“Fair play to you for running with a broken arm” or “Is that a special Japanese technique that you are using?” are just some of the reactions that Andy Minogue received when people saw him running with his self engineered slings for the first time.
Andy, who has a rare neurological condition, talks about the obstacles he has overcome to reach the 100 Club at Clarisford parkrun last weekend.
These reactions are, to me, totally understandable. I have a neurological condition that means I cannot hold my arms up due to muscle atrophy from a condition called Flail Arm Syndrome (a rare variant of Motor Neuron Disease with a better prognosis). Another person told me that I must be very stubborn, and I cannot argue with that as I don’t believe that many people would even try running if they had no power in their arms.
Was I a keen runner before the illness? Yes. Would the diagnosis that I received prompt me to take up running had I not been a keen runner? Absolutely not!. To help me cope with a very uncertain future, I just decided that I would keep running for as long as humanly possible but I wasn’t expecting that to be for too long. Thankfully, only my arms have been affected after three and half years since onset of illness. It is very true to say that there are always people who are much worse off than yourself. So, what I have been trying to do is accept it, make the necessary adjustments, put on the runners and keep putting one foot in front of the other!
The people at Clarisford parkrun in Killaloe are well used to me at this stage and they just treat me like any other parkrunner. Indeed, there are one or two of them who would and do gladly pass me at the line on any given Saturday! Everyone at Clarisford has been so supportive of me and you would not meet a friendlier bunch anywhere.
The fact that my wife, Clare, and my two sons, Eoin and James, run with me almost every Saturday makes it all the more special and enjoyable. Of course, they always help me to put on the running gear in the first place. While many people at parkrun are monitoring their progress, I am seeing my times getting slower due to the progressive nature of my condition. However, I am working very hard to keep that decline as gradual as possible. The bottom line is that I am just happy to be running at all.
Since I started doing parkrun in early 2016, I have learned that there is great diversity among the parkrun field. I’m sure that many of them have a story to tell, whether it is recovering from a physical or mental illness or other life trauma. The general feeling I get is that the people at parkrun really appreciate how good running and walking are for your mental health and general wellbeing. I could not agree more and having parkrun milestones to target and basically accumulate as many parkruns as I can, has made my difficult journey easier over this past few years. When I achieved 50 parkruns last year I was pleasantly surprised, relieved and even delighted. Now that I have reached the 100 milestone I can scarcely believe how truly blessed I am. I really hope that my battle will continue in a pair of runners among some great friends.
Many thanks to all the volunteers, walkers and runners. Your support means the world to me.
If you would like to share your own story of how parkrun has transformed your life, we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with us here.
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