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My bronchiectasis won’t stop me from running marathons

Stuart has asthma and bronchiectasis but plans to run the 6 most famous marathons around the world. He shares what keeps him motivated.

I began running five years ago, when I was 52. I’d played football all my life and when that stopped, I had nothing to do. I was out for a walk with my wife when I spotted a group of local runners. I went home, found out the name of the club and joined the following week!

In 2015, I ran my first half marathon. I entered the ballot for the London 2016 marathon and was lucky to get a place! 

Getting my diagnosis

I started to feel unwell. I felt tired a lot of the time and getting breathless. I put it down to asthma - which I’ve had since I was a child - and working late shifts.

But when there was a big dip in my running time at the next half marathon, I realised something was very wrong. I’d also felt awful as I crossed the finish line – very faint and hot. Ten days later, I was admitted to my local hospital. I was kept in isolation for 10 days as the doctors weren’t sure what was wrong. Eventually, I was diagnosed with pneumonia.

 I had to defer my place in the London marathon - I was in no fit state to train, let alone run over 26 miles.

I was off work for 6 months. I had to defer my place in the London marathon - I was in no fit state to train, let alone run over 26 miles. I took different antibiotics and tablets and was eventually allowed to go back to work.

But I still struggled. I felt tired all the time, couldn’t sleep and had night sweats. My GP wasn’t happy that I wasn’t feeling better and wanted me to get a second opinion at a different hospital.

My new consultant decided to start again from scratch. I had MRI scans and a bronchoscopy and was given other antibiotics. Two months later I was admitted to hospital again and was diagnosed with bronchiectasis.

It’s unclear how I got it, but it’s possible that my bout of pneumonia might have been the trigger. I was in hospital for 15 days with an intense treatment of intravenous antibiotics and was discharged with a bag full of medication.

I didn’t let my diagnosis stop me

I was back in work mid-January 2017 and began my training for the London marathon. I chose to run for the British Lung Foundation as I wanted to give something back after all the problems I had faced.

Seven friends and members of family come down to support me, 2 of them surprising me the day before! It was such an amazing atmosphere on the day and seeing my family and the members of Team Breathe at mile 25 gave me the push I needed to cross the finish line. I completed my first marathon in 3 hours 48 minutes, raising just shy of £2,300 for the BLF.

Setting my eye on an even bigger challenge

It was when I crossed the finish line that I found out about the World Marathon Majors. I saw a woman with her finisher’s medal and a Six Star finisher medal and was intrigued! I found out it’s a series of the 6 most famous marathons in the world: London, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago, New York City and Boston. I was totally hooked and ran the Berlin marathon in September 2017.

At the Chicago marathon finish line

In April 2018, my health took a dip. It felt like one infection after another, with more sleepless nights.

I gave sputum samples every 2 weeks – sometimes these were infected with haemophillis or pseudomonas. It was a very tough 9 months, but I managed to run the Chicago marathon in later that year.

In January 2019, I was back in hospital having intravenous antibiotics again. I’m on the same medication, but also using a nebuliser and acapella every day to help clear my lungs.

I was back in work in February and after 6 training runs, completed the Tokyo marathon in March. I have a place for the New York marathon in November, leaving only Boston to cross off. This is the hardest marathon to get into as there’s no ballot, and I’m currently 7 minutes outside of the qualifying time.

It would mean everything to me to realise my goal

Every time I go back to hospital it feels like I’m starting from scratch, fighting my way back to fitness. But running is good for my condition and it means so much to me to do what I love. I lead a running group once a week, helping others get into running and achieve their goals. I’ve got my goal, and it drives me to where I want to be.


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You are amazing Stuart, a real inspiration to me and I am sure to so many others! Good luck with getting your dream place xx
Thanks for sharing your story Stuart, my husband as just had this diagnosis , your story is inspirational , good luck in all you do xx
Hey..a great story..I have bronchiectasis too and also like to run as much as possible..I'm doing a half marathon this weekend but just getting over an exacerbation so not sure how it will go which is greatly disappointing as training was going really knocks you back for sure but I keep fighting on.. trying not to give up Sarah

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19 July 2019