How Running Helped Me Cope With Epilepsy

(Last Updated On: July 14, 2018)

This is a post by Faye, one of our contributors. You can visit Faye at her blog.

If you follow me on any form of social media, you will see that I mainly talk about 3 things 1) How much I love my son, husband and my friends and family 2) epilepsy awareness and finally 3) running! So today I am going to look at the connection 2 and 3 have with each other and how it changed my life.

I am fairly new to running. I ran a few Race for Lifes when I was 18, occasionally went out for a jog on a nice day (and it had to be nice!). However in April 2012, I decided to apply for the London Marathon. No idea why, like I said I didn’t run much. Then I forgot all about it.

A bit later in the year, I decided it would be a good idea to sign up for the Great South Run, a 10 mile run around Portsmouth. Now again I had done no training and think I left myself with about 8 weeks or so to get fit. Why did I do this when I had no running experience?

The summer of 2011 saw my epilepsy at the worst it had ever been at that point in time. I could not be left alone and going to the shops seemed like an achievement. I had slowly gained some control over the following year but in typical me style, I felt I had something to prove to myself. I wanted to show that a year later I could beat the epilepsy and set myself a tough challenge.

A week before GSR the marathon, ballot results were released: I was in!!! I felt sick and instantly phoned my sister and said I can’t do this! After she and Chris talked me down off the celling, it was agreed that I would do the GSR and see how I felt before deciding what to do.

Related: 5 Things Pregnant Women with Epilepsy Want You To Know

The start of a love affair

Oh how I loved that run! I went to University in Portsmouth so it was like a trip down memory lane the whole way round. The crowd support was amazing, it was well marshalled and the medal was good too. I crossed the finished line and Chris first words were “So the marathon, could you do another 16.2 miles?” My response: Yeah I can do it, I felt invincible.

epilepsy running

A year after being scared to leave the house alone, I felt like I could conquer the world and that was the moment I fell in love with running. You see for me it was never about being fit or looking good but the feeling it left me with. I relished in the muscle ache because it meant that I had done it, I had run 10 miles and the epilepsy hadn’t won. So I started training for the London Marathon and it changed my life.

I will never be fast because there is always that little bit of ‘what if’, what if I push my body too hard? What if I mistake an aura for tiredness? And for that reason I will always be slow, but I do it none the less. I don’t like the fear, I would love to go flat out and get amazing times but I have to be realistic.

I always assumed that epilepsy would only figure in my running in two senses; 1) that I needed to be careful and 2) raising money for Epilepsy charities and therefore awareness. However, after a few months something dawned on me – running was actually helping my epilepsy! I can wax on for hours about how much I love running and what it’s done for me but I will try and keep it simple. Let me say that I am not saying this will work for everyone, it is just what worked for me. I don’t know if it’s because my life was so structured by training: I was eating well, sleeping like a log because I was shattered and just very disciplined.

Running gives me a sense of control that I sorely miss when my epilepsy is playing up. It also helps with anxiety, any worries and I head out the door and run it off. One month before my first marathon in April 2013 my neurologist told me he was happy to leave me be, he didn’t want to see me, only get in touch if I had any issues with medication or there were any changes. After seeing them every 3-6 months for the last six years, I was over the moon and did a little happy dance out of the hospital. That was the last I saw of him until December 2014 when I was pregnant with Noah.

The London Marathon 2013 is one of my proudest moments to date, I bawled like a baby when I finished. I sobbed my eyes out that night when I went to bed (no, it wasn’t because my legs were that sore!) I had done it! There were reasons I should never have started training, but I did and now I have my very own marathon medal! That old running saying “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” I then went on to complete the London Marathon 2014, the feeling when I finished was exactly the same, it again counts of one of my greatest achievements.

9 months to the day after Noah arrived, I took part in the Silverstone Half Marathon, much to the disbelief and caution of my neurologist and nurse, they however knew as well as Chris did that when I set my mind to something there is no stopping me.

The night before I had a bit of a meltdown turning to Chris in hysteria saying I can’t do this what am I thinking, I’m not fit enough and so on. Chris answer was “Faye I know you, you want to do this and I know you will finish this even if you broke every bone in your body on the way round, because you are like a dog with a bone, once you start you won’t stop until you are done!” He was right.

That race was hard, so hard, both physically and mentally. I had trained but nowhere near as much as I wanted, I was overly cautious of the epilepsy and I was nowhere near as fit as I was and still had a bit of baby weight, and that made it so much tougher.

I was also very worried about aggravating the ankle injury I had suffered. Mentally I struggled, more than I ever have, Silverstone is the course I hold my personal best for a Half Marathon time – that was not how this day went.

I spent the whole time cursing it in my head, wondering why I was doing it and wanting to just give in, that all disappeared the minute I finished. A friend said to me after “I feel like you needed to do this for you, that it was the first step in starting to feel like you again after everything”, a very observant remark, then the day after she managed to present me with a framed photo of the 3 of us after I finished, it takes pride of place in our living room.

My medals all hang proudly on my medal rack at the top of my stairs, along with my marathon photos. Every day Noah reaches out for them and it makes me smile. On the bad days they are a sorely needed reminder than I am tougher than what I thought would kill me. Many times after the seizures during pregnancy I would look at them and say to Chris will I ever be able to do that again, every time he reassured me I would, his belief in me is truly unwavering.

I like to think I have one more marathon in me, because I want to prove to myself that after Noah and another battering by the epilepsy I can still do it, I have no idea if I do and if my ankle will hold up but I am willing to try.

Since having Noah I want my running to show him that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, I want him to be proud. Mummy runs because it makes me a better more relaxed person and in turn makes me a better parent.

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How Running Helped Me Cope With Epilepsy

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  • Congrats on completing your marathons! I really need to get my body moving. I don’t run – I don’t even walk, and it’s really starting to take it’s toll on my weight. I just wish I lived somewhere where the hot weather keeps us indoors for 5 months out of the years. Yeah, excuses, excuses. LOL!

  • Congratulations on everything that you have accomplished! You are one very strong woman. You should be very proud of those medals. My father developed adult onset seizures at the age of 83. It has been very hard of him and the medications really do their number on his alertness some days. But he is a trooper and he continues to live life to the fullest.

  • I love this! Congratulations on your accomplishments; running a marathon is huge! It’s amazing what we can do when we set our mind to something. Yours is definitely an inspiring story.

  • Amazing story! I’m so happy you have found something that not only makes you feel good, but its your own and you can control it.

  • I love how passionate you are about the things that drive you to live! From your family to running. I really think you can do it, especially since you’ve proved time and time again how strong you are!

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