A man in a Scope t shirt running and a photo of a women wearing an oxygen mask in her training gear

‘Tears were shed. Fun was had’ – What it’s like running the London Marathon as a disabled person

Jay and Nicky both ran the London marathon for Scope on Sunday. In this blog they talk about taking on the challenge and share their experiences of the day.

Jay, from Winchester

Head and shoulders shot of a man smiling with a blurred background

Jay, 36, was born without a lower left arm and he wears a prosthetic arm in public. He has just run the London Marathon for Scope without his prosthesis – something he would normally wear to help him ‘blend in’ and feel ‘normal’.

Throughout my life I have always done everything my friends have done, including playing sports – I have even mastered one-handed golf. However, I have always felt self-conscious and experienced people staring, as well as people noticing my arm and then quickly looking away, as if they were embarrassed.

My prosthetic arm is held on by a silicone liner which doesn’t allow perspiration out. If I sweat during exercise water builds up and the arm starts to lose suction, meaning I have to hold onto it while I run, so it made more sense to run without it.

Sunday’s marathon was a big personal challenge, but I hope it helped in highlighting Scope’s work and gave others the courage to be themselves in public. I wanted to show other people, especially children, that if I can do this race without my arm then they can have the confidence to go out and not feel self-conscious about their own disability.

Shot of Jay running in a Scope vest

I woke up on the morning of the marathon feeling nervous. Not only was I going to be running the longest run of my life, I was going to be doing it without wearing my safety blanket, my prosthetic arm. Even going to breakfast in the hotel without my arm felt strange and travelling on the Tube was something I would never have done before, until that moment when I had to make my way to the start line.

I felt great for the first 14-16 miles. I did the first half in 1hr 48 mins. The crowd were fantastic. I had no negativity, no one stared, all I felt was overwhelming support and encouragement. It was liberating running without my prosthetic arm — I felt much freer and the running felt easier by not having to carry the weight around. The real highlight, as for many runners, was that run over the iconic Tower Bridge. And running past familiar faces along the way and at the Scope cheering points!

The last two miles, although painful, were incredible. The ‘J’ was falling off my vest so people were calling out ‘Come on, Ay!’ or ‘Scope Runner’! and other runners on the Mall were trying to encourage me to get across the finish line. I basically collapsed at the end! But I had done it. And I was so pleased to have achieved my target time of sub 4 hours with a respectable finishing time of 3hrs 49 mins.

The marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done but it was so rewarding. Scope’s support was fantastic – from phone calls in the build up to the race to the post-race reception (and birthday card!). They reminded me why I was doing this and I was so glad I did. I think I achieved my goal of showing the world that disability needn’t be a barrier and to raise awareness of this great charity.

Nicky, from the Netherlands

Nicky running in a Scope vest with her oxygen tank

Nicky, 29, has chronic lyme disease and persistent glandular fever. Due to her conditions Nicky wore an oxygen mask, attached to a 2 kg oxygen tank during the marathon, to allow a continuous stream of 98% oxygen to be pumped into her lungs.

Last year I decided I was just going to do it, and sign up for the marathon. I was on crutches at the time – my illness had left me barely able to walk. I’m a very determined person though and my running training progressed well.  I wanted to show others that nothing should hold them back from following their dreams.

I ran the marathon because I believe I have a choice. I ran for those who don’t have that choice, and those who aren’t yet aware they have the choice.

Photo of Nicky sat on a bench tieing her shoelace

Race day was there before I knew it. I knew I was getting sick because my body was showing symptoms the day before, but I was hoping I’d get to finish the marathon first. I was wrong. Seven miles in I spiked the highest fever I’ve ever experienced on a run. I was able to keep running for another mile, but then had to resort to walking. I threw up (sorry, spectators) and knew I should stop. Along came Jess, some stranger who was running for another charity. She walked with me for a while and got me running again. Just one foot in front of the other. The crowds were amazing. Running with oxygen is hard (I bruised two ribs) and the pain in my lungs was insane, but everyone was rooting for me. I may have cried a few times.

Two miles later it was Jess who had to stop. She was in more pain than I could imagine at the time. She kept telling me to keep going and not let her slow me down, but we were in this together and I wasn’t about to leave her behind. I managed to grab a sign saying “Go Jess” from her friends in the audience and spent a couple of miles getting the crowds to cheer her on the way they’d been cheering me on the whole time. Tears were shed. Fun was had.
She wouldn’t have finished without me. I wouldn’t have finished without her.

Whether you’re physically ill, disabled, mentally ill, or just going through a really rough time: bad days are a marathon. Just keep moving forward the best way you know how. Try not to give up on yourself. And when you encounter someone whose hope is about to slip through their fingers, try not to let them give up on themselves either. We can all do this alone, but we are all better together.

Fancy taking on a challenge yourself? Sign up for 2018 or check out some of our other challenge events.

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