My journey from being an asthmatic patient to becoming a marathoner.

By September 11, 2019 No Comments

Asthma is one of the most restrictive conditions for runners, but this marathoner conquered it and now races across courses around the country.

A bronchial asthmatic patient by birth and a condition that runs in the family, led to me taking frequent visits to hospitals. I’ve been on all sorts of anti-asthmatic drugs to treat the condition right from my childhood, but all in vain. I was very hesitant in doing any strenuous physical activity, fearing that even a little exertion on the lungs would lead to severe wheezing and breathlessness. As a result, I channelled my focus on academics and my sporting dreams bit the dust. Whenever my friends or colleagues talked about running, swimming or the gym, I used to keep myself out of the discussion thinking, “Workout isn’t my cup of tea”.

2016. I had just discovered something called Distance Running when a friend posted a picture on Facebook showing off a finisher medal after a 10K run. It was at that moment that I decided to learn all about these runs and give it a shot myself – you never know, I might get a medal too, I thought.

Like with everything new in life, you’re always faced with a million questions the moment you make a big decision –  “Is it ok to start running at the age of 40s? Being Asthmatic, will I be able to sustain a long-distance run? A paediatric dentist is a full-time job, will I be able to squeeze in the time for “Running”?

While these questions played in my head, I decided to give it a shot with a heap of determination and registered with the Jayanagar Jaguars running group, through a friend of mine who was already training with them.

The start of something new.

I stepped out of my home with running shoes on and an inhaler in my pocket. I still remember my very first day with Jayanagar Jaguars, where I was asked to do a 4K walk and I found it a tad bit hard to complete. For every 500M, I was forced to use my inhaler to ease out the congestion in my lungs and to be able to breathe with ease. Two weeks into training, I was asked to do a jog, and it’s was then that the real problem started. After I ran for about 300-400mtrs, I went breathless and was forced to use my inhaler and could only manage to walk the rest of the distance. After having struggled for 2 months, I decided to consult with my physician who recommended I do the prophylactic inhalation (puffing up before the run). It did help me a fair bit and I could run for about 3-4K nonstop over time. I continued with this medication knowing that steroid usage was not the best for me as I didn’t want to give up running.

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In May 2016, I registered for my first ever event – the TCS 10K. I was worried about my pace but I remember the coach telling me, ”If breathlessness is an issue then don’t you worry about the pace but just focus on completing the distance”. Come race day, I set off to the event and followed my coach’s advice and it worked. I finished the race breathing freely and using the inhaler in between the race. This was hugely motivating and slowly running became an addiction. Following this, I managed to complete 2 HMs that year.

In 2017, I had to deal with a couple of minor running-related injuries. Through the recovery period, I couldn’t stop thinking about every runners’ favourite topic – Personal Bests. During this time, I was under some pressure from family and friends to quit running but I pushed on and never gave up. I went on to complete the Bangalore and Mysore HMs with some valuable inputs provided by Coach Pramod.

Twist in the tale.

The Goa River Marathon in Dec 2017 was a turning point in my running journey. I was able to run the entire distance with just one puff-up and it only got better when I finished my TMM without having to inhale.

Despite being regular with running and strength training, I felt that I could do better but something lacking that was restricting my performance. Soon I realized that it was the lack of proper nutrition which pushed me to sign up with a nutritionist. I was given a proper diet plan specific to running and followed it diligently which resulted in a toned body and also losing a few extra pounds.

Procam-Slam. A Must try.

I had new dreams now – achieving a Sub-60 for a 10k, a Sub-2 for an HM and experiencing the joy of running my first 42K at the age of 42 (all this without my inhaler)!

2018 – 2019 was a year of pursuing my dreams and making it come true – It was a year of PBs. I achieved the Sub-60 and Sub-2 in the 10K and 21K categories and less than 3 years, I happily graduated to being a marathoner (completed in 04:39hrs in Jan’2019) injury-free and most importantly without my inhaler.

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Furthermore, I completed the 1st Edition of THE PROCAM SLAM 2018 – 2019 (TCS World 10K, ADHM, TSK 25K, and the TMM).

With Procam, I remember another incident which I would like to share. As part of the Procam Slam, I had to complete the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Many from my friends circle raised concerns about the weather and the infamous smog that may have adverse effects on my respiration. It was 15 days to go for the event and I was in 2 minds – should I or shouldn’t I? I decided to talk to my coach and he gave my confidence a huge boost by saying, “Doc, asthma is a thing of the past for you. Go ahead and run Delhi. You will be fine and you will achieve your target.” It was these words that pushed me to the finish line, conquering a Sub-2 HM.

Looking back

Looking back at my journey, I feel so blessed for being successful in achieving these milestones. My usage of medicines and inhalers have drastically reduced over the years. I haven’t been hospitalised, and neither have I got nebulised, which was a common affair in the past, especially during monsoons. I must confess, running has changed the way I look at life. It has not only improved my overall health but also helped me in becoming mentally strong and stable and in my overall personality.

Honestly, any problem that I may have to face in life, I would like to do it the running way.. i.e. conquer it mile by mile, aka step by step, thereby solving it. This is one of the main reasons why I’m addicted to running and never missed a single training session.

I believe that, with passion, strong determination, following a structured training, and eating healthy, I was able to achieve this even with a late start at 39yrs of age.

Running has become an integral and inseparable part of my life.

I’m now training for my 1st Ultra Run – Pune Ultra event planned for November 2019.

My final take – take up running as a fitness routine, which helps in maintaining overall health adding happy years to live.

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Dhananjaya Gaviappa

Dhananjaya Gaviappa

Dr G. Dhananjaya is a consulting Pediatric Dentist and Professor and Head Faculty of Dental Sciences at M.S. Ramaiaha University.