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! 

russ crop

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. 

Staying active

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

19 April 2017