From the hospital bed to the finish line

As most of you no doubt know, last year I had a medical issue which ultimately required an operation. On Friday 14th of September 2018 I went into hospital for what I naively thought was just a simple medical procedure to look into the blockage between my right kidney and my bladder. What I didn’t realise is that I would not be able to run again for over 3 and a half months. For those of you that have read my previous blogs then you would appreciate that this would be a very big deal for me.


When I left the day surgery unit back in September, I left it with a nephrostomy bag attached to my right kidney and another bag attached to my leg. This was going to be my life for the next two months. As I left the hospital trying to get my head round the knock on effects of this procedure, it soon became clear that going back home and caring for myself could prove tricky. I was also due to go to Spain on holiday a few weeks later and had a half marathon in the diary for October. Having talked everything through with my parents we decided the best and most practical thing for me would be to move back in with them for the time being. Fortunately they don’t live very far from me. At this time I was still in some discomfort from my procedure and feeling a bit down about things. I had to be honest with my parents and say I don’t feel confident in going abroad in my current medical condition as I didn’t feel like I would able to enjoy myself whilst worrying what happen if something went wrong. Fortunately we were able to re-arrange the flights without too much additional expense and our accommodation was an apartment owned by some friends and they were very sympathetic to my situation.


At 37 years of age it is a very humbling experience to have to move back in with your parents, especially when your dad has to help you wash yourself so that the nephrostomy bag didn’t get wet. He also had to help me swap between my day bag on my leg and my night bag. I’m really not sure what I would have done without my parents support during that time. I also had to ask my employer if he was OK with me wearing casual looser fitting clothes as my normal work suits were not really practical with having to wear the bags. Thankfully my employer has been very understanding throughout this whole experience allowing me to arrive a little later in the morning and leave a little earlier in the evening.

Injury 06

Whilst I did stay in contact with my running buddies and club mates going along to parkrun or supporting them in races, watching others run when you can’t is difficult especially when you don’t know when you will be able to run again. It was a challenge and it did get me down at times with a couple of my friends noticing that I seemed a bit down and quiet when they spent time with me. Thankfully I found out that I would be having my operation on Wednesday 14th November 2018 which would hopefully resolve the issue once and for all.


I was told that they were hoping to perform keyhole surgery to remove the blockage which would require 2 weeks off work although they never actually know what surgery will be required until they get started. Apparently in some rare cases they even need to remove the kidney! Thankfully when I woke up a few hours after my surgery I was told that they had been able to perform keyhole surgery and that the procedure had been a success. Despite the surgery being successful I was in a fair bit of pain and feeling quite groggy. According to my parents I looked pretty rough that evening when they came to visit me!


Despite being in some pain and barely being able to get out of bed never mind being able to walk, there was at last some light at the end of the tunnel and I could think about slowly getting back to some form of normality. I spent three nights in hospital and was finally able to leave on the Saturday evening. Whilst still taking various pain killers and having to inject myself every day with blood thinners, my mind was in a much happier place. I was told it was important to keep mobile so most days over the next few weeks involved either walking slowly around my parent’s living room or a very gentle walk around the block. I had been told that until my stent had been removed or wasn’t able to do any significant exercise. Thankfully my stent was removed on the 13th December and I moved back home a week later.


Two weeks later I decided that Saturday 29th December 2018 would be my return to parkrun, six weeks to the day after I had been discharged from hospital. I decided that I needed to be sensible and adopted an alternate walk/run approach for each kilometre finishing in a respectable 34:13. It was great to be back running again even if I was hideously unfit. It was also great to see everyone again and to be welcomed back into the parkrun family. At that time my only running was parkrun but over the next month I was at least able to move onto running the whole 5km and by the end of January 2019 I was able to clock a time of 26:21. This gave me the confidence to start running on a Sunday so I began with what felt like the hardest and slowest 5 miles I have ever run. However one of things I like about running is that if you work hard eventually you get your rewards, it’s quite honest in that respect.

By mid-February I then felt that I was ready to return to club night at my running club, 5 months after my last club session. My dilemma was whether to try and run with my usual group which is group 3 or take things steady for a bit with group 4. In the end I compromised and did a shorter session with group 3 and felt OK. However the next few club sessions were going to be a humbling experience for me and I soon came to realise how much hard work I still had to do to get back to fitness. At full fitness I am normally towards the front of my group, but now I was at the back and by some distance. Not only was my lack of fitness clearly apparent, the improvements of my fellow group members were also clear to see. Thankfully the various run leaders at those sessions ran with me to keep me going and offer me encouragement along the way which I am hugely appreciative of. I knew it was going to be hard work to get back to full fitness so I knew I was just going to have to keep working hard and grit it out for the time being.

It was around this time that I had my breakthrough moment following a Sunday run. I had originally intended on running 7 miles, however around 4 miles in I was feeling good and decided to continue with my run rather head towards home. I ended up running 9.6 miles that today, but more importantly I felt OK at the end of it. I was so happy, I really didn’t think that I would be able to run that far at this stage of my recovery. I had previously decided that a spring half marathon would be too soon for me, however after this run it got me thinking. The Solihull half marathon was 7 weeks away so I decided that I could be ready after all and signed up for the race which was going to take place on Sunday 7th April 2019. Over the next 7 weeks I kept plugging away and the club runs slowly started to feel a bit easier, the parkrun times kept coming down (23:57) and by running with others I was able to build up to my longest run of around 12.5 miles.

So now it’s Sunday 7th April, race day. Training has gone well although in the week leading up to the race I had a few small obstacles to overcome in the form of insect bite on my leg and what also feels like the beginning of a cold. However neither issue was significant enough to stop me from running. As race day drew closer I had been thinking of what sort of time I might be capable of and decided that sub 2 hours could be achievable based on some of my training runs at a similar pace, plus I always tend to notice that you can find a bit extra when you are in race mode. It was a cool and dry day so ideal running conditions. I started off at sub 9 minute miles whilst trying to convince myself that I didn’t need a wee!

SHM 01.jpg

The first half of the race went according to plan and I felt OK and I was on for my sub 2 hour finish, however when I got to the 8/9 mile mark I was starting to find it hard work. At this point I knew that I might have to settle for something over 2 hours. Normally this would disappoint me as this is a course that I have run sub 2 hours on both previous occasions. However as a wise lady once said to me, sometimes it’s about “finish lines, not finish times”. Given my circumstances then this would be one such an occasion. So I kept going albeit a bit slower than planned and then as I entered the last few hundred metres one of fellow club members who had already finished his race kindly ran alongside me offering me some much needed moral support to get me over the line. In the end I crossed the finish line in 2:02:04 happy but knackered!

SHM 02.jpg

SHM Result

The comeback may not be complete just yet, that will take a few more months. However yesterday certainly feels like the end of this chapter. Now all that is left is for me to say thank you to everyone who has supported me during the last 7 months and to those that helped make yesterday a reality for me.


Twitter: @bobbystew1


Instagram: @bobbystew13


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