For some time I have been eyeing up the idea of ultra running. Having spent the past few years training for and completing several marathons and half-marathons, the urge to take it onto another level overcame me. I booked myself a date with Race to the Stones.
An old friend completed the 100k run this year. I went down to collect him and watched the runners coming in. There was such a great vibe! Much like a mini-festival; relaxed, encouraging, inspirational and lots of smiles…in amongst some pain of course!
The course follows an ancient path. We will be running and walking in the footsteps of Vikings, Romans, dragons and Kings — not in fancy dress I hasten to add!
Journey from the Chilterns to the mystical North Wessex Downs past mighty iron age forts, ancient monuments and through some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes
The sun is not up yet, but we are. As ever, you seem to be waiting for the day, and then it is upon you.
We arrived in Eastbourne last night, welcomed by the most enormous moon as we followed the coastal road, Beachy Head on the right in the dark. In places I had to drop down to third gear to climb the hill, thinking about how we would be running those very same hills in just over 12 hours.
I am fortunate that a old pal has done the Beachy Head Marathon before. He also introduced me to a fellow runner from his club who has done it ‘5 or 6 times’. Casual. I would definitely remember how many times I had done it! So it can’t be a big deal; right? I was invited to a 20k warm up, which I politely declined. 44 is enough today thanks. The next piece of advice was gold: at the start, walk until you hear the bagpipes and then start running. This was followed with, yes, the first hill is a bastard. Righty ho!
Time to climb into the kit and grab some brekkie. There’s always something special about putting on the shirt, and representing something far bigger than oneself. You remember that the run is representative of a huge need in society and is one more step forward in raising awareness.
Look out for the pics on the way round, and maybe some live footage.
Following the Box Hill 20k trail run, I fancied something along the same lines. There’s definitely something about running out in nature, up and down hills, covering different terrains, and most of all the camaraderie.
So, on discovering that the Beachy Head Marathon takes place on my birthday in October, I felt compelled to sign up to give it a go. And then my wife Jo said she would do the 10K!
On the Beachy Head Marathon, my good friend and experienced marathoner said to me, its a completer, not a competer. I like that idea. Runners of distance get it. There’s a draw to discovering what you can achieve, how far you can go, what its like to be out there for hours and to find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
I have only been at this for a few years so would count myself as a novice in the endurance world. However, in this time I have learned a great deal about the rewards of perseverance and how they seamlessly spread into other arenas of life. No matter which step you are taking, there’s always another. But which direction do you choose?
At school we were made to run almost every day. At the time I resisted. Why Sir, I would ask (often). What’s the point of running? I used to think running was just about, well, running. I now have another perspective. My son asks me, why do you run, its boring, why don’t you cycle, its quicker. I understand his view. He is 13.
Running distances seems to suit the middle ages; see all the ultra runners birth dates. As someone said to me, why would you want to go running for hours when you are in your 20’s when you could be out with your friends doing __________ (fill in the gap).
Anyhow, October 27th it is, Beachy Head the place. A stunning backdrop, challenging hills (up and down — I’m not sure which I prefer; up I think!), and a purpose. The purpose as you know is to share a message in society: pain can and does change starting with understanding. Regular readers will be aware of the reasons why chronic pain is the number one global health burden. I am sure that most if not all of us can think of someone who suffers daily. Think about what that is like: the way pain seeps into every corner of someone’s life. It may be you.
There is a desperate need for change in thinking in society, which will underpin the demand for the right kind of approaches to pain. We are still blanketed by methods that do not offer a way forward. This only emerges from understanding and right action. UP is all about both understanding pain and using this knowledge for right and wise action to ease suffering by living.
I am very excited. I am excited about the BHM 2018 but also because UP is now registered and ready to go. The immediate plans include the website as an immediate place of contact for quality information about pain, booklets to order and distribute, a little book of pain and online courses. We have raised a good amount of money to fund these projects but of course we need to keep this going with future funding, donations and other opportunities that present themselves. Great times ahead as we pursue this purpose!
This year the UP running team has Ellen taking part in the Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon raising awareness and money for Understand Pain and CRPS UK. Ellen has CRPS yet has made remarkable progress in her life. I was thrilled when she agreed to take part and join the #UPandrun team!
Here is Ellen’s first blog about training.
