The Unbeatable Spirit: Going the Distance with Multiple Sclerosis

In a world where challenges often define us, there are individuals who defy the odds, rewriting the narrative of their lives with resilience and determination. One such remarkable story is that of a woman who not only faces the hurdles of everyday life but conquers them with each stride she takes. Meet Bethany Turvey-Sealey, a living testament to the indomitable human spirit, as she runs the extra kilometre despite carrying the weight of a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis.

Read her incredible story below. 

1. Can you share your journey from being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017 to the decision to continue running?

After getting diagnosed with MS back in 2017, my whole fitness journey took a wild turn. I definitely wasn’t the fittest person before getting diagnosed, but I did use to strength train at the gym 4-5 times a week. It was actually one day whilst at the gym when I originally noticed one of my first severe symptoms—I couldn't see myself properly in the mirror out of one eye. Next thing I knew, my vision took a nosedive, and I almost completely lost my vision in my right eye.

I’ve always enjoyed being active, gym sessions, walks, swims, hikes—you name it. So after I’d got an MS diagnosis, you can imagine, I was really scared I’d lose the ability to be able to do any of it. But luckily for me, I’ve always had the mindset “use it or lose it” which I definitely think has been a big impact on how I’ve looked at physical activity moving forward.

It wasn't until 2021, thanks to a step-tember challenge with a friend, that I stumbled onto running. My competitive streak came out and I knew I could get more steps than my friend before work if I ran rather than walked, and I pretty much got hooked instantly.

2. How has running helped you cope with the challenges of living with multiple sclerosis?

Living with MS definitely has its challenges, both mentally and physically. But I've been fortunate enough to find that running has been a huge help in both aspects. Dealing with an MS diagnosis can really take a toll mentally—it's easy to get bogged down by negative thoughts. However, when I'm out running, I can really zone out of all of that noise and almost enter a meditative state.

And the physical benefits? They've been nothing short of amazing. When I first started running, specialists told me I'd never be able to run beyond 5km’s due to a symptom called foot-drop, which essentially makes my foot go numb and feel like dead weight, sometimes dragging it along. But through consistent running and strength training, I've blown past all expectations. I've conquered 5Ks, 10Ks, and even completed a half marathon!

3. Can you share any accomplishments or milestones in your running journey post-diagnosis that hold special significance for you?

Completing a half marathon was the most amazing thing I've ever done. The idea of running that kind of distance was something I never thought possible, especially AFTER an MS diagnosis. There's a video capturing me running into my friends arms at the finish line, and the instant tears just really nails what an achievement it was for me. All my friends were crying too, a really, really special moment, a girl that had been told she could only run 5kms, running a half mara... WILD!

4. How do you manage the balance between pushing yourself physically through running and listening to your body's needs?

Balance is always key. Whilst I'm always keen to push the limits, I do have be honest with myself and rest when I need to. I always workout or run in the morning where possible, and often have a sneaky lunch time nap where I can. Sleep is a huge one for me, so early nights and a full 8 hours is essential!

5. How do you communicate with your healthcare team about your decision to continue running, and what has their response been to your perseverance?

I’ve got to say, my healthcare team is pretty solid. Although I had a bit of a rough start with one physio, I eventually found one who was instrumental in helping me reach my goals. And my neurologist team are normally more impressed than anything else. Every appointment they ask “and how far have you run this time?”… and I always have a higher distance I’ve reached than the previous visit. It’s a fact that for people with MS it’s good to keep moving and stay fit, so I’ll keep pushing for as long as I can!

6. Have you connected with other individuals living with multiple sclerosis who share your passion for running, and if so, how has that support network impacted your journey?

It's only been since I started my running with MS Instagram, less than a year ago, that I've really begun to connect with others who have MS. It's been really good getting to forge these connections, share stories, and have a supportive community that truly understands the quirks and challenges of living with MS.

7. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into running?

START SLOW! When I first started running, I tried to become an expert within a week, and it did not work well at all! I'd say, if you're starting out, take it easy. Begin with short distances and walk when you need to. Endurance and speed come with time; don't try to rush it and end up injured—nobody wants that!

8. What role has running played in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being, particularly in the face of a condition like multiple sclerosis?

In March of last year, I fell while running due to my foot drop and broke my elbow. As you can imagine, the doctors were saying 'no more running,' friends were suggesting I 'pick another sport,' and I got really, really down about it. I spent a couple of weeks in downtime contemplating all my life decisions, and I realised that I am truly happiest when running is a part of my life, and I shouldn't let anything get in the way of that. Running makes me a happier, less grumpy person overall, so I ignored everyone and was running in a sling two weeks later.

9. Finally we have to ask, what is your favourite Blue Dinosaur product?

I’m absolutely obsessed with the cheesecake base bar. There’s something about the sweet/saltiness of it that has meant I’m eating a bar a day!
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