Hey Guys, thank you for visiting my Fundraising page.
This year it will be my 11th, 12th, 13th...and 22nd marathon(s) supporting Arthritis Research UK. I know it sounds like a mad thing to do, but this year I'm celebrating 10 years of living with, surviving and beating Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) by running a marathon a month for a whole year.
Beating My Demons
I was diagnosed with RA at the age of 18. Just weeks before I was due to go to Medical School at University College London (UCL). As you can imagine going to university is a difficult transition to make in its own right; this was the first time I was moving away from home and (my mum!), I had to make new friends and in my spare time learn how to be a doctor. Now with the burden of this illness and everything that comes with managing it, the move to University was that much harder. I wouldn't say I was the best student - I definitely struggled to keep with up my peers both socially and academically.
What people sometimes forget is that the prospect of an incurable, chronic illness leads not just to a sense of physical inadequacy but weighs heavily on one's mind. In hindsight, I probably did experience bouts of depression. At 18 years old most people probably thought they were invincible and sure enough so did I. However, in a matter of weeks, I was dependent on my brother to care for me in university halls. It was hardly the life of Med School I had imagined. I was destroyed physically and felt powerless to change my circumstances. In a little under a year despite strong medical treatment my joints had started to deform. The sense of vulnerability seeped in and it was an uncomfortable and dark place to be…especially for someone so young. Despite being surrounded by other students constantly I couldn’t escape the feeling of loneliness. When people poked fun at me because I walked so slowly - it was the pain in my feet not my chilled out attitude that limited my pedestrian pace. Or when I would take an age to get changed - I was too embarrassed and stubborn to ask for help putting my clothes on (I honestly don’t spend that long doing my hair!).
So what changed?
My turning point was running my first marathon in 2008 - the Flora London Marathon. I had always wanted to run the London Marathon ever since volunteering at the event as part of St. John’s Ambulance a few years earlier. The significance of completing this race now, was that at one point I would struggle to walk 200 yards down the street to get to my lectures - so the idea of running 26.2 miles was my challenge to not allow this disease to dominate my life. I was lucky enough to win a place through the ballot and I chose to support Arthritis Research UK (formerly Arthritis Research Campaign). I completed the marathon in just over 4 1/2 hours and managed to raise nearly £3k (https://www.justgiving.com/johanbyran). What I took away from that day was that I was able to overcome my physical adversity through a great support network and determination. I can’t actually emphasise how vital my friends and family were to getting me through the tough times - and for some unknown reason they still want to stick around (thank you!).
The experience really served me well throughout the rest of medical school and my junior doctor days. Currently I am a GP registrar and 10 years since my diagnosis I have completed 10 marathons, an Ironman triathlon (2.4mile swim, 112mile cycle, 26.2mile run) and the London2Brighton 100km Run (walk/limp/hobble).
What are your “Demons”?
Like most Arthritis sufferers, I still have my bad days. Over the years despite treatment, I have seen my joints slowly deform and lose some function. More recently I have seen an Orthopaedic surgeon with the prospect of replacing a joint in my hand due to persistent pain doing simple tasks. No matter how many marathons I do, RA has found many ways to haunt me - I guess that’s the nature of having a chronic disease. It affects everything from my career choices to family life. I recently got married last year - and the things we sometimes take for granted when planning for the future have caused endless worries from whether I’d be able to play with my children or even to have children due to the years of taking strong medication. So when I refer to my “Demons,” these are the worries, fears and obstacles caused by my disease that affect me as I move from one stage to the next.
However, I am probably even more determined to make a difference. Whether that is through my job as a doctor, or through challenging myself and raising money in the process. In my profession and socially I meet many people with chronic conditions. Through sharing experiences of coping with a chronic illness and ultimately succeeding it has really encouraged me to want more from my life. As a doctor, working in the NHS, I know that there isn't enough time or funding to help patients like myself reach their full potential. Supporting Charities such as Arthritis Research UK fill that void and are so important to helping patients not just ‘exist’ but enable them to ‘live.’
My hopes and dreams for the future haven't changed just because I have a disease, it just means my journey may hurt a little more and take a little longer.”
Everybody runs their own marathon, I just happen to be running 12 of them. Here’s what 2015 is going to look like for me.
My 2015 Marathon Calendar:
January 23rd - Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon - COMPLETED in 5hrs 55mins
February 15th - Austin Marathon (Texas, USA) COMPLETED in 5hrs 57mins
March 15th - Zurich Marato de Barcelona - COMPLETED in 4hr 59mins
April 26th - Virgin Money London Marathon - COMPLETED in
May 31st - EMF Edinburgh Marathon - COMPLETED in
June 14th - Rock 'n' Roll Liverpool Marathon - COMPLETED in
July 5th - Wales Marathon (Tenby) - COMPLETED in
July 17th - Cycling from London to Barcelona in support of my friend Jon King (raising money for CF trust) - COMPLETED in 12 days
August 22nd - Reykjavik Marathon - COMPLETED in
September 27th - Berlin Marathon - COMPLETED in
October 18th - Amsterdam Marathon - COMPLETED in
November 15th - Las Vegas Marathon - COMPLETED in
December 6th - Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (TBC Registration Not Open)
NOTE: All donations collected will be given to Arthritis Research UK and are in no part used to fund expenses. All flights and entry fees for the marathons are paid for by myself.