Running Blog Take 1
Bio About Myself
Hello Reader! My name is Ellen Williams and this blog is about showing people my unordinary life. I have never been good at writing about myself so I will just start with some key facts:
Name: Ellen Jade Williams
Hair Colour: Blonde
Eye Colour: Green (with flecks of yellow in the middle)
Favourite Food: Strawberries
Favourite Animal: HORSES
Hobbies: Horse Riding (although having your own horses makes it more of a lifestyle than a hobby)
Occupation: Yard Manager (my own yard), Yard hand, Office Workers (for my parents business)
3 Qualities: shy, smiley & sensitive
Any unusual points: I have CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) in the left side of my lower body.
My CRPS story is long and I do not want to bore you so again I shall give you the key facts. In April 2010 I went to South Africa with my school for a Sports Tour. It was the best holiday of my life but unfortunately I came home injured after some swelling appeared during one of my matches. I was told it was just some soft tissue bruising so I had a few weeks off then I carried on. The pain got worse and by the end of June I’d lost mobility in my left knee.
Finally I went to see a consultant who had me booked in for surgery 3 days later. I had a routine arthroscopy in my left knee, which found a piece of bone stuck in my knee joint which had also damaged some of the cartilage. That was sorted and I began to heal, just a little slower than normal.
By the December, I had deteriorated drastically and was back on crutches unable to do physio. January and February 2011 was full of pain, doctor appointments across the South of England, scans and uncertainty. 3rd March 2011, my consultant told my parents and I that I had this neurological disorder, which was incurable and may stay with me for the rest of my life. Confusion and sadness do not even begin to describe the feeling of that day.
I did physical physio for about two years to try and “flip the switch back”, as people describe it. This got me so far but it began to inhibit me more that it was helping me so I had to stop. After getting through my A levels and receiving more disappointing news from doctors, that there was nothing else they could do, my mum realised that I needed something else, something different! Which is where Richmond steps in. I have been seeing Richmond for over 4 years now and I could never write down in words how much I’ve learnt and improved in that time.
In the last 18 months I have finished university, moved back home and started full time work, which took its toll. After having it confirmed that the CRPS had spread into my left ankle I had back injections in January of this year. These once again, completely changed my life and as cliché as it sounds I feel like I have been given a second chance and I am determined not to waste this time as we are not sure how long it will last.
So when Richmond asked me if I would run the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I thought why not. It may not be easy but one quality I possess is determination. Determination to prove others wrong but also to prove to myself that I am “normal” but in my own way! Both my Dad and I are running jointly for UP and CRPS UK, which are two very important organisations for me so I hope this will show people that everyone has demons but how good your life is depends on how you decide to live your life. Please donate and spread the word of CRPS!
30th July 2017
After having some time off due to weather, birthday celebrations and pain I suddenly felt in the mood for a run, even after 6 hours of poo picking fields and mucking out stables! Although I was in the mood for a run, that does not mean I was not also nervous. I hadn’t been out for about a month and suffering such a big flare up the weekend before was always going to add more nerves.
A lot of my other runs I have put a point where I would turn around however today I didn’t. The issue with my disorder is that, people think I’m joking when I say “It has a mind of its own” but I’m really not! My CRPS and I may share a brain but we definitely do not think the same so I know I may think “I’ll aim for this point but will try to push further” but my CRPS will think “Right you said your going to that point, so I will give you pain if you go past it”. This is why today I decided to just run, whether I made it 1 mile or 10 miles it didn’t matter as long as I enjoyed the run.
After the first 10 minutes of agony (which always happens, like the CRPS is trying its hardest to stop me) I settled into my normal running beat and through the deep breathing, even managed to put a smile onto my bright red face!
31st July 2017
I felt so good about my run yesterday until I got out of bed this morning and realised that my hamstrings were as tight as a brand new elastic band! What made the pain worse was knowing that I was going to see the personal trainer tonight and that when I told him, he would make me stretch them out properly, which is more painful than just walking! This is the fourth time I’ve seen the personal trainer but it is already starting to make me enjoy being in a gym again.
After my diagnosis, I was told my best chance of “defeating” the CRPS was to do physical physio to break the on going loop that was theoretically happening in my head. I will always be grateful for my 18 months of physical physio because without
it I doubt I would be able to walk without pain, most days, right now however I should never have been told this method would “defeat” the CRPS. Living with CRPS is complicated and confusing as one minute you will look completely healthy but the next you can be on the floor unable to move but that does not mean it cannot be managed.
Although I am good at managing my CRPS now, self-consciousness about it is still something I struggle with. Even though it is a invisible disorder, I face a daily struggle of thinking everyone is staring at me because of it. This was made worse during my physical physio sessions when I really did have people staring at me because I was crying in pain. The more it happened the more uncomfortable I became in the gym, to the point where I didn’t step foot into a gym between stopping my physical physio and starting with the personal trainer, which is roughly about 4 years.
