The Thames Path 100k – What Have I Done

Thames Path 100k ChallengeIt seemed like a good idea, it really did.

I’ve a very stubborn mind, even with Fibromyalgia. It doesn’t matter how ill I get, I can’t turn off this competitive mind of mine. The fact that the Fibro attacks me doesn’t help. The harder it hits me the more determined I become to run harder to show it I can’t be beaten.

The reality is, I can and sometimes Fibro wins. It stops me putting on my trainers, let alone trying to run.

At the end of last year I had just set a new personal best time in The Great South Run, knocking 5 minutes of my previous time I set before I fell ill. I was on a high, a huge high. I had trained for 6 months trying to break my previous record. It was hard work, really hard work but I was in good shape. The pain was always there, that never let up but 6 months of training allowed me to live in a state of mind where I could fight it.

So having come away from The Great South Run I wanted to really challenge myself in 2015.

The passing of a family member also promoted myself and my wife into wanting to raise money for the charity that helped nurse her through her final months.

I had run marathons before and that was my initial thought but then I started to think about how possible running an Ultra marathon could actually be for a Fibro sufferer. The marathons I had run were long before I became ill so this was possibly all just wishful thinking.

After some discussions at work with a co-worker (who takes part in Ironman competitions), I slowly talked myself into thinking about an Ultra.

Looking online I found a number of interesting ones, this only helped fuel the excitement and that got out of hand.

Before I knew it, I had signed up for The Thames Path 100k Challenge. WHY?

I don’t know. There was even an option of the 50k version but even then my mind shouted at me “if you are going to do the 50k then you really should be doing the 100k”.

So I’m in training, it’s not going well and it is killing me with every step I currently take. I am getting in having run 6 miles and wondering what the hell I have done. 100k seems a very long way off and I am struggling to get to 10k. I honestly don’t know if this is beyond me or not. I don’t know if I have any chance of taking on this challenge or not. I have until September to be ready, it sounds miles off but the reality is that it isn’t.

The problem I have is that now I have signed up (and for charity) it really would be a punch in the stomach if I couldn’t take part. The Fibro would have won. I can’t let that happen. Of course I am in idiot for putting such a challenge in front of myself. Why set yourself up to fail. Running full stop should be that bonus or that “normal” I always talk about. But I’ve signed up.

What have I done.

Can I do this? Should I do this? Is this one step too far? Is this seriously something Fibromyalgia will let me do?

Time will tell. September 13th 2015 to be precise.


  • Jean
    February 20, 2015 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi There,

    I’ve been dealing with fibromyalgia now for over 20 years and relate to every word you say regarding running, stubbornness, etc. I’m so glad you’re sharing this — I’ve thought many times about starting such a blog but for different reasons have not done it – glad someone else is! I don’t know anyone else who runs long distances and also has fibro. I just ran my first ultra (50K) in October 2014 out in some pretty technical, mountainous terrain – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I won’t ever regret it. I did have a pretty big set-back afterwards; though much of that is also due to a lot of other life stress added on top of the physical stress and I had not slept really for weeks. Prior to that, during training, I would have small set-backs and have to take time off but managed to do pretty ok. I have to admit, 100K is pretty daunting; but you should be able to tell pretty soon whether it’s doable for you at this time – could you switch to the 50K if need be? Fibro is not winning in that case. I know that I can not train like any of my friends do; it takes me longer, at a more gradual pace and takes much more maintenance (diet, foam rolling, strengthening exercise, you-name-it). This doesn’t make me do any worse in a race; just takes more time to get to the start line. It is very hard to deal with the frustrations and unpredictability; but that’s why I need a larger cushion of time. Kudos to you; I totally get it; do what you can and don’t be hard on yourself or think fibro is winning if you have to back off a little and take more time. I asked myself after the 50k whether or not I’d do it again after the price I’ve paid…I know I will…and I know I always have to be prepared to pay the possible price afterwards. But it’s worth it to me. So that’s the bottom line: will it be worth the price? If so, go for it. Or maybe go for it, a little more gradually. How many people without fibro would even run a 5K, let alone an ultra?! Best of luck to you; few people know what it means to attempt this large feat while struggling with this disorder. I know what you go through totally sucks to be honest. Though it’s inescapable in general; there are those blissful moments suspended in time while in the zone, alone in nature…only time I can feel free from all that crap!


