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The Daily Battle: Running with Auto Immune Disease

Crossing another finish line means Angela’s winning the battle

Angela Clark wasn’t supposed to run long distances, much less marathons and half marathons. Every morning she wakes up, preparing to battle her autoimmune diseases. In her edition of My Running Story, Angela provides a glimpse of what she’s up against on a daily basis. She also explains how she’s winning the battle with every step she takes and every finish line she crosses.

Angela Clark after crossing another marathon finish line, winning the battle against her autoimmune diseases.

Angela Clark poses with her family after crossing another marathon finish line!

The daily battle

I was a track and cross country runner in high school, but slacked off in college and veterinary school. In my third year of veterinary school, I was suddenly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease. It got so bad that, two years later, when I was an intern veterinarian working 60-80 hours a week, I had two intestinal surgeries. They wiped me out. I weighed 98 pounds, was so weak that I could barely walk around the house, and slept 20 hours a day. Nothing gave me joy. 

My mother gave me a book written by a nurse who had ulcerative colitis. That book said that we should exercise, but let’s face it, we’re not going to ever run marathons. I was not going to have her tell me what I can’t do. Four years after my surgeries I ran my first marathon. Since then, I have been diagnosed with eight autoimmune diseases with the overarching, umbrella diagnosis being “mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)”, similar to Lupus. Every day I take inventory of how I feel. There’s always some kind of combination of bone-crushing fatigue, joint pain, and swelling. The list goes on – coughing, brain fog, white fingertips due to Raynaud’s, weight gain due to hypothyroidism, opportunistic infections like pneumonia, and painful eye inflammation. I consider MCTD almost like a different person and an opponent. 

What running means to me

To me, running means that MCTD and I are going toe-to-toe into battle. Every day I’m fighting to win. Every day that I can put one foot in front of the other I’m winning the battle. This past October I ran my 20th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and celebrated the win (even though I finished two minutes before the course was closing). Even though I only run the Austin Half Marathon, I’m still winning the battle against MCTD (and just a cool and fun run in a cool and fun city!). Everybody has their own “why”, especially in the back of the pack. Thank you for asking what our “whys” are.

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Other My Running Story submissions include Kayleigh Williamson, Kirsten Pasha, Michael Coffey, Samantha Santos, Tom Hamann, and Erica Richart.

9 Beginner Running Tips to Get You Ready for Austin

Get on the right track with these beginner running tips 

Every runner begins at square one. Whether you’re just starting out or returning from a long break from running, these nine beginner runner tips will get you started. Some might not need all nine, but everyone will use at least one to get them going. Remember to have fun, running should be enjoyable.

Don’t track distance

Run on the Boardwalk to track your time, a helpful beginner running tip!

Run/walk on the Boardwalk so you can track your time and be near the water.

Track time instead. Focus on time on your feet when you begin. Start off with a time that’s comfortable for you and increase that amount over time. For your first time out, try running/walking for 15 minutes and see how that feels. If you feel fine, increase it by 3-5 minutes next time! After a few weeks when you get more comfortable being on your feet you can begin tracking mileage.

Take walk breaks

When starting out, your heart rate will increase quickly. You’re asking a lot of your body when you first begin running. Your body will adjust accordingly. Taking walk breaks will allow your heart rate to come back down and catch your breath. When you’re on your first 15-minute run, alternate running and walking every 60 seconds. The next time you’re out, run for 90 seconds and walk for 60. Eventually you’ll eliminate walking altogether!

Run in a location you’ll love

Austin runners can run on the Greenbelt, trail running is a helpful beginner running tip.

If you love nature, try running/walking on the trail when you first start out.

Love nature? Go to the trails. Like a certain coffee shop? Run near the shop and reward yourself. Enjoy being near water? Check out the Boardwalk. Running at a location you love helps you have a better experience when you first start out.