I was frightened about going back into the gym bit there are many differences between the two experiences. Firstly, in the new gym it is just the personal trainer and myself, which means I don’t need to worry about anyone “staring” because there is no one to stare. Secondly, now I am not trying to break a loop, I am trying to better myself as well as I can so if I do struggle with something, I can stop and try again at a later date and it doesn’t matter. Lastly, compared with 4 years ago I am able to deal and understand my pain a lot better, which means overall I can enjoy the experience more as the pain is not as bad.
Four years ago I never thought I would walk out of a gym, feeling good about myself again, but I do now and it gets better each time even if the hamstring pain gets worse!
1st August 2017
Well they say that things come in threes! Today it was the day for physio and I honestly do not know how I walked today because between the run and gym the last two days my leg muscles are screaming everytime I walk. My physio sessions are my time to show off any improvement I’ve made within a few weeks, no matter how small or silly it might seem to others (yes, I did actually jump up and down for joy the day I told my physio I could walk down the stairs normally again!) I’ve been seeing Richmond for 4 years now, but I continue to go because each time I do go I learn more about my disorder and how to manage it. The sessions also give me confidence to try things that I find difficult or painful again for example an exercise I had to stop doing last night at gym because my knee did not like the movement.
When I was doing the kettle bell swings last night, my knee felt like it was grinding together. So when the personal trainer commented on how well the knee was dealing with the movement I quickly replied “No it isn’t!” It frustrates me when I come across something that is difficult because I know there is nothing wrong with my knee but the pain is still real. I talk it through with Richmond and we come up with a few methods to help lessen the threat of the exercise, which means hopefully I should be able to carry out a kettle bell swing in a few weeks!
5th August 2017
So today rather than being physical myself, my family and I travelled up to London to watch the World Athletics Championships. It was amazing being back there again after the hype of 2012! We were lucky enough to see both Katarina Johnson-Thompson (my favourite athlete!!) and also Mr Usain Bolt himself! We had different seats for the morning and evening sessions however that did not seem to matter because where ever we were Katarina was near us, which made me extremely happy!
Watching her high jump was hard as her clear upset at coming out of her main event so early was obvious but that did not stop her. Watching her then win her 200m race was incredible and relatable. Anyone with chronic pain will know what it is like to face defeat in things that we were once good at but just because you’ve been defeated that day does not mean you’ll face that same defeat again the next day. Dealing with chronic pain daily could make it so easy to give up but if you do not pick yourself up and try again you will never know if you can do it again. You may be defeated once or 10 times but to show the strength to carry on that will show everyone that you will never be completely defeated by chronic pain.
I had to do this myself today when my pain dramatically increased while sitting in the seats. Big events like that is something I often struggle with now due to the small amount of room around the seats and the uncomfortableness of the seats but what also did not help today was the sun shining that was beaming down on my knee making it warm up and become sensitive.
I am used to the staring, slow walking and general irritance of my condition however I still worry about it affecting my family. I know my family love me no matter what but I am sure they still have the thoughts of “Oh for goodness sake, not again” when they have to deal with me like that. My mum having to help me to the bathroom. My brother having to let me grip onto his shoulders so that I can get up the stairs. My dad having to act as my crutch on the way to the car.
People often say to me “how can you keep going through the pain” but I think that is obvious isn’t it? If my family can deal with me like that, surely the least the deserve is for me to try. I have previously said before that the one piece of advice I would give to a new CRPS sufferer is that even if you feel you cannot try for yourself, try for your family because they will find it as hard as you are, if not harder! This advice is still valid to this day and is what I will live by for the rest of my life.
7th August 2017
So after the pain of Saturday and working on my feet all day yesterday, it was no surprise that I was still suffering with some pain throughout today. It was mainly within the top of my back and in my ankle, which makes walking and just general
movement of my upper body difficult. Luckily I work in an office on a Monday, so my work was not affected but I wanted to go for a run.
I went back and forth as to whether I should go or not because of the pain as the last thing I wanted was to make the pain last another day bur I got home with the thought of all I can do is try, whether I do 30 seconds or 30 minutes that was going to be my best because I was still trying! Well I went out and carried on running until I felt I couldn’t run any further.
I ran 1.1 miles, which when thinking about my half marathon in 2 months, isn’t much but it showed me I could run through the pain as due to being distracted, the pain after the run was not as bad as before my run! Although a small run, for me tonight was a big achievement which makes me more determined and excited for October!
