Multisports: Belinda's pleasure from running overcomes pain of osteoarthritis

By Peter Thornton

Belinda Wren (right) with husband Richard and daughter Kaylin before the event last year.
Belinda Wren (right) with husband Richard and daughter Kaylin before the event last year.

Belinda Wren was inspired to get back into running when her 11-year-old daughter Kaylin joined the Bay Cougars Athletics Club last year.

The 40-year-old volunteered for her daughter's age group as a marshall and watched every weekly training session and attended all her events, including transtasman and Colgate Games.

"She reminded me of how I used to be, how much I used to enjoy running and hearing myself encourage her just made me feel like I should take my own advice," said Wren.

She is not your usual athlete. She suffers from osteoarthritis - a debilitating condition that makes regular exercise a physical and mental battle.

But she has taken on her condition head-on by signing up for the Xterra trail running series.

"After being told I had osteoarthritis in my toes and bursitis in my shoulder and possibly my hips, and signs of sclerosis of the lower spine, it was like a wakeup call that I must try to keep fit and active while I am still able to do this with my family."

Off-road running has become a family affair for the Wrens.

She participated with her husband Richard - "whom I pressured into doing it with me and he even gave up his weekly soccer games to fit training for Xterra in" - Kaylin and her 17-year-old son, Jake.

"My first run with the whole family was fun, although I had said to my daughter at the beginning not to worry if she couldn't keep up and that I would see her at the end of the run ... She ended up thrashing me by 10min and coming first in the under-18 females in that run - I sure ate my words, and I was so proud and inspired again.

"I love having us participate in something as a family, with friends and having fun while keeping fit."

After running at Riverhead and Shakespear Regional Park, the family are looking forward to competing tomorrow in the third event of the series at Woodhill Forrest. Belinda and Richard will participate in the 5km to 8km distance, and hope to progress to the middle distance next year. "It is a challenge between my body and my brain more than anything - it is a crap day when you know you can do something but your body is saying, 'No, that hurts,"' she said.

In the past Wren has had "unfortunate accidents with nature", where she had a bad fall at Long Bay Park a few years ago which resulted in her having surgery on her leg.

"So trail running in particular makes me paranoid of falling again. For me this is the most difficult hurdle as the trails are often muddy, slippery or steep."

But Wren is not making excuses. She explains what it is like to live with osteoarthritis and bursitis, and how good the feeling is when she finishes a race. "Osteoarthritis is like constant pain, stiffness and throbbing or a stabbing feeling," she said.

"Osteoarthritis and bursitis are inflammation diseases. As the osteoarthritis is in my toes running is probably not the best thing to do, but there is no cure so you can't stop doing the things you enjoy in life just because you have pain.

"I just deal with it by using lots of osteo gel and taking painkillers before the event. I have just had a Cortisone injection to my shoulder and currently having physio for bursitis, so this all helps with keeping active."

Her advice to others who suffer from osteoarthritis?

"It is a mind-over-matter thing and thankfully there are good pain-relief medicines out there.

"Having a goal, such as the Xterra challenge, keeps me motivated knowing I need to keep training each week so that I can run it."

- NZ Herald

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