This time four years ago, I was preparing to run my first ever marathon in my home city of Belfast. I have always been interested in sport, mostly football, but the thought of running over 26 miles never really appealed to me... ever - in fact I couldn't think of anything worse. Also at that time I was four years into a Multiple Sclerosis journey, I had stopped my fitness regime and packed in my football so to be frank, it was a pretty awful period in my life.
My memories of that day are all terrific. The excitement at the start line, the thousands of fellow runners, the weather - everything about that day was great. I was also taking part in a BBC documentary "Going the Distance" which was being filmed on the day which added to the experience. Four hours and thirty six minutes after the starting gun, I crossed the finish line at Ormeau park, delighted to be greeted by my family and baby girl Lilyanna. It was a hell of a journey to get over the line but a great feeling.
Looking back, the Belfast marathon in 2011 has played a very significant part in my life. I would go as far as to say that it completely changed my life in terms of how I was going to deal with my MS challenge and other important parts of the uphill journey that lay in front of me. The feeling I got from crossing the line was euphoric, and for the first time in a few years post my diagnosis, my body started to feel strong again. I started to believe in myself, believe I could actually do things like running a marathon with MS, and actually believe that i could maybe go on and lead a normal enough life. A very powerful feeling indeed.
Tomorrow I will be back in my home city of Belfast running my 5th marathon in the last 4 years. The night before a marathon is very important for lots of reasons. One of the most important parts of marathon training is that you are mentally strong and ready for the challenge. Over the past few years I have put in hours of mental strength and conditioning training so this is one of my strong points. One of the things I have started to do before my last few marathons is the night before, I actually run the actual race over in my mind. This has become a pre race mantra for me and works well. I recommend it if you can manage it. Its definitely not as tiring as the real thing..!!
Tomorrow will hopefully be a great day, and is a little bit more important for me as it also kicks off my #Against all odds campaign. This is where over the next 19 weeks i will be running 2 x marathons, 2 triathlons, a half Ironman 70.3m in Dublin, and ultimately finishing the campaign in Mallorca by completing IRONMAN in Alcudia on 26th September. Its a big effort and one where I have been preparing myself mentally now for the last few months.
A few weeks ago I was knocked for six by a flu virus. This resulted in a flare up of my MS symptoms and only last week I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make the start line tomorrow. Thankfully I got stronger last week, so I am good to go tomorrow.
Hopefully some of you reading this will feel the urge to fight back against a challenge you are currently facing in your own life. You may even start exercising, even if its to make you feel good. The benefits of exercise and eating the right food are well documented and that along with medication and a very positive approach to my own challenge, has got me back on track with my health, general wellbeing, and feeling strong again.
At the beginning of the year I thought long and hard about a challenge in 2015 that would ultimately raise the bar and take me completely out of my comfort zones. I think with this new campaign kicking off tomorrow and finishing in September, I will absolutely be out of my comfort zone.
Over the next 19 weeks my goal is threefold. 1) To raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis 2) To raise funding for MS SOCIETY and 3) Inspire others to start moving and fight back against adversity.
If you would like to donate you can do on my just giving page, and I would be very grateful for any financial support :: www.justgiving.com/conor-devine2
Other than that, please stay with me on this journey as the hard work starts tomorrow. I will keep you up to date with my progress along the way.
#AttitudeIsEverything #Againstallods #LifeChanges