Learning to run again with Parkinson’s

I’m Euan and I like to run. Not that I’ve ever been very fast — my one ‘conventional’ marathon to date was in 2010 and I got round in just over four hours and six minutes.

We (that is, myself, my wife Fiona and my stepdaughter Myfi) moved to Edinburgh in late 2016. I was due to run the Loch Ness Marathon later on that year but started to experience problems.

What would happen is that after running for a short time, my right foot would start to cramp up — my toes would curl under my foot. I would have to stop and stretch out my foot and my toes, which would bring temporary relief.

The day before I was due to run the marathon I decided to try going for a short run and if the problem recurred, I would not attempt to run the distance. I ran for just under a mile before the cramping came on, so I didn’t make the start line. I wondered whether I ought to see a podiatrist and left it at that.

The following year, I started to notice that my right hand would shake when I was stressed, annoyed or otherwise emotionally involved in something. It took my mum to suggest that I needed to do something when her and dad were visiting us and we were in Dundee at the new V&A museum.

It’s fair to say that this had already become a problem for me, and I was trying to hide it — in what now seem like the most laughable ways. That is, I think, another post.

So I went to see my GP (it’s no exaggeration to say that this was my first doctor’s trip in this millennium!) in October 2018, and she suggested that I had Essential Tremor but would arrange for a variety of tests. I had researched the possible conditions that I might have and had really narrowed it down to two: ET or Parkinson’s. I was rooting for ET because it seemed to lack the ‘degenerative’ aspect of Parkinson’s but there were two things that made me think PD was more likely: one, that all my symptoms were one-sided (ET tends to be bilateral, affecting both sides) and there was no family history of tremors at all (ET tends to run in families). So, tests. Blood tests were all clear (thyroid was OK), ECG also normal (despite my inability to sit still while the nurse attached leads to my body), the visit to the podiatrist was when things started to get interesting as she was the first to suggest that what I had was all neurological, and finally I saw the neurologist in April 2019. He was in no doubt — I had Parkinson’s.

In the time since, I have been taking the standard medication for PD: carbidopa/levodopa. I have been able to continue running, the medication does help somewhat, but I have also had to adapt how I run — for example, these days I am alternating running and walking, and occasionally I resort to running backwards when my foot starts to give me trouble.

This blog is all about my journey to the marathon and beyond.

I am a fifty-something Mancunian, living in Edinburgh. I have Parkinson’s and am currently in training for the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2022.