Running Into Cancer – Why I Run and a few other stories

As a late starter to running at the age of 45 I soon got addicted to chasing PB’s and getting faster and faster.

When I was one of the founding members of Styal Running club in 2006 little did I know where it would take me and what it would cost (a small fortune but well worth it!).

Why I originally started to run and why I run now boils down to the same basic reason, health. I started to run in 2002 because I had a medical and they told me I was borderline clinically obese and my blood pressure was so high I’d be on drugs for the rest of my life (oh the irony!) if I didn’t do something naturally about it. Nowadays I also run for health reasons but more about that later.

When the club started there were runners who were a bit faster than me and I’m very very competitive so it was a natural aim to train harder, reel them in and get faster than them. Then my running buddy, Andy, who I ended up running on three continents with, joined the club and he was a good bit faster. Still, I like a challenge! Every time I got close he went faster still. His half-marathon PB was 1.35.35 and mine was 1.36.36, pretty decent for two blokes in their mid 50’s, so I knew I wasn’t far off and one day everything clicked into place and I nailed an amazing half marathon despite the hangover from hell. No idea how I ran that fast and never got near it again!

Andy and I ran many marathons together from 2007 through to 2017. Starting in Chicago in 2011 and taking in marathons in Europe and the Tokyo marathon in Asia. Andy was unfortunately handicapped by a bad hip so I usually managed to finish a few minutes ahead with one exception when we ran Frankfurt marathon and both had challenging days. Andy pulled ahead with about a mile to go although we had leap frogged each other pretty much from half way. I could still see him though and I managed to catch him and cross the line together. We had identical chip times to the second but his gun time was 1 second fast than mine and that’s what counted in the age group race so Andy won. Always knew his big feet would give him an advantage at some point. We were both a bit gutted to have missed a sub 3.30 by 7 seconds though. Not too bad I suppose for a bad day especially given that we’d had the journey from hell just to get to Frankfurt thanks to Lufthansa.

Andy the victor!
A few of the Styal RC gang in Frankfurt

We’ve both run, but not together, in Australia and I’ve run in Africa so 5 continents for me and I’m not doing the cold ones!

With Tracey at parkrun Newcastle (Australia)

As to what it cost, God only knows and it doesn’t bear thinking about but we’ve had some amazing club trips around the UK, Europe and further afield and supped a lot of beer. A true drinking club with a running problem.

As it happens, some of the best trips were in the UK. Who can forget chasing trains in Tywyn mid Wales and wearing fluorescent wigs and tutu’s whilst running around Denbies Vineyard in Dorking where there were wine stations instead of water stations?

With Claire and Andy at The Bacchus half marathon

So many funny stories and I’ll save them for the book but one of the funniest was at Race The Train in Tywyn. This is a really tough run chasing the Talyllyn railway train out and back over 14 miles of the most hellish terrain. Only 10% of the field beat the train and I was never good enough to do so. The race is an afternoon start so we could have breakfast at the hotel and then head over to race HQ. Chas was another of our founding members and to look at him you wouldn’t believe how good a runner he was. A lovely old Welsh lady was serving breakfast and she asked what we were doing and we told her we were racing the train. She looked at Chas and, in her beautiful Welsh accent said “Even you?” You can imagine the hysterics that we were in but she went one better the following morning at breakfast when Chas showed her his medal and said “Look, I finished” only for her to retort “I know, I passed you!”

Styal RC hit Tywyn

I’ve digressed though! Back to why I run now and, as I said earlier, it’s to do with health. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in May 2017 and was told I may only have 2 years to live I really thought my running days were over.

I’m blessed that I can still run although for at least a couple of years I mourned the runner that I had been and hated the much slower runner that I now was.

The treatment for stage 4 prostate cancer is to remove testosterone and that has far reaching side effects that effectively emasculated me as a man and as an athlete. Side effects as far as running goes have been:-

  • Fatigue – leading to some runs being complete disasters.
  • Weight gain – Never a great help carrying an extra stone is it?
  • Loss of muscle mass – this is a killer. Hill’s that I used to think of as pimples now look like Everest as I just don’t have enough muscle strength to power up them.
  • Reduced bone density – meaning that I have to be extra careful as trips and falls can prove problematic including 3 days in hospital to have a broken wrist plated, pinned and wired!

Why do I run then?

Firstly because it’s a massive part of my life and my running buddies mean the world to me but, secondly, running really helps dealing with all those horrible side effects as well as maintaining my mental health which took quite a hit with a terminal cancer diagnosis and, even now, the black dog of despair can and does descend. A run always helps though.

I suppose that there is another reason. Maybe I’m trying to outrun the cancer. I certainly think it will prolong my prognosis by staying as fit as possible. It also gets me out of Mrs C’s hair!

So carry on running folk, KOR!