Marathon Sam’s Story


Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin… ;-)

I started running in 2008. I was pretty good to start with. My first 5K race I finished in 20:15 and came 19th out of nearly 3000 people. My success continued throughout my 5 and 10K races. Then I decided to up the distance and took part in half marathons then of course full marathons…

But whilst training for longer distances,  I started to get a lot of lower back pain. To be honest, I thought I just ran weird. I imagined that I probably looked like phoebe from Friends! If you’re a fellow runner reading this, then you can guess what I did next… Of course I just ignored it and although the pain continued, I just put it down to my bad posture and just got on with things.

Then, in 2012, I became very ill with a (unrelated) mystery illness. I had to go to the doctors and she insisted that I had x-Rays. The first x-Rays I’d ever had…

A week later, the results came back… The x-Rays were clear. She said I had whooping cough (which I assumed I must have picked up from a delightful customer at work) and that it would clear on its own. Nice one. See you later.

“Wait,” she said. “You’re a runner, right?”

Oh man, where was this going…

“Well I like to think I am…”

“Do you get back pain?” She asked. I debated about wether or not to lie about the answer. So of course, I said, “A bit.”

“Your x-Rays revealed something else…” She said. Good job I was still sat down.

She went on to tell me that the x-Rays showed that I had scoliosis. Here’s the medical definition (to save you having to google it):

“Scoliosis is the abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine.”

I was told that my spine was twisted at the bottom, hence why I have lower back pain. Normally you can see the curve in the spine, but with it being right at the bottom, you can’t see it and as I’d never had a x-Ray before, it had gone undiagnosed. She said that it was unknown wether or not I’d developed it over time or wether I was born with it, but there’s no known cause of scoliosis.

So then came the talk about the future… After back pain comes physio, then if it gets worse then a back brace and if it gets even worse, then surgery. Oh wonderful.

But then… A bit of good news… Due to the body movements during running, her view was that my spine was doing very well due to all the work outs it was receiving. She went onto say that if I didn’t exercise or “was sat in an office all day” then I would be having physio by now! Excellent! “But this won’t last forever,” she ended with.

I was given exercises to do. Then I she gave me some instructions on what to do next. I had to go out and buy a sports mattress to sleep on and the right running shoes are a must. Took me ages to find ones that gave full support but eventually found Nike Vomeros. Yes they’re expensive but the support they provide is amazing. A bit of KT Tape on my back helps too :-) most importantly, I have to listen to my body. If my back hurts, then I have to stop. If you’ve ever had a migraine, imagine that but in your lower back. The pain is immense. But I was given the all clear to keep running (for now).

At the moment, I’m quite lucky and my back is perfectly fine during shorter races up to half marathons. It’ll ache a bit afterwards, but nothing too serious, just need to keep it straightened out. But I won’t lie, marathons are becoming tough and I think my marathon days are nearly over. It makes me sad to think this but I have to remain positive. At Manchester this year, back pain kicked in at around mile 18 and it was horrific. I stopped and did exercises and just about made it to the end, and 4:13 is nothing to be sniffed at. I just hope I manage my sub 4 dream before I have to quit long distance. In reality, I think I have just one chance left at this :-(

Oh and of course, I can’t really smash PBs like I used to. Have to take it easier these days. I can still have a try though… Just have to be sensible ;-)

Luckily (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) work isn’t affected. The body armour I wear acts as a back brace and keeps my back straight throughout the shift. Obviously, when my shifts start to become ridiculously long, my back starts to get tired and begins to hurt. As any niggle would.

I’m determined not to give up. I know people who have given up the minute that they have found out they have scoliosis. But that’s not what I’m about. As long as I’m fit and healthy, I’ll keep on going. But I’m not stupid, I know that this won’t last forever. I like to think that a bit of positive mental attitude goes a long way too :-) Haven’t quit any race yet and I don’t intend to any time soon…

Someone recently called me “an inspiration.” I’m certainly not. Jane Tomlinson was an inspiration. She ran marathons whilst being diagnosed with terminal cancer. I’m just an old bird with a bad back!

So why have I chosen to speak about this now? Well I have to face facts, this isn’t ever going to get better, it’ll only get worse as I get older. I also think that I left it too late to get diagnosed so if this helps raise awareness, then something good has come of this.

So if you’re reading this and you’re not out running, Then what are you waiting for? If I can do it, then so can you ;-)

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