Interview with David Swales

David Swales began running five years ago after wanting to get fit as a result of being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. He is not the typical type 2 diabetic as he’s not overweight, exercises a reasonable amount and eats a good diet. After a 10k trail race about 3 1/2 years ago he suffered a stroke that left him with some significant disabilities, including loss of vision, cognitive problems, aphasia and memory issues. Thankfully his stroke didn’t cause him mobility problems and now mainly runs parkruns with friends. He has raised £8,500 for the Livability charity and writes a blog about his running journey.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My proudest running memory is running the 2019 London Marathon. After my stoke I never thought that I would run again. I managed to injure my foot after six miles so it was a long, hard slog but an amazing experience. I raised a further £4,800 for my stroke rehab centre. I still look back and think about how much it meant to me. There were probably very few partially sighted, diabetic stroke survivors running.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Even with the difficulties I face I can still run well. I will never be a fast runner again, as I have to keep my heart rate low but I can enjoy the challenge of a race.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I am thinking about doing an ultramarathon next year.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

Generally I plan a year ahead with key races planned. I will then try and fit other runs at reasonably short notice but these tend to be shorter in distance.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

40 miles. That was in training for the London Marathon.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

As I knew I had a 2019 London Marathon charity spot for my stroke charity I trained for 11 months with the marathon in mind. I completed a formal training plan with 18 weeks to go.

What has been your most serious running injury?

It has to be my stroke, which was not a normal injury. I hardly ran for eight months although I did the odd parkrun in that time. Mostly it was psychologically scary to run. I also had a mini stroke after another race last year and was out for about 5 weeks.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I use an exercise bike although I tend to use it when I am having a difficult cognitive day. I have to be careful when I run as I make bad decisions; I have run in front of cars before when I wasn’t thinking properly. In my marathon training I went to a boot camp to strengthen my core which was helpful.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

For me it’s about keeping me to account. I would have to have a coach that was prepared to accept that I have some unique problems. Sometimes I just cannot do anything.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is the thing that helps me deal with the problems I face, and I can tell my stroke that “you haven’t beaten me”.

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