10th August 2017
So Thursday’s are my day for my weekly personal training session. I was slightly nervous it may not go too well as ironically my personally trainer had a knee surgery on his left knee last week, which meant he was bandaged up and limping. Your probably thinking “Well why would that bother you?” but a complication of my disorder is that it has an over protection trait towards the left hand side of my body. This means if my brain perceives a left knee to be indanger, it will give me pain in my left knee because it wants me to stop what I am doing because I am “in danger”. The left knee that is in danger does not have to be my own, which means if I see someone with injuries to their left leg, my brain will take that as a danger and so I receive pain myself!
So when i saw the huge bandage on my personal trainers left leg, I spent the first 10 minutes avoiding any eye contact with anywhere to do with his leg. However I was slightly surprised when I did not feel anything at all when I walked in and originally saw his leg. This is a first for me, so I carried on!
The session was hard, but in a good way! It was mainly about building up the core muscles and my cardio fitness. He worked me hard but I kept up with everything I told him to do, which impressed us both! I am so glad I have started going back to the gym because it makes me feel so good when I can see the results each week!
The London Marathon now in the past, we are focusing on the next run, The Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon in October. The details of the projects being co-supported with UP will be released soon, however we have two participants bravely embarking on the training journey. This is very exciting, but above all, full of meaning as they face the challenge of getting fit to run 13.1 miles. I know that they will do their best and we will be fully supporting them with a training programme and lots of positive encouragement.
Having just done the marathon for the first time, I know what it feels like to be thinking about running for long periods. However, the reality is never as bad as the thought, like most things. The actual run on the day is the icing on the cake, whereas doing one’s best along the way is success. This is a test. A test of oneself. And this is why it is such an incredible learning opportunity and a way to boost self-belief whilst improving physical health.
I will be documenting these two runners’ journeys and hopefully they will be writing their own blog entries. Sharing stories like this is inspiring to us all. We love to hear about and feel motivated by others’ achievements. They have achieved already by signing up. Now they can clarify their picture of success and think about what that looks like as they begin their experience!
The London Marathon is next Sunday, 23rd April. This means a week of relaxing, putting my feet up, being fed grapes and generally letting everybody run around after me. Well, that’s the dream….
It’s an interesting time during the tapering. I feel that I should be doing more. My body behaves like a dog waiting at the door with lead in mouth, yet I know (from some excellent advice) that the opposite is what is needed right now. A few easy, short runs will be just fine, I keep telling myself.
It has been hard work but a thoroughly enjoyable test of one’s ability to keep going and maintain a training routine of 40+ miles a week. That’s a lot of time. Some may say ‘me time’. I am grateful for those close around me for allowing me to spend a good chunk of time out there and then putting up with my stretching, moving, twitching and generally fidgeting to ease the aches and pains. I have also probably become a bit ‘boring’ as I talk about the times I have run….
It is hard to avoid thinking about a time. Initially I was just aiming to finish but now I am eyeing four and a half hours. But who knows! I have never done this before so it is a leap into the unknown!
I doff my hat to all my fellow runners and wish them all well on their individual quests. By all accounts the London Marathon day is a great one and I am thankful for the chance to experience the crowds, the buzz and the bobbing heads of the sea of runners.
If you can come and support CRPS UK and UP, you’ll be a welcome voice from the crowd! You can also support our work by coming to our quiz on Thursday (20th April) (click here) or donate here
CRPS UK is a registered charity that is focused upon supporting people with complex regional pain syndrome (what is CRPS?). CRPS is often a terribly impacting condition characterised by intense pain and accompanying symptoms that reach into every aspect of the person’s life. Having received little attention, CRPS is gradually becoming more recognised, thanks in great part to the on-going work of the team at CRPS UK.
Georgie, my co-founder at UP, came to see me several years ago with CRPS and therefore at UP we were thrilled to team up with CRPS UK. CRPS has been a condition that I have studied for many years, and having worked with many people living the condition, personally I am honoured to represent CRPS UK and UP in this way, hoping to make a contribution by raising money to allow the work to go on.
Chronic pain is the number one global health burden. Think about all the conditions that hurt and cause pain. This is not just musculoskeletal pain, but all pain — cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, migraines, pelvic pain, heart disease, post-surgical pain, infections, inflammatory disorders! If pain was understood globally, by society, by individuals, we would know what we can focus upon to overcome the problems and live as best we can in a meaningful way. At the moment this is not the case. There is still a focus on the tissues and pathology as an explanation, but this is not the case. We have known for years that pain and injury are poorly related, and that there is much more to pain to know and work with to create the conditions for change.
