Attempting Round the Bays with Fibromyalgia

On Sunday 18 February I did the 6.5km Wellington Round the Bays. Easy for some, not so much for me. Let me explain…

“You should only run if you’re being chased or on fire”. That was how I viewed running for a long time, yet when I was a kid, my family belonged to a running club.

We’d go every Wednesday night and some weekends. No fire involved. Occasional chasing.

I was active in dance (ballet, jazz, character), hockey, and drama around this time too, but as I got older, I stopped running. It became a chore. Something you did when you had to. I remember being made to do a 5km “fun run” with school when I was about 12. I hated it.

I’ve done very little running since. Then I stopped playing hockey. Stopped dancing. Eventually stopped acting. And in my twenties I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.I’ve gotten used to Fibromyalgia over the years and am much better with managing my condition. I only take painkillers when necessary and no sleeping pills. I have pain all of the time, that’s never going away, but “brain fog” is much better. The odd word is lost which can certainly be frustrating, but usually only when I am heavily fatigued.

It might sound like I’m not active these days, or that Fibromyalgia was a reason for me to give up activities, but neither are true.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t affect my work. In fact, because of Fibromyalgia I am probably more aware of my body and its requirements and stresses than many.

I mostly gave up other activities because I became too busy with my career. I started working in radio in 2005 and it consumed a lot of my time, but I was very active. It’s not just sitting in a studio talking on a microphone. Usually I would be at a stand up desk, then rushing between studios and different departments while my show is on air, and it kept me on my feet (literally and figuratively!) as well as having me out and about in the community.

In 2016 I started working for Wellington Rugby Football Union and the Hurricanes. Also active. Sometimes in extreme doses. I remember through the Super Rugby Finals we didn’t have a day off for three weeks. It was chaos.

As for running, I did occasionally attempt it again. Never enjoyed it though. So instead I took my place on the sideline to cheer others on in their running. A much more comfortable place.

And I was good at it too. As an MC I cheered on runners, walkers, swimmers and cyclists. I encouraged athletes at triathlons and half marathons, and even little athletes at “Try” events.

But this year I somehow ended up in a routine of active Sundays, walking some of the best tracks in the lower North Island. Last month ads started appearing everywhere for “The Color Run” (5km and a whole lot of colour). Sounded fun, and it was on a Sunday, so I signed up. Sadly this event has since been cancelled due to lack of interest.

Next came promotions on Facebook for Cigna Round the Bays in Wellington. This too was on a Sunday. I checked out the course and saw the 6.5km started in the city and took you around the waterfront to Evans Bay, ending in Kilbirnie Park.

I knew Les Mills were involved, who I’d dealt with regularly through the rugby teams, and I had earlier considered volunteering to support them. As I looked at the course less than a week out from the event I considered that this winding path around the waterfront was something I was likely going to do further down the track, so why not do it as part of an event and maybe get a medal?

Kiwi Guardians
Meant for kids, I got this medal for doing the Manawatu Gorge Walk!

There was no medal.

I signed up for the 6.5km run/walk the week of the event and learned before I’d hit the “submit” button that the medals were reserved for the Half Marathon runners only. Even if I wanted to attempt that, there were no spots left by the time I entered. Or for the 10km either. Popular!

It was too late to turn back; I was committed. So I submitted my details, hit “Going” on the Facebook event, and my sister decided to sign up too.

My sister does these kinds of events often. Usually with no training, she’s run a few Half Marathons, while I’ve done none, so I was planning to walk it.

As we were also planning to see Black Panther (again! Love it!) after the run, I looked up on Google Maps to see roughly how long it would take to complete the course: about an hour and a half to walk it suggested.

The event for the 6.5km started at 9.15am, with racers encouraged to be there by 8.45am. My sister was travelling from out of town so I arranged to meet her there.

Whenever I plan to do a lot of activity, I need to take precautionary medication, in this case 75mg Diclofenac Sodium with breakfast. I’m not a big breakfast eater, so let me tell you, forcing yourself to eat when you don’t feel like eating is the worst. And before I took my pills and started any activity, I noticed pain in my back, which only got worse before I’d even left home.

