Still A Running Man

When I was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer in May 2017, the first question I asked my oncologist wasn’t, “How long have I got to live?” It was, “Will I still be able to run?”

Thankfully the answer was a resounding yes, and to do so to stave off the impact of longterm hormone therapy, with a caveat that I needed to wait until the stress fractures of my pelvis had healed before I resumed. The following two months were at that time my longest spell out of running since I first put on my running shoes on aged 45, some 15 years earlier.

Running is a big part of my identity

In January 2017 I started training to run the Comrades ultra-marathon in South Africa. 56 miles of hell! A runners “groin strain” was hampering my training, however, so I got it checked out. An MRI scan eventually revealed metastases throughout my skeleton from pelvis to skull. It was prostate cancer, and I was given a two-year worst-case prognosis.

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. One minute I was a mega-fit 60-year-old training for an ultra-marathon, and 36 hours later I was living with an illness that will likely prove to be terminal.

Since my diagnosis I’ve tried to avoid being defined by my cancer. Ultimately what I believe defines me is being a decent man, and helping others with a beautiful and loving family. But running is a massive part of what I stand for.

Determined to still run

I’d run marathons and ultra-marathons all over the world and achieved some amazing things, given that I was a latecomer to running. But I wasn’t ready to stop doing something I love. And I realized that I could use my relative pre-diagnosis fitness and ability to continue to run to benefit others by taking on events to raise money to fund cancer research for the future generation's benefit.

So I took on another marathon, then ran 970 miles in a year (one mile for about each man that died every month in the UK of prostate cancer), completed a 100km ultra-marathon over two days, and ran at least 5km every day for 365 days in 2022. Those feats have raised tens of thousands for cancer charities.1

I was determined that I’d carry on running. Cancer wasn’t going to stop me, not today or tomorrow or anytime soon! I even qualified as a coach so that I could stay involved in running. I wasn’t going to let cancer rob me of something else that I loved.

Having to pause running due to an injury

Yet here we are, as of my writing this in January 2024, and I haven’t been able to run since August 12th. It doesn’t look like I’ll resume anytime soon, and I don’t think it’s the cancer that’s the cause.

A torn medial meniscus cartilage has stopped me in my tracks. A minor procedure to trim doesn’t seem to have helped much, and it looks like I’ll need a partial knee replacement, as of my writing this.

Potentially 18 months out of running as well as the adverse impact on activities of daily living when you have a shortened life expectancy has been very challenging mentally. I’m struggling to walk the dog, can’t play soccer with my grandkids, and have been feeling quite down about it.

I worry what not running will do to me

While running doesn’t define me, it has been a massive part of keeping me going post-diagnosis. I’d even say that I believe that running is one of the reasons that I’ve responded so well to my treatment and my cancer still remains stable nearly 7 years on.

I miss the endorphin rush of a great run. I miss running with my friends. I miss the feeling that running is keeping my cancer at bay and worry that my PSA will start rising, because I now have a much less dynamic exercise regime.

However, cancer couldn’t stop me from running, and I’m absolutely determined that a dodgy 67-year-old knee isn’t going to stop me. In the words of Arnie, “I’ll be back.” You just watch me.

Exercise is important

In the meantime, I’m still exercising. I’ve joined a gym and hate it, but it’s a means to an end, as I know how important exercise can be to men like me on longterm hormone therapy.

In closing, I’d encourage all our readers that we are all able to do exercise of some sort. It might not be what we used to do or want to do, but I think it’s still vitally important that we do. Find your way!

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