Get fit for running shoes

You’re running, get running shoes! Fit matters. You want shoes that fit your feet, provide comfort, and look good. Visit our friends at Fleet Feet Austin. They’re the Official Running Store of the Austin Marathon. You can use their state-of-the-art foot scanning machine to get fitted with the shoes that’s best for you.

Start slow

Don’t start like you’ve been shot out of a cannon. Begin at an easy, comfortable pace. You don’t want to wear yourself out or elevate your heart rate too soon. Your effort shouldn’t be stressful. Starting slow allows your body to warm up and helps prevent injury.

Track your progress

Group photo of friends before running the 2019 Austin Half Marathon. Running with friends is a great beginning running tip.

Run with friends and track your progress all the way to the finish line.

As mentioned above, don’t track distance, track time. Keep a log of the amount of time you spent on your feet. Track the amount of jogging and walking and how many times you alternate. This will inform you what your next workout should be, how much you run/walk, and how much time you spend on your feet. 

Lower your expectations

If you’re just starting out, you won’t run a 5K right off the bat. Every runner, from elites to beginners, starts at square one. Make sure your expectations and goals are attainable. If you set lofty goals and don’t achieve them you can get burned out and lose interest. Start off small and work your way up!

Listen to music you love

Make a running playlist that you’ll love! Don’t have the time? Check out our #WeLiketheSoundofThat playlist on Spotify! Listening to music you love will help pass the time, act as a timer for your workout, and help distract from the task at hand. Feel free to sing out loud if needed! If using headphones, make sure the volume is low enough to hear your surroundings.

Run with a friend who is at your level

This tip is beneficial for two reasons: accountability and camaraderie. You’ll hold each other accountable, meaning you’re less likely to hit snooze for that early morning run if you know your friend is waiting for you. Additionally, you can push one another when needed, compare training progress, and congratulate one another when you do something great!

Beginning to run can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t break it down. The benefits of running are endless and these beginning runner tips will get you on the right track.  Use them to get ready for the Austin Half Marathon or Austin Marathon KXAN SimpleHealth 5K! Did you use a specific beginner running tip when you first started running? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Self-Imposed Challenge Accepted

If he can do that, so can I; self-imposed challenge accepted

Michael ran the 2017 Cap10K after he accepted his self-imposed challenge.

Michael ran the 2017 Cap10K after he accepted his self-imposed challenge.

Michael Coffey was a cyclist. He self-admittedly didn’t consider himself a runner, even though he ran to cross-train. His story of how he became a runner is next on our My Running Story series. Coffey started out like most runners, talking with someone else about running. He believed in himself and next thing you know… self-imposed challenge accepted. Read how Coffey went from a 10K to the start line of the 2018 Austin Marathon

Not really a “runner”

My name is Michael. I never really considered myself a “runner.” I would run some when I was big into cycling, but never ran road races of any kind. This all changed in April 2017. Someone mentioned they were running the Cap10K. I thought, if he can run a 10K, I can run a 10K. BOOM!! Self-imposed challenge accepted. 

I trained for two weeks. Everyone said I would finish around 1:30-1:40. My goal was to just finish injury-free. Race day came and I was nervous. I finished my first 10K in 1:07:30 at 51 years old. I was hooked. The race day environment was exciting and special. 

Self-imposed challenge accepted

Shortly after that race, our son suggested I try a marathon. Sure, why not, I said. Self-imposed challenge accepted. While researching marathons, I found the Austin Marathon in February 2018. I immediately registered. I started training in July 2017, a 32-week beginner training plan. Training went well. In February 2018, I completed my first marathon in 5:26:09 at 52 years old. 

Since that self-imposed challenge in April 2017, I’ve completed multiple 5K & 10K races, one half marathon, three marathons, and the Trivium Hill Country 50K. I have logged about 1,700 training and race miles. I’m now in training for my first 50-mile run in November (Wild Hare) and am again registered for the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Self-imposed challenge accepted. I LOVE TO RUN😎

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Submissions will be accepted through August 16, 2020. Other My Running Story submissions include Kayleigh Williamson and Kirsten Pasha.