I limped the 15 minute walk to Frank Kitts Park to meet my sister and lined up at the Start line, both disappointed and frustrated that I had pain before I’d even begun. How unfair. The first time I’ve entered an event like this, and I was struggling to walk at all.

img_6050

The pain meds I take are slow release, and it was half an hour before I noticed pain starting to ease. My sister lined up with the runners (sub 45 minutes time) and as I looked at the large group of walkers, I instead decided to line up with the joggers (sub 1 hour). Not really sure what I was thinking, but it felt like the right place to be.

We were led through a warm up which triggered my back pain again (“Don’t you feel better?” the announcer called at the end of it. ‘No, actually,’ I thought). Just before 9.15am everyone squished closer together, a countdown was called, and we were off.

Our group walked slowly until we reached the start line where we began a group jog. I figured I’d jog the first part and then walk the rest of the way, moving over to the left as instructed by the MC. But jogging felt good. My back was more comfortable in a jog, and I was moving faster than many (especially the walkers that started in the middle of the Elite pack…) so I kept going.

Map-RTBAs I began to tire, I found myself listening carefully to my body and seeing how far I could comfortably go. Until the traffic lights, until the corner… I ended up jogging all the way to Freyberg Pools on Oriental Parade. Eased to a walk, and then jogged from one pedestrian crossing to the next. If it felt good to jog, I did. If it felt good to walk, I did.

I had put my phone away and didn’t wear a watch so I had no idea what the time was. I saw some athletes walking back who had already finished. Whether they’d done the 6.5km, 10km or Half, I wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter, I was on my own journey.

I enjoyed seeing parents encouraging their kids, and motivating them in all kinds of unusual ways (including catching them up, and mocking how slow they’d gotten!) as well as the local support around the Bays from those on microphones and with water hoses, and generally cheering everyone along. The atmosphere was of real community spirit.

img_6065As I rounded Evans Bay and Kilbirnie Park came into view, we were joined by runners and walkers from the other events and I kept an eye out for my sister, who I knew had finished ahead of me. As we entered the park I went back to a jog and crossed the line at 57.36 which I was happy with. Anything under an hour I figured was a good time for me.

I texted my sister, who had been looking out for me but somehow missed me going by, and we met up while I ate bananas and drank Pump water. I wanted to wander around the grounds and check out what was there and we agreed to stick around for the spot prizes.

img_6066I signed up for nutritional information and then practically dragged my sister over to the Micro Scooters tent. I’d seen their store in town, and scooters in Rebel Sports, and always looked on enviably as people scooted about the city on their way to work or adventure. We quickly learned there was a competition to win one, so I took a photo for Instagram and chatted with the staff.

We did a loop to look at food before settling on a patch of grass back from the stage to enjoy the live music. Once the event wrapped up, it was onto the free buses to take us back to Courtenay Place. We had another long walk ahead of us as my sister’s car was parked at Westpac Stadium and had to be moved by a certain time. After parking at the top of Kent Terrace we had to walk back to Courtenay Place for lunch (and more meds) before seeing Black Panther at Reading Cinemas.

img_6090The whole day was brilliant. My sister was a lobster-shade of sunburn but happy with her time of 41.33. I discovered later that night that despite wearing sunblock I too was sunburnt, but only in strange markings across my back that looked a bit like wings thanks to my sports bra and singlet.

My legs were a little sore the next day and I was fatigued most of the week, but the event was overall really positive and the support I received from friends and family was lovely.

Then four days later, a message on Instagram revealed I’d won a scooter from Micro Scooters at the event! I picked it up that afternoon so I could thank them in person, and used it the very next day to get to and from work.

Cigna Round the Bays was a great event for me in many ways. I realised jogging isn’t that bad, and really enjoyed the environment of the event. And that with medication I can handle this – maybe even a further distance and better time.

So while I’m already looking ahead to my usual Sunday walks and journeys to new places, I’m also keeping an eye out for other events to take part in. Ones with medals! The Porirua Grand Traverse maybe? The Wellington Marathon, perhaps? The Auckland Marathon? Yes. And for a good cause (please donate!)

Until then, I’m going to ride my new scooter thanks to Micro Scooters and recover from the fatigue still coming in waves. If you want to see what I get up to next, I post regular updates of my journeys on my personal Instagram as well as Wellington Pictures.

And if you have Fibromyalgia, or another condition that makes this sort of activity tough, continue to look after yourself while testing your limits in small ways. You know your body better than anyone so if it feels wrong, it is wrong. But keep testing as you never know what could become right.

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