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Neurology nurse teams up with Trustee to launch My Zen Run

Neurology Nurse David Thomson, who is based in Forth Valley Royal, is hitting the ground running after being inspired by one of his patients to look after his own health and wellbeing.

The 56-year-old and his wife Teri have just signed up for their third My Zen Run, a virtual challenge that brings together people of all ages and abilities from across Scotland to improve their health and wellbeing - while helping families whose lives are impacted by Huntington’s disease.

“My Zen Run has helped us to go from being couch potatoes to enjoying a much more active lifestyle,” said David.

“Last year I did 31 5k runs in one month and we’ve carried on doing much more regular exercise. It’s improved our mental and physical health to the point where I’ve signed up for a virtual marathon later this year. I feel better than I have for years, and I’ve lost more than three stone.

“It’s all thanks to one of my clients, Marie Short, who helped to set up the first My Zen Run. She encouraged me and I haven’t looked back since.”

Marie (50), who was presented with an MBE in 2019 for services to volunteering, was 19 when she tested positive for Huntington’s. The incurable neurological disease causes severe physical and mental symptoms, including reduced control over movement and a loss of ability to walk, talk, eat and swallow. It also damages thinking processes, changes behaviour, causes mood swings, brings on dementia, and leads to mental illnesses such as depression and, in some people, psychosis.

Such complex health needs often require 24 hour care, meaning the person with Huntington’s is no longer able to live in their family home. This terrible toll on families is compounded further by the reality that each child of a person with Huntington’s is at 50% risk of developing the disease too.

Marie, who lives in Falkirk, and her three older siblings all inherited the Huntington’s gene from their late father. Her brother and a sister have since passed away, and her other sister is now looked after in a care home.

Despite being symptom free, Marie knows her own health will deteriorate when the disease progresses so she is focused on keeping herself well and strong for as long as possible.

“Someone told me that the best thing I could do for my future self was to stay healthy. I started yoga in my 20s and the running came later at the suggestion of my wonderfully supportive husband. This combination has been a life-changer for me and I was keen to share that experience with other people. And so My Zen Run was born,” she said.

“As a volunteer Trustee with Scottish Huntington’s Association, I was able to work with its fundraising team to develop something a bit different for new and more experienced runners. Three years on, My Zen Run continues to grow and I’m very proud of what we’ve created together.

“It’s great to have David and Teri joining us again. They are real My Zen Run success stories because in addition to raising vital funds for Scottish Huntington’s Association, they are making some very positive and lasting lifestyle changes for themselves at the same time.”

This year’s My Zen Run is being held from 1 to 30 September 2021. Runners set their own challenge – it can be one race, a weekly target or running each day. There’s something for everyone, with coaches offering running advice and encouragement and online group support from fellow runners to boost wellbeing.

All money raised will help to support families with Huntington’s through lifeline services delivered by Scottish Huntington’s Association. These include HD Specialists, a financial wellbeing team and youth advisors.

Event sign-ups are open now, with participants asked to raise a minimum of £50 in sponsorship. They will each receive a medal for taking part and can also request an SHA running vest to help raise awareness while running. To register, please contact linda.winters@hdscotland.org or visit https://bit.ly/3cNC7YQ

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