  • Susan Kolb
    June 7, 2015 - 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi Andy, I just read a post on a runners’ forum that I think you’ll find interesting. The guy is talking about running with fibro – I was diagnosed with fibro in ’95 – won’t go into it, but just know I get it. I have had great success with low-carb eating – just discovered it by trial and error, but now am seeing it linked with fibro relief more and more. (check out Peter Attia’s website and his Ted Talk)

    OK, here’s the post (hope it gives you some ideas for your Thames Path run – my husband and I just spent a month in London and I spend a lot of time on the Path) –

    “I realize I am late entering this discussion. Maybe nobody will read this, but in any case…here is my support…not my opinion…on running with fibro/lupus.
    I have been struggling with an autoimmune disease for 5 years. One rheum telling me its ankylosing spondylitis, then it was lupus, now its fibro. Why the inconclusive answer? Because my ANA will be positive with the tell-tale speckled pattern (lupus) and then it will be negative. I’ll be anemic, then not. My white cell count will be low, then normal. My TNF will be low, then normal. My ALT will be high, then normal. My homocysteine will be high, then normal. Prolactin low, then normal.

    My point is that the breadth of autoimmune disorders are not well understood in any way, even by the lead researchers. It is VERY frustrating for us patients, who can only tell the doctor the symptoms we are experiencing. Chronic and debilitating pain, stiff spine in the morning, eye inflammation, large joint pain and inflammation, heel pain…etc, and yes, its very easy to get depressed when you have a difficult time just functioning day in and day out. Regardless, I have a gracious God who has allowed me “one more day” and I will not waste it complaining and whining and feeling sorry for myself.

    So, where does someone who is trying to remain moving with fibro/lupus etc. go when the medical community has yet to fully understand the disease? Unfortunately, there arent too many answers except that you should pursue what works best for you. Here are my comments on my own experience of running with lupus/fibro….I am not a physician. I encourage you to find a qualified medical professional.

    1. See a sports physical therapist at regular intervals. Especially at the first sign of a flare point. i.e. If a knee suddenly starts hurting more than usual. Ask them to do some ultrasound with Voltaren cream. Its like magic. They will also strengthen your weak areas which will help your running form. If you have lupus or fibro you will fatigue more quickly than the average person. A better running form will help you fatigue more slowly.
    2. Hydration is more important for you than the average runner. For some reason a fibro runner seems to burn through magnesium stores much more quickly. Hydrate with no-sugar electrolytes. I make my own by mixing sea salt and a tiny bit of agave in lemon/lime juice. I occasionally use the fizzy tablets.
    3. Metabolically, fibro runners seem to have difficulty burning carbs for fuel. Focus on long-chain carbs and lots of plant-based protein.
    4. Metabolically, fibro runners also seem to have difficulty getting rid of ammonia i.e. turning ammonia into ATP (see Kreb’s cycle). Ever notice a heavy ammonia smell after a run? Minimize this by using coconut oil (ketonic) and protein (plant-based) for fuel. Also, slow down your runs.
    5. Fibro runners take twice as long or more to recover from a run than the average runner. The result of not being able to effectively remove ammonia from your system means you damage muscle tissue more than the average runner. There is really not much you can do about this except remain as hydrated as possible. Staying hydrated means more urine. More urine means more ammonia flushing out.
    6. Sleep is more important to you than the average runner. Get good rest. This can be difficult when you wake up with pain every time you roll over in bed. I take certain supplements (not ibuprofen / tylenol) to help with the pain (shea nut extract and wobenzym n).
    7. Try NOT to take ibuprofen or tylenol before or during a run, or even after. These are metabolized in the kidney and liver, which are already being taxed with too much ammonia. Taking ibuprofen will help the pain, but will make the recovery even worse.
    8. Avoid at all costs colds/flu/allergies/sniffles. Getting even a slight cold will kick your immune system into gear. Good for the average person, very bad for the fibro patient because the immune system is attacking you at the same time. Wash your hands frequently, take antibacterial wipes on airplanes to wipe arm rests and tray tables, take zinc supplements, avoid entering crowded places, avoid doctors offices and hospitals, wipe hotel sinks and counters. Ask for to-go cups at restaurants…
    9. Instead of running ALL the time, get a recumbent stationary bike and supplement your runs, or walk. i.e. Instead of doing an 8 mile run, bike 4 and run 4. Or bike 2, run 4, walk 2. In other words, save the weekends for runs over 6 miles or more. You have more time to recover, more time to sleep, more time to hydrate properly, more time to eat properly (hopefully).
    10. It doesnt matter HOW you keep moving, just keep moving.
    11. Training will take longer than the average person. I count on 18 – 20 weeks for a full marathon (yes, a full is do-able), and 12 weeks for a half.
    12. Dont run for time. Run to finish. The last time I ran the Philadelphia Marathon (full) was in 4:45. Not exactly earth shattering pace. I was at a party the next week and discovered an acquaintance had run it also…in 3:15. He and some other guys were over at another table making fun of my time. Dont let ignorant people influence your decision to remain active. They have NO IDEA of the effort and sheer will power it takes to do what you did with what (at the time) feels like a Chevy sitting on your back.

