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A marathon fundraiser for MS

In the second of our features on inspirational runner David Elliot, Lee Trewhela found out more about his Multiple Sclerosis and charitable fundraising efforts in the run up to the London Marathon…

You’ll hear plenty of inspirational stories as we approach the London Marathon in April, but there aren’t many people who can inspire both new and experienced runners as David Elliott.

The 47-year-old from Weston-super-Mare only took up marathon running AFTER he was diagnosed with MS in 2001.

David admits he didn’t really exercise at all before he was diagnosed and received help and advice from the West of England MS Therapy Centre in Bradley Stoke, Bristol. He was offered his place at this year’s London Marathon to help raise money and awareness for the unit.

He said: “I had quite severe pins and needles down my left arm. I had no idea it was MS. I was a typical man and ignored it, but my mum made me go to the doctor. My daughter was born two days before I was diagnosed – it wasn’t a good time.”

He admits for the first year he found having the condition debilitating, both mentally and physically, and all he wanted to do was sit down at home.

However, all that changed on the tenth anniversary of being diagnosed.

“In 2011 I celebrated having MS for 10 years by running the London Marathon for the first time. The main reason for running was to try and help newly diagnosed people with MS realise that being diagnosed doesn’t mean a life of incapacity.

” I intend to make 2011 a year of challenges to celebrate my 10 years of having MS rather than crying about it! I was 30, had a young family with two young girls. I worked all week, had Friday night curries and was relatively inactive.”

It was through the MS Trust and wife Susan that David’s new active lifestyle kicked in. She saw the Trust undertook fundraising treks to Peru, which she really fancied. David booked it without her knowledge, they loved it and it led to trips to the Great Wall of China and a mammoth trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro in 2009 for David.

“It was brilliant, but the only way of training for the altitude was by running and getting your heart rate up to 180.”

Somebody suggested he did a 10k run for MS sponsorship and his running career “snowballed”.

marathon medals
David’s many running medals

David was soon donning his running shoes and venturing out – in 2009 alone he started of gently with the Bath half-marathon (if that can be classed as gently) as well as other distance races.

“My previous treks to China and Kilimanjaro taught me a lot about sharing, and where I’m quite private about my feelings regarding MS, I feel that it is important to let others know, especially recently diagnosed (I don’t like the word sufferers) MS people, that life doesn’t end as soon as you’re given the news.

“I also wanted to run my first London Marathon for my own selfish reason to prove to myself I’m not a ‘cripple’, excuse the wording. Also I was 40 in 2011 so there was a little mid-life crisis going on!”

He believes that running and exercising has kept his MS largely at bay.

” I’ve been relatively free of any symptoms since I ran my first London Marathon in 2011.

“I don’t want to get all holistic but, basically, get out there and do exercise. I honestly do believe that running has kept my symptoms at bay. 

“I feel a bit of a fraud, having MS but very few symptoms!”

What would his advice be for people who have always fancying taking up running but have never quite had the courage to take the plunge?

“Join a local running club or meet up with a group of friends and simply get out there and do it. The first two miles will be horrible as your body won’t want to do it, but it gets easier after that.”

David runs with a bunch of mates at Milton Larder Running Club in Weston-super-Mare.

Surprisingly, David still finds it a challenge even though he’s addicted to running.

“I’ve been away all week with work and all I’ll want to do now is go home and sit down, but that’s fatal.”

David tends to run varying distances five times a week, but now the London Marathon is hoving into view, he tackled a 20-miler last week.

“Some people will take it up to 22 miles but I like to stick to 20 – I’ve got the Manchester marathon coming up with London three weeks after that.”

He’s done eight London Marathons in a row, with the ninth in sight. His ultimate goal is to get the tenth under his belt.

His best time in London was 3 hours 30 minutes in 2014.

“I’ve never been able to get near it since. I’ve accepted that now and just enjoy it. Though, it’s hard as I’m very competitive.”

His dream was always to run the London Marathon with both of his daughters – Ollie, 20, and Megan, 18. Though he counts wife Susan out – “she couldn’t run a bath,” he jokes.

David admits he gets very tired but says that could be his hectic life just as much as the MS. He has managed to move from injections of Capazone to Tecfidera tablets for his condition.

“I could quite easily get into a depressive state, but getting out there in the fresh air really helps. 

“I would say to anybody, you can do it, any goal is achievable – a 5km walk, swimming 20 lengths, running a marathon or simply getting enough energy to get out of bed is achievable as long as you have the self-belief and determination. 

“Don’t let anybody say you can’t, especially yourself!”

If you’d like to know more about the West of England MS Therapy Centre in Bradley Stoke, visit the website or call 01454 201686.

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