Health

'I struggled to breathe - now I run marathons'

Ruth with her medal Image copyright Ruth Smith
Image caption Ruth after completing her first big run

Being diagnosed with asthma aged 30 changed Ruth Smith's life. She was regularly rushed to hospital with severe attacks - and just going out on a cold winter's day was difficult. But the Leeds-based mother-of-one has gone from feeling "left out" of life to becoming a marathon runner.

This is her story:

"I'd had a cough for ages. I thought I had a chest infection and went for an X-ray. But while I was there I had a really bad bout of coughing.

"I was admitted - and diagnosed with late-onset asthma. I was 30. I've been told it's quite common in women.

"Things that never affected before do now. If there's a heavily-scented candle for example, my chest goes.

"It was a shock to take drugs. I don't like taking pills, not even painkillers for a headache, but I had to try different inhalers and tablets to see what worked.

"My body shape changed, so I had to deal with that. And I haven't been able to wear my wedding or engagement rings for years because my fingers are swollen from the steroids I take.

"Once I remember I went to the park when my son Caleb wanted to play football. But I couldn't even stand and watch. I had to sit in the car. I felt left out.

'I sobbed. I'd really just done it'

"I remember my friend was running a marathon in Liverpool. I was trying to quickly get between the different points to see her - and was struggling.

"I thought - I can't live my life like this. I can't let asthma beat me. I didn't want to be known as the 'poorly person'.

Image copyright Ruth Smith
Image caption Caleb, seven, helped his mum train

"Then last year I was made redundant. I thought it was time to try to get my life back on track.

"When I was young I was sporty - I ran, swam was at the gym all the time.

"So I started by doing the Couch to 5K, and started getting stronger.

"We'd go to the local track and my son would go round on his bike while I 'moved' around it.

"And I actually thought 'I can do this'.

"I joined Virtual Runners - and started to get medals. And then I did my first half-marathon.

"I took a selfie of me with my medal. And then I sobbed. I'd really just done it.

"Last year I raised £4,000 the first time I ran the London Marathon for Asthma UK. At the moment I'm training and raising money to do it again - I'm just short of £1,000.

"But even going for a walk on cold winter days can be a struggle. The cold air stops me there and then, so I really rely on the gym at this time of year.

"Running is something I've done for me. I've pushed myself. And the exercise has helped. It's had an impact on how many times I've been admitted to hospital - which used to happen quite a lot.

"Asthma changed my life so much - but I've been able to use it as a positive."

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