It was January 2011, early morning, and I was crawling along the landing to the bathroom beside my eight-month-old son. “Great game daddy”, he looked like he was saying to himself with a giggle. I wish that had been the case. I couldn’t stand, let alone walk, and had many a sleepless night. A year before I had been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and I was in a very bad way.
Unfortunately it had taken some time to diagnose and, as a result, both my feet were riddled, joints and feet inflamed, toes crooked, skin full of psoriasis, the pain unbearable. Long story short, I ballooned to 19 stone (120kg) and a 3 9inch (100cm) waist.
Whilst I had my woes, my main concern was my family. Would I be a burden on them? Would I ever be able to kick a football with my boys? For them, the medication I was on was not only doing nothing to impact the disease, but it led to mood swings and looking back all I can say is sorry to them, this was for sure the darkest time in my life.
Fast forward, through one combination of drug to another and steroid injections failing, to November 2012. I was luckily enough to get started on a new biological fortnightly injection. I was told it may take several months to kick in, but within a month I was virtually pain free. I was walking, I bought a treadmill and I was exercising every other day. It was my miracle.
I had never been a runner, honestly I hated it, but running has become my salvation. Initially I set myself a target of walking the local Bangor 10k race the following September but things went from strength to strength. The weight fell off (combined with the help of the Hairy Bikers diet books!) and come the 10k I did more than walk, I completed it in 49 minutes.
Since then my targets evolved and I have achieved things I never felt I would be able to. I have completed several half marathons and try to cover that distance at least once a month, and I have joined the local athletics club, North Down.
parkrun came into my life in 2014 and I can safely say that it has played a major role and the “constant” part of the “running drug” for me. I genuinely look forward to it each week I can make it and the spirit of all those completing it, for whatever their goal, is something I believe exists in very few places these days. A place where all abilities, all shapes and sizes and all ages can take part in the same physical activity and all with a smile on their face. It truly is a rarity and we are so lucky to have it. I have aimed to give back to parkrun through the local junior parkrun, where my kids take part each Sunday. I volunteer as often as possible and have happily done so on 25 occasions so far.
For me, my running pinnacle came in October 2016 when I completed the Dublin Marathon. It was one of the most emotional times of my life, crossing that line after knowing where I had come from five years before.
This was matched today when I hit another magic milestone – I joined the 100 Club! I never would have imagined it possible when I think back on the longevity of the journey, but 100 parkruns is up I can’t wait to get my black milestone t-shirt and start the next leg to 150 and beyond.
The moral of my story is one I hope others can gain from. No matter your issues, set a target, get support (don’t be afraid to ask) and find a passion. As in my case, it may even be one you always hated, and never say never.
Thanks parkrun, the local organisers and for all the volunteers who make it possible. parkrun has been such a huge part of my battle and without it, it would have been so much harder.
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Jen Moroz is a Vancouver-based competitive road runner who has represented Canada at two ITU multi-sport world championships, has medaled in half-marathons across Western Canada, and coached the University of British Columbia triathlon club. She’s also a parkrunner. You might think that the casual, relaxed nature of parkrun wouldn’t attract competitive runners like Jen, but…