I'm running the marathon with COPD, for those who can't
Russell is an Australian athlete living with COPD. He's running the London Marathon this year!
Ever since I was a child, I've suffered from asthma attacks. The older I got, the worse I felt.
It reached a point where I was getting endless chest infections and prescriptions for antibiotics. I couldn't keep up with my friends while out cycling.
Eventually, I pushed my doctor for more answers, and they sent me to a breathing specialist. They gave me some spirometry tests. That was when I discovered I had severe COPD.
I didn't take the news well. I'd had a stroke a few years before, when I was 36, and had spent years rebuilding my health. I was devastated.
I knew that the outlook for severe COPD wasn't good. But thanks to the support of my friends and my very determined wife, I didn't give up.
We decided to fight COPD together, and aim to live the best life possible.
I had been pushing myself to stay active after my stroke. My son Curtis is a cyclist, and he kept encouraging me to cycle with him (although I think he just wanted to torture me!)
My fitness improved, and a friend somehow talked me into training for a triathlon. Despite my COPD diagnosis, I signed up to do an Ironman event.
It was very daunting and in hindsight I can’t believe I signed up for it.
But I've always loved a good challenge, and the chance to compete in one of the toughest endurance events in the world was just too appealing. Through all the training, I had no idea if I’d be able to finish the race. But I did.
When the day arrived, it was an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I learned a lot about myself.
Ironman has a cut-off of 17 hours. I finished with 8 minutes to spare!
It's still a challenge
The biggest challenge I have with every race is, of course, my breathing. But over the years I have learnt how to control my breathing better in races, which has allowed me to become quicker. It’s still a challenge, though.
It’s like permanently breathing through a straw.
However, since that first Ironman event, I’ve competed in events all around the world. I ran the New York Marathon in 2015, which was exhilarating. I have no doubt London will be the same.
Flying the flag for people with a lung condition
I like to use my running to raise money for research into lung disease, so running for the British Lung Foundation was a no brainer.
Sometimes I do feel down, and exhausted. But then I think about people who live with their condition, and how they approach life.
It inspires me to keep going.
I know I'm one in a million, and most people with COPD can't do what I do. I constantly think about those people when I run.
I run for those who can’t. I feel so privileged to run for team breathe!
If you’re inspired by Russell and would like to take on the London Marathon in 2018, apply for a place to join team breathe.
Russell's tips for race day
- Make a checklist of what you’ll need on the day
- Go through your checklist the day before the race
- Wake up early and prepare well
- You’ll be nervous but everyone is
- If you make the start line then you’ve done the hard work
- Be confident in what you’re capable of
- Enjoy the day!
- Most of all, be safe