    LV Rock and Roll (half)
    Buffalo Marathon (full)
    Philadelphia Marathon (8k, half and full – 3 years in a row)
    NYC (half – 2 years in a row)
    Run for the Red Marathon (full)
    Atlantic City Marathon (full)

    Ok, re: coconut oil.
    Ketones are produced when the body converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. A primary source of ketone bodies are medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which are found in coconut oil (66%)
    Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are fats. Except that MCT are not processed in the body in the same manner as long-chain triglycerides. Normally, a fat has to be mixed with bile from the gallbladder before it can be broken down in the GI tract.
    However, medium-chain triglycerides go directly to the liver, which converts the oil into ketones, bypassing the need for bile entirely. The liver then immediately releases the ketones into the bloodstream.
    The mechanism of this MCT-ketone metabolism appears to be that your body treats MCTs as a carbohydrate and not a fat. This allows the ketone energy to hit your bloodstream without the normal insulin spike associated with carbohydrates. So in effect coconut oil is a fat that acts like a carbohydrate.

    Coconut Oil is being studied for a variety of medical issues including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclero¬¨sis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), drug resistant epilepsy, brittle type I diabetes, diabetes type II….

    Just note that different people tolerate coconut oil differently or perhaps it doesn’t have the same effect. I incorporate it into fruit smoothies, use it instead of butter on GF toast/crackers, put it in GF oatmeal instead of butter, etc.

    My rule of thumb is to ingest only those carbs that I am about to burn. So, I don’t want to confuse anyone…but, I absolutely DO eat carbs for fuel. I wouldn’t be able to run without them.
    Generally, I try to incorporate coconut oil into something every day. A little here and there (to ‘supplement’ not ‘replace’).
    Also generally, I keep a huge stock of Nuun tabs for daily use. No sugar, 1 carb, lots of electrolytes. I also make my own with a tiny bit of agave, sea salt and lime juice.
    easily digestible carbs.

    For everyday training I use “Fluid (brand) Performance” mix. I usually use SunWarrior Warrior Blend vegan protein post-run for the added protein for recovery. I try not to use anything dairy (im not vegan, but went dairy free when trying to figure out the autoimmune thing). Recently however, I started using Endurox R4 Recovery drink (Vanilla or Chocolate – they have no sucrose or fructose). It does have whey and soy protein, but I seem to be tolerating it well.

    Pre-race I carb-load for a 4-5 days, but not crazy-like. Just an extra 40g/day (an extra 12 oz of Fluid drink, and an extra spoon of brown rice). 12 hours pre-race (lunch the day before for an AM race) I prefer to load with Vietnamese Pho (I know…specific right I don’t know, it just tastes good, has a lot of liquid for hydration, lots of sodium, and lots of rice noodles) When I cant find it, I go to brown rice. The morning of a race, a dose of CalMax really seems to help a lot. I use the powder kind that you dissolve in warm (almost hot) water.”

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