Overcoming My Asthma Limitations: Running My First 1/2 Marathon at 46!

tattered running shoesThis is the story about a shy, unathletic, little girl with allergies and asthma who grew up to have two boys with multiple food allergies, eczema and asthma. Witnessing the courage and determination exhibited by both her boys with their medical challenges spurred her on to learn to take control of her own limitations with asthma.

Her pursuit of a lifelong dream of athleticism was born.

That little girl was me!

I grew up riddled with allergies to cats, dogs, horses (basically everything in a barn), dust, mold, leaves, grass, and pollen. I grew up with itchy eyes, wheezing, and a very tickly nose…which I now have a nasty habit of twitching.

As a child, I never owned a puffer…and if I did, I have no recollection of ever using it.

Growing up, I never fully understood why I couldn’t run like the other kids. I dreaded gym… don’t even remind me of the Kilometer Club or Track and Field! Running around outside was a nightmare in the spring and fall when my seasonal allergies were at their peak.

One can only imagine how popular I was to have on a team.

My asthma controlled me…limited me…held me back from participating in things…it became my excuse to ‘save face’.

My saving grace…swimming.

I was fortunate to grow up a hop, skip and a jump to Lake Huron. I literally lived at the beach or at a pool swimming all summer long. I was a fish! Gliding through the water I felt free as a bird…free of my asthma.

I worked hard and passed all the credentials necessary to lifeguard and teach swimming. The highlight of my swimming career was becoming Head Lifeguard and coaching a swim team  Not bad for an asthmatic.

University ensued and aerobics was all the rage. It practically killed me! Walking became my exercise of choice.

Pregnant with Michael, I kept up my walking exercise regime. Suddenly, I began feeling that tightness in my chest, that feeling like I just can’t get my breath…I was wheezing again.

Two things happened during that time that changed my health forever…my doctor prescribed me a nasal spray for my seasonal allergies and Ventolin for my asthma. I was finally on my way to controlling my limitations with asthma.

I thought I would never survive my seasonal allergies without an oral antihistamine. My doctor assured me that nasal sprays were safe for me to take while pregnant…I am now a convert and have never taken an oral antihistamine since. (before taking any medications please consult your doctor)

Taking a nasal spray for my seasonal allergies has drastically decreased my winter sinus infections. I think being proactive with my nasal spray is healthier than being reactive with prescription drugs.

From the moment I took my first puff (of Ventolin)…I realized I had been living a ‘breathless’ life. I had been so accustomed to living with asthma it became my norm. I could not believe the difference being able to breathe so freely made in my daily life.

Being in control of my seasonal allergies and asthma…giving me a new leash on life…priceless!

Walking helped me to deal with the everyday stresses of living with multiple food allergies, eczema and asthma. It gave me the break I needed so I could clear my head and come back refreshed. It was my personal escape.

Over the years, pressures from certain good hearted people being disrespectful to our values and rules, with my boys’ food allergies, began to build. I felt I couldn’t take the stress anymore…it was overwhelming.

At the end of the summer 2007, I was very stressed out…I was consummed with a stock pile of emotions. I literally wanted to run away from my problems…so that’s exactly what I did…I began to add sprints into my power walks.

Oh, it felt so good to ‘burn off’ some of those pent up emotions I had been suppressing. Of course my asthma was not too happy with this new endeavor of mine.

I discussed, with my doctor, what I needed to do in order to control my asthma. She recommended that I take my Ventolin before each run…this did the trick.

I slowly started to combine my sprints until I found myself running longer and longer distances. Not only that…my asthma improved and I found myself no longer needing to take my puffer.

And as the saying goes…‘the rest was history!’

Never in a million years would I have predicted I would be capable of running a block…let alone a 1/2 Marathon.

I run for my health, for the pure pleasure it gives me and as a reminder that I am ‘stronger’ in mind, body, and spirit, than I think I really am.

My boys have taught me a great deal about perseverance…they are my inspiration.

Who knows, challenging yourself to start walking may see yourself running a 1/2 Marathon one day! Stranger things have happened!

Tip: Please consult your doctor if you are considering starting up a new exercise regime…especially if you have asthma.

P.S. In May 2010, I ran my first 10 km race at the EpiPen Take Action Event. My time was 50:26.

