Life has its ups and downs and all the while God has been abundant in his grace and mercy
I was riding high during the prime of my youth with a decent job and very active in the game of cricket. Was also a very active member of our Companies (A Tata group company) cricket team. Life was very blissful until I had this nagging pain in the lower spine in the year 1993. I was only 25 years old then.
Consulted various doctors and all gave me various doses of pain killers and informed that the pain may be due to the stress and the wear and tear of playing regular cricket. With the pain killers I continued to play my game of cricket. The pain kept on aggravating and in January 1998, I had a severe bout of excruciating pain which made me totally immobile and bedridden. I was taken in a wheel chair by my wife to Bombay Hospital and was diagnosed as having severe Ankylosing Spondyloitis (AS). AS is an inflammatory disease. It is a form of chronic, progressive arthritis primarily affecting the lower spine. It is a systemic (whole body) inflammatory condition. I was under the treatment of Dr. S N Amin, one of the leading rheumatologists in the country. He informed that there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but with regular physiotherapy and appropriate treatments it could decrease the pain and lessen the symptoms
Due to fusing of the vertebrae, my spine became less flexible and resulted in a hunched forward posture. My shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, eyes were affected. I had a severe ongoing pain. I was not able to breathe deeply. I was always fatigued with low energy level. I had to completely give up Cricket which was my passion during those days. Travelling by public transport to reach the work place was a nightmare. All the while I was having high dose of medicines with my regular physiotherapy and little bit of walking. This lifestyle continued for more than a decade.
In October 2009 when our company (IL&FS) invited application from interested employees to participate in the SCMM run to be held in January 2010, a thought crossed my mind about participating in the dream run. After lot of deliberation, I decided to submit my registration form for participating in the dream run. I was skeptical about my ability to finish the dream run as I used to be fatigued by walking even a small distance. I spent sleepless night before the race day as I was not confident about finishing the 7 kms. On the race day I started with a prayer on my lips, and by God’s grace managed to walk thru the entire stretch of 7 kms. Undoubtedly, I was elated and proud over my achievement and this enthused me.
I continued with my walking on a regular basis and for the subsequent 2 years participated in the SCMM dream runs with much improved timings. Thereafter, I started walking more and defying all resistance from family and friends decided to participate in the Hiranandani, Thane half marathon which was to be held on 24.01.2013. I started my training in right earnest and dedicated more time in walking and my regular as physiotherapy. I steadily increased my walking distance and speed. I was also practicing breathing exercises.
I was only practicing brisk walking and jogging/running had never crossed my mind as I was worried about my fused vertebrae and the pain with deep breathing that occurs due to inflammation of the outer lining of the lungs.
I was confident about my preparation for the half marathon. January 24, 2013 was a big day in my life, as I was to participate in my first half marathon. It was unnerving since I was all alone and did not have any friends or acquaintance participating in the marathon for fallback in case of any exigency. The marathon began at sharp 6.00 am and from the beginning all type of alarming thoughts crossed my mind. I decided not to have any negative thoughts and with prayer continued with my brisk walking and by the grace of God completed the half marathon with a timing of 3 hours and 28 minutes. I was thrilled to pieces. It was for me a herculean achievement and I wanted to tell the world about my achievement
This achievement emboldened me and I participated in few more half marathons in Mumbai with timings of more than 3 hours. All this while I have only been walking without any attempt to run/jog. I was in my comfort zone without any attempt to improvise
For SCMM 2014, I registered for the half marathon and was determined to finish the race with timing of below 3 hours. While discussing with few seasoned runners, I was told that unless I practice running, timing of below 3 hours would be very difficult. It all comes down to one question: Will you get off the comfort zone and get in the training rigmarole to run. I consulted my doctor also who suggested that I can train low impact running with good pair of running shoes
I started my running training and initially even a 100 meters jog would leave me huffing and puffing. I did not give up on my running and put in more efforts. The extra effort required was in view of the physical challenges due to my as Steadily my distance and timing improved and before the D day, I was able to run a good 5 kms. which for me was something phenomenal. Unbelievingly, I completed the SCMM half marathon with an impressive timing of 2 hours and 50 minutes. This boosted my confidence and thereafter participated in few more half marathons with timings in the range of 2.45 to 2.50.
My next challenge is to improvise and bring down the timing to the sub 2.30 level. To achieve this, have joined the RunIndiaRun running group at Ghatkopar and I am sure with God’s grace and professional coaching, this should be achievable
Regular running training, exercise and a fairly healthy diet have all combined to help me stay healthy and today by God’s grace I am totally off medicines.
Of course none of us knows for certain what tomorrow brings but while I’m feeling as strong as I have been the past few months, and I’m able to run with only minor complications, I’m planning to stick with running for as long as I can. And especially now I hope that my running would serve the larger purpose of helping to increase awareness that AS and other related arthritis should not be a hindrance to take up running.
I’ve re-doubled my resolve to stick with running. Onward and upward! with the Almighty by my side. Races are not won by the fastest, but rather by the one that keeps hanging on, who refuses to give up. Those who persist prevail.
Benn John Jesudason 6A/403 Damodar Park Ghatkopar West, Mumbai 400086 Tel: 25003402 : Mobile 9833263788