"Running has transformed my health"

Doug Harrington explains how running built up his confidence.

Early symptoms

"I'm not sure I can remember when my asthma started. I do recall as a young teenager it caused problems for me. Exercise is a trigger and when I was young I always suffered after sports and PE. Through the next school lesson I would be struggling to keep my breathing under control, getting overheated and feeling very uncomfortable. That was in the days before the availability of inhalers. Once they became available, it helped to ease my symptoms."

My first asthma attack

"It wasn't until I was into my 40s that I had my first serious asthma attack. I was at work and started getting tight-chested. It got progressively worse. My wife collected me and took me straight to my GP, by which time I'd turned blue and was rushed into hospital. I was kept in hospital for a week."

"The hospital gave me sound advice on managing my asthma but, as the days and weeks went by, I reverted to my old ways of neglecting the condition. I suppose I thought the attack had been a one-off incident."

Wake-up call

"Then in my early 50s it happened again - another asthma attack without any apparent warning. Looking back, I can see that all the warning signals were there - I was having to use my reliever inhaler many times a day to control my breathing, I was overweight and generally unfit. I just didn't notice them because I was working long hours in a stressful environment."

"The second asthma attack was just as severe as the first and again led to a spell in hospital. This was my wake up call and I vowed that I would never have another such attack again."

Running a bit further each day

"My daughter, Sarah, challenged me to run the Great North Run with her in 2008. I remember my first training run at our local running track, where I collapsed in an asthmatic heap after not much more than a lap. But I kept at it, running a bit further each day."

"I also got into a routine with my medicine. I used my preventer inhaler twice daily, using the technique I'd been shown in hospital. Also, and importantly, as advised by my GP, I used my reliever inhaler prior to each training session. Initially, I needed to use my reliever during training, but gradually I was able to develop my fitness such that additional use during training sessions was minimised."

New lease of life

"After six months training and preparations I ran the Great North Run for Asthma + Lung UK and proudly completed it with my daughter. The following year I ran it again - this time without Sarah. In 2010 we teamed up again to run the Nottingham Half Marathon. I've since undertaken other challenges, including the National Three Peaks and walking around the Isle of Man coastal path with my wife. It's so important for me to have targets to work towards. I think I'd struggle to motivate myself to train regularly without having goals."

Feeling great

"My health has been transformed. Prior to all this if anyone had suggested I could run half marathons or undertake other such challenges I would have thought the suggestion ridiculous. Now I have the confidence, I am able to participate in and enjoy such events."

"Asthma is still there in the background and probably will always be. But it's now successfully managed."

Last updated August 2015