Blog by Simon Tubb
November 13th 2011, I had just landed at Heathrow airport, following the most amazing ten days of my life. Two years of training had paid off, I had lost seven stone in weight and on 11/11/11 I was stood overlooking one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Pichu in Peru. I felt like I could achieve anything. Along the way I had done my first cycle sportive and had dreams to try something a little different.
Just days before I went away I had received an email about attending a Para triathlon talent ID day. The aim was to find the best para athletes in cycling, swimming and running with the aim of competing at Rio 2016 Olympics. So just four days following my Peru trek I drove to Loughborough to meet the Para Olympic coaches. I spent the day being tested and undertook a swim assessment. Then came to the one thing that for thirty years I was told I could not do….. Run. My whole intention at the ID day was to speak to the coaches and physios about whether I had the biomechanics to actually be able to run. Whilst the other athletes went off to complete runs at different distances, I spent thirty minutes with a coach talking about my concerns.
I was born with spina bifida, this meant I was born with a hole in my back, this effected many different nerve endings in my lower body. When I was young I walked on my heals, so at the age of 11 I had an operation that would stretch my calves and allow me to walk more on the balls of my feet. I have limited planter and dorsi Flexion so standing on tip toes for example or performing a calf raise in the gym is pretty much impossible. I also have very limited muscle fire from my glutes, most of my movements in my legs come from my hamstrings and quads. Therefore my legs look out of proportion. I have massive hamstrings and quads with tiny little calves. It’s never been known if I could get these muscles to fire or develop. So far it seems unlikely.
Following my thirty minutes with the coach I was able to perform some of the drills. I then was given the opportunity to complete one lap of 400m track. I was able to do a walk run around but knew I could run.
Over the next couple of years lots changed, I finished my degree qualified as a PT, moved to Bristol and got married. I also had my twentieth and twenty first operations in the summers of 2012 and 2013. Sadly during that time, lots of the weight that I had lost prior to Peru had been regained. Having moved to Bristol in 2014 I was not able to settle and lost the love for doing any training.
My wife, who had gone on her own story of using running as a relief from a previous relationship is currently training for her first marathon in 2015 and completed with a group of friends, the Adidas Thunder Run in July this year. Something clicked, I came back and felt like now was my time.
I had never really had the confidence to attempt to run, I had been over weight, had funny sized legs and knew that I would be slow. However I started just doing a walk run on the cycle path between Bath and Bristol. When I had previously tried to run I’d always find that the following day my hips were weak and almost felt like they would collapse. This meant I really struggled moving. I needed to persevere and see if things would feel good and if I would actually enjoy what I was putting my body through.
Over the last two months I have started to train three to four times a week, I attend a Running Course, which I adapt any drills I need to, I have gone from doing walk/run and Hiit training to being able to move constantly for one hour. The weakness in my hips seems to not be there following runs, although I still get the good old DOMS. I know that losing the weight is an achievable goal and I look forward to being able to get back into all my nice smart clothes that have hung in my cupboard for too long. I have also set myself a target of completing the Weston Super Mare Christmas Cracker 10k. Until now I have kept this quiet apart from to a select group of people that have helped me.
I have now really started to enjoy running and have the mindset that if I take things slowly, carefully and use my knowledge and determination, I know that I will be able to make the impossible possible and achieve a dream that not that long ago seemed to be out of reach.