight down.

I also discovered parkrun, a 5k free jog or walk at 100s of local parks all over the UK. It was also a great way to meet new friends in a city I was new to, they easily accepted my irregular running patterns and found I could teach them a thing or two about managing a jippy tummy!  I was the lady with loo roll, handwash and Lucozade in her running pouch, a handy ‘toilet finder’ phone app and a RADAR key which opened the loos on the riverfront.

Through 2015 I was a regular attender at A&E and for the first time, medically advised to completely stop activity.  For 5 months I stopped running, but after yet another operation which found nothing, I was determined to take back control.  I was not going to be defined by illness and my tummy could just get in line.  I was going to run a marathon, for charity, by hook or by crook.

For all the powerful words, it was hard and had times of massive doubt.  The pain, tiredness and toilet trips made training quite the challenge and I have come back from runs with tears in my eyes after feeling unable to move one foot infront of the other.  But I had made a pact with myself that I would run on every day I could, unless it was a physically impossibility– and so this sporadic, inconsistent running plan was ticked off, still managing around one-third of what I wanted. 

March 2016 – Sehcat test.  April 2016 –BAD diagnosis.  That day, my life changed forever.  Since then I have been on colesevalam and I have not needed more than a few days off running at a time due to BAD.  I still have to plan, I still use the loo roll, I still use the key, I still use the app but I can run with less exhaustion, I can run with my friends, I can run about three-quarters of what I would like.  That’s enough.

15 April 2018.  Brighton seafront.  Me, a BAD-UK singlet and a few hundred other runners.  Friends and family had travelled to be there.    I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of that marathon, even the last couple of miles where I wasn’t sure I could actually feel my legs.  Everyone was there at 26 miles cheering, clapping and shouting - I cried but with a huge smile as I crossed the line– BAD could just do one.  I was back in charge.

BAD is tough, it brings challenges, but it doesn’t need to stop us from being active or achieving things we thought were beyond us.Running with BAD takes planning, advice from others and it takes courage but it also brings with it a sense of achievement and control, new friends (who are very used to being smelly), weight stabilisation (although it seems I will never be slim) and a resilience to dealing with the symptoms that nothing else does. When I have a flare up or other issues, I recall that marathon day and it always makes me smile.I will never be in front, I will never be fast, but I will be there.