Mark and Rachel Run London
Back in 2015 my brother and I were watching the London Marathon on TV. I have always admired those that took part and being part of this amazing event has always been on my list of things to do. We decided at that point to do it one year. Now, I'm not a runner. In fact I'm not sporty AT ALL! That decision was, whilst ambitious, perhaps, foolhardy.
That same year my sister Rachel (then 32) was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Luckily she had been diagnosed early enough so that with constant observations and check ups, there is a chance that she will not end up in a wheelchair. But, as you know, that still remains a potential reality. Rachel IS sporty, always active and thrives under adrenaline. Now her RA determines when and HOW she can exercise, too much and it rears it's ugly head and gives her horrendous pain in her joints. Rachel is now managing her RA by regular check ups with her consultant, eating incredibly healthy and taking a daily cocktail of drugs. Then we discovered the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) and realised how widespread RA is, particularly in younger people.
Fast forward to 2016 and I had a word with Val at NRAS and secured 2 places to run the 2017 London Marathon for them. I challenged my brother to take the 2nd place and run with me, but he had just had a knee operation and couldn't take part. So I decide to run for my sister - with my sister. So there we were, myself and Rachel would be 'running' the London Marathon in aid of NRAS to show everyone that Rheumatoid Arthritis will not hold you back from fulfilling your goals and although it is with you for life, it's not a life sentence, (plus 'running' with Rachel would mean that I could go a little slower which could take the pressure off me, after all I don't run!). Months of training (or for me just learning to run!) and fundraising followed. We both struggled to find the time to 'get the miles in' and Rachel had to take things easy as and when her RA dictated.
So how did we get on? Well we only went and DID IT! There's no denying it was a massive challenge for us both, Rachel because her RA meant her body really wouldn't like running 26.2miles and me because, well, I was allergic to exercise and hadn't run much more than a mile before Christmas! But, we did it! We ran non stop to the half way point and achieved our mini goal of running over Tower Bridge. An emotional moment. Of course we hit the wall, Canary Wharf is now no longer our friend…we struggled. But some stops for stretching and a few shouts of 'come on' to each other, and we trotted on.
Rachel started the emotions as she saw the Houses of Parliament and neared the end. A glimpse of our family supporters soon after started the tears proper and we ploughed on past Buckingham Palace and crossed the line at 5hrs 51mins. But the time was never the goal, the finish line was. It was an incredible experience. We cried as we ran down The Mall with Buckingham Palace behind us, we cried when we got our medals and we cried when we hugged each other at the end and then yelled ‘We did it!’. I shall never forget the crowds shouting out, with all sincerity, ’you are amazing’ as we struggled past them.
It was also very special for me to be running in an NRAS t-shirt with my sister, knowing how much her RA affects her, and witnessing her determination to not let it beat her. She really is an inspiration. To any of you suffering right now and reading this, keep your spirits up, be inspired and don’t let your RA stop you living life to the best of your ability - it’s not a life sentence. YOU are amazing!
I feel privileged to have learnt so much about RA and the work NRAS do during this challenge. I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people who suffer from RA. I have also felt the frustration that NRAS and you feel about the lack of awareness there is for RA and it’s made me inspired to help in any way I can to increase the profile of NRAS and the work it does. On reflection, this marathon madness has been one heck of a journey. I really am a non runner, so by giving myself this challenge it has reaffirmed in me that with determination anything is possible. No matter what you think is stopping you, get out there and challenge yourself - you will feel more alive. Both Rachel and I have loved being part of team NRAS and we look forward to continuing to help raise awareness of RA & JIA.
Rachel and I have been really moved and humbled by each and every donation we received for our London Marathon run. We raised just over £5,000 for NRAS which we are delighted with and it made every cold
winter training run and every aching muscle worth it. Don’t forget why Rachel was running the marathon. It was a simple message; She wanted to communicate that having RA isn't a life sentence and despite having an incurable condition you can still live your life to the full. I think she achieved that the moment she crossed the finish line!
So, to the thousands of RA and JIA sufferers the message is clear…don’t let it beat you!