This is what we aim to do at UP and CRPS UK. Pain is a public health problem affecting millions in many different ways: home life, relationships, social activities, work to name a few. People need to know the ways in which they can navigate these issues and move onward. The money you give will directly support projects and initiatives to reach this end where we hope to influence the policy makers and healthcare providers, but in essence to help the individual ease his or her suffering.
The Royal Parks 1/2 marathon today (9th October 2016) ~ we have done the run!
Team UP completed the run around the Parks and London today to raise awareness for UP and money to launch our campaign. It was a great success!
The Team: Richmond Stace, Jonathan Vickers, Peter Brown, Chris Mutch & Ann Dunmall
On a beautiful morning, we completed the course in good time. Ann even sang in the Rock Choir performance on the main stage!! Awesome!
We were very well supported by Jo, Lucy, Lucy H, Georgie, Mark and of course the volunteers and staff. A big thanks to Sally!
This success means that we will do it again. And again. The #upandrun will now be one of the ways in which we continue to raise awareness through exposure and conversations with people and other charities. UP will support runners in the UK and beyond by funding their place and supplying a running shirt while the runner raises money for UP. So if you want to run for us, get in touch ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some strong words about pain because this is what drives the UP | understand pain campaign. Chronic pain is the number one global health burden — it costs us the most and then consider the personal cost and suffering endured by each individual. We are not just talking about musculoskeletal pain (e.g., back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis etc.) but all pain: headaches, migraines, pelvic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer related pain, pain related to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and all the other situations in which we hurt and can continue to suffer.
Traditionally the search for the reasons for pain consisted of looking for a pathology, an injury or other structural explanation in the body. The biomedical model needs something to find, something to see with the naked eye or on a scan. Pain can never be seen.
Pain is the ultimate example of a conscious experience, and conscious experiences are built by the individual based on a number of factors that are biological, psychological and sociological. Typically it is the biology that is focused upon with some psychology, which means that the biopsychosocial model purported for some years now, is not really used except in name.
The reality is that you cannot separate these dimensions. How is psychology not biological or sociological? How is biology not psychological? It makes no sense to divide what is a lived experience, a first person experience that embraces the unification of thoughts, perceptions and actions. Fortunately for society, there is a model that is most likely to be able to reflect this unification and the research needed to test the model is going to be supported by the UP campaign (charity-to-be).
As society has evolved so has our pain. Chronic pain is a societal phenomenon — on certain parts of the world, back pain did not exist until the concept was introduced by modern healthcare. That is a societal issue, not a medical issue. And by this regard, society needs a shift to support a new understanding of pain to relieve that very society of this on-going pain problem. This is not a medical problem. As time moves away from the initiation of the pain experience, it shifts rapidly towards the need for a sociopsychological model — what does the person in pain need to understand? What do they need to do? How do they engage with their family? How do they engage with their work? How do they communicate their pain? What actions do they need to take day to day to get better?
This is a public health problem that needs addressing as such. It is not dramatic to say that world leaders and policy makers need to be having conversations about the health problem that costs the globe the most and taking action now. It is absurd that the main reason for seeking help, the vehicle taking people to healthcare is frequently pain. How much formal training do healthcare professionals receive?
The passion behind UP | understand pain emerges from the absolute need for an enforced change from the bottom up. Society needs to be instrumental in the change for its own good and so this is where UP is taking the campaign. To the people. The voice of the people to enforce the necessary change.
This weekend UP has a team at The Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon, raising funds that will be the foundation for all that is described above. So join us and spread the word as we raise the profile of this problem into the consciousness of society for action to be taken now.
Pain being hugely complex and one of the greatest examples of a conscious experience means that we have many questions to answer. This includes an understanding of pain biology, pain psychology and the social dimension. Whilst all are important, it is the unification of these that is the lived experience, the phenomena of pain. This is what we must ultimately understand so that we can have a true working knowledge of what is going on and what we can do about it.
Hence we need a model that can deliver this depth of understanding and a basis for action. We are fortunate in that such work is going on as we speak, and it is this work that UP will be supporting. The yield will be the practical application of our knowledge about pain so that individuals can really know what they can do to move forward and overcome their pain. Such knowledge will also inform healthcare practice from the outset when a person presents with a pain problem — those initial messages are vital; they must be right as they often set the scene.
Chronic pain is the number one global health burden, which means that millions are suffering. This can change. This must change. This is the reason for UP.