In May 2011, I ran my second 10 km race at the EpiPen Take Action Event…coming in first with a time of 50:10.

Click here to learn more about the 2012 EpiPen Take Action Event.

My husband and I are signed up to run the Whiby 1/2 Marathon on May 27, 2012.

P.P.S. The Asthma Society of Canada is a great site to familiarize yourself with exercising safely with asthma. Click here to learn about taking control of your asthma and exercise.

P.P.P.S. Having asthma no longer means training to be an athletic is off limits. Click here to read an inspiring article from Allergic Living titled, “Athletes with Asthma: Elite Performers”.

Question: How do you relieve the stress that living with food allergies, eczema and/or asthma can bring?

Any tips for running a 1/2 Marathon are more than welcome! Don’t worry…I have new runners on order!


15 thoughts on “Overcoming My Asthma Limitations: Running My First 1/2 Marathon at 46!

  1. Way to go Susan! I will be excited to follow your progress. Great goal. Your tag of the epi pen event prompted me to ask… Any recommendations on how to teach a 12 y.o. child to use the epi pen? We are in the US…when or how much have you taught your sons? Thank you.

    • Hi Julie! Thanks! Just got back in from my longest run ever…just over 13 km! I feel elated! I love our EpiPen trainer. It is works exactly like the EpiPen minus the needle. Kids love practicing jabbing themselves…it takes some of the fear away as they get to touch, manpulate and familiarize themselves with it. It is also great to teach relatives and friends who will be around your anaphylactic child. I have just written a piece for The Grandparents Guide on Familiarizing Oneself with the EpiPen. It’s not up yet but will be in the near future. EpiPen Canada’s website has great videos but the best for children comes from EpiPen UK’s website. I can’t recall the age I first taught my boys…but I think a 12 year old is more than ready. I think being as open and honest about their anaphlylaxis demystifies and gives children a better understanding of who they are…which is someone very special in my books! Thanks for sharing!

      • Thanks…we do have the practice pens that come with the packs. We need to start practicing with him and feeling more comfortable with knowing he can do it. He asked me last week if we can start sticking the old expired pens into grapefruit…too funny! We have friends who had recommended that for practice. I checked out your first grandparent article…they will be VERY handy for us.

        If you want tips for the half…my main tips would be to work up to a minimum of 10 slow miles…I guess that is 16K or so?…do that at least once at least 2 weeks ahead of time. No need to go further in my experience. I have done 7 of them…my favorite longer race. I was wondering about your shoes!! Then I finally figured out runners are shoes 🙂 Enjoy your training and rest up the week of the half. Awesome asthma story…my son had just mentioned this week that he can’t run due to asthma. I have never experienced it so it is helpful to hear about it first hand.
        P.S. Enjoy your new runners! Nothing like fresh shoes to bounce along in:)

      • Hi Julie! I have a some expired EpiPens that I should get the boys to practice with on gratefruits…I have heard the same and never tried it either. Great idea!

        Just submitted my second piece to The Grandparents Guide. Will be posting a link when it is up. Thank your for checking it out! I’m glad you found it helpful.

        Thanks for all the tips! I am in awe of your 7 races! Are you training for any this year? I think runners is a British term that I get from my parents…I also get kidded for my pronunciation of ‘garage’!

        I hope your son’s asthma does not limit his activity level…see a doctor and have him checked out…asthma can and should be controlled under a doctor’s supervision.

        The runner I like, in last year’s model, is on sale but the store has had to order mine in…can’t wait…nothing like a new pair!

        Thanks for sharing! Susan

  2. That was interesting, Susan. It was nice to learn more about you… i’ve always struggled with Asthma & Allergies as well but never had anything when I was a kid, not till a few years ago did I even get some ventolin. Amazing how we struggle through until we learn that we can get asthma & allergies under control! I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you run marathons, such a great role model for your boys!!

  3. Sue, I am an instructor at The University of Akron, and I have a student who is looking to interview runners who have overcome difficulties to succeed in marathons for a magazine story she is writing in my class. She will be pitching the story to a major running publication. Would you be willing/available to be interviewed? If so, please contact me at julie AT inspiredfreelancer DOT com. Thanks so much Sue!

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