Manbag #17 – Why I Run

Running – it’s a simple pleasure – There’s a lyric from The Cribs song ‘Be Safe’ – ‘I’d like to take off and get good and lost in these woods for a while’ – that sums up running for me – a place I can escape to, to lose myself.

Running for me is part of my nest of mental wellbeing, a selection of items that I use to help me manage my mental health in a positive manner. So post op and with my newly acquired stoma, understanding how it might affect my running was an important part of my recovery. At the same time I was in a place where my goal in the first 12 months was to be healthy and fit so that I could have a reversal and get back to being ‘whole’ again.

So with a reversal in mind and having come out of hospital 6 days after my operation I began with a daily gentle walk. I have a watch that counts my steps, pre op I was averaging around 11,000 a day so I cut it right back and aimed for 1,500 a day. This was two short walks round the block, on the level at a slow pace, one in either late morning or early afternoon and the other early evening.

Gradually as I felt stronger I would add in an extra loop, add add an incline, building up my strength, wanting to be sure that I didn’t overdo it, keeping that ‘reversal’ goal in sight.

I didn’t start running until after I had made a decision that I thought I would never make. My goal as stated above was a reversal. But then after 9 weeks I decided to keep my stoma – essentially I realised for my mental health, my new job, the stress of a reversal was something that I didn’t need at that point in my life – for more see Manbag#9

So post decision I still didn’t start running immediately. It was still early February 2018, around 3 months post op and still dark in the evenings, back at work it didn’t make sense to start running in the dark and risk injuring myself. So I kept building up the steps, I figured that it wasn’t worth trying to run before I was back up to my pre op 11,000 steps a day range.

My first tentative run was the last Sunday in March 2018. The clocks had gone forward, there were a couple of hours of daylight after work finished so I didn’t have to rush I could take my time. Those first runs were short, nervous, tentative affairs. Yes, I was worried about a parastomal hernia but it was just getting used to this bag, just being there, attached to me but not of me. It was odd when it was empty and just plain weird with any sort of contents inside.

I was self conscious, still nervous about being in public with my #manbag. As I ran towards people I would often move my left hand down to cover my bag or pull my running top down. My bag was never exposed but I felt ‘naked’. Looking back, if there was one overriding sensation of those first few months it was this feeling of ‘nakedness’, vulnerable, being exposed, of having my new arsehole up front and centre.

Post my ‘non reversal’ decision running was my focus. There were some advantages. I used to suffer from ‘runner’s trots’ and have dived in to public toilets, crept under bushes on the fells. But now I don’t. I have only had to stop and change a bag once on a run. Although as I get in to my training and I go for multi hour runs I expect that to change.

In the next #manbag I will go in to my mechanics of running with my stoma.

If you would like to support Colostomy UK and their #activeostomates work then please go to my JustGiving page to make a donation.

To read more about why I run, relating to managing my anxiety and mental wellbeing, follow this link

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A 50 something film and digital photographer based in Kendal, Cumbria. Blogging about mental health, mental wellbeing, living with a colostomy and music memories.

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