This week our Event Director from Okanagan parkrun, Bill Justus, tells us about his experience with battling an auto-immune disease, and how parkrun gave him focus.
Massive changes happen with just one step! We have all heard the line that goes “The journey only begins with the first step”. There are 100 quotes telling us to move, to take a leap, to start too, get after it and get it going. Why then is it so hard for us, humans, we have become increasingly inactive, sedentary and house bound. We sit a play games and we are addicted to our phones, sleep and food. Today I will tell you a bit about me.
This is my back story; Once apon a time I was a 30 min 10k guy, had run marathons, ultras, and ironmans that was a long time ago and it has been a long road, with many bumps along the way. I have to thank the community of parkrun for helping me find my joy, my passion, my life. I have been a runner for 4 decades or better, and in the blink of an eye it all stopped. I went for a checkup and was told, no more, you must focus on treatment and a regime of, surgery, you have a chance to beat this thing. That was 6yrs ago then 2 yrs ago again another check and boom something new something that has no cure.
I have always found that the more we do the more we can do. The diagnosis was CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy) which in a nutshell is an auto immune disease that tells my immune system to destroy the coating around my nervous system, thus leaving the patient in a wheel chair for 6-8 months. There is no known cure, just a bunch of possibilities. Pick one said the doctor, and if it works great if not pick a different one.
Now the focus was not me it was parkrun, and thank god for that, parkrun gave me an outlet, a place to focus not on my health and lack of feeling but trying to ensure that parkrun was healthy and alive! So that if I was in a wheelchair, I had accomplished something in my years on the planet and had a place that was inviting and open for all, I was on a mission. As CIDP attacked me I attacked parkrun, the city, the government that says yea or nay to events. I along with Euan, worked tirelessly. The disease was winning, taking my ability to run even walk, so much so that stepping off a sidewalk cause me to hyperextend tear in my (meniscus and mcl)knee and put me in a brace and on crutches with the possibility of surgery looming. Undaunted I carried on setting up and tearing down ever Saturday, but parkrun Okanagan was up and we had 10-20 people out every Saturday! Okanagan parkrun was a success, and growing. Now time to try and research every known treatment. Finally after many needles, pills and alike, we the neurologist and I found something that worked! I started to mend, I started to feel my feet then walk normal, then jog and again RUN.
Here I stand today, able to run 5k in under 19 min again, I still take meds every day, I still only have 90% feeling in my feet, the payoff here is NOT mobility, the joy in sheer movement, or the wind blowing through my hair! It’s the smiles on everyone’s faces as I see them leave the starting area, cheering them on as they finish what could be the biggest accomplishment of their life. We do not know the back story of every one, we don’t know what their struggles they have or are having. We don’t know if they have to juggle, kids, disease or work to get out and enjoy 45 mins with their parkrun family. However they do know that every Saturday rain or shine, parkrun will be. It will allow and give someone a reason. A reason to take that first step in there journey to fitness and health. If you have not run parkrun come out, if you have keep coming and bring a friend. You may just make a difference in someone’s, day, life and journey.
Okanagan parkrun Event Director
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