Desire will get you to set your alarm for your early morning run, but discipline will get you out that door!
In March 2019 my bowel randomly twisted itself, partly dying and leaking sepsis into my colon. After the first emergency surgery, a laparoscopic appendectomy to remove my appendix they found out this wasn’t the issue.
They found a twist in the first part of my colon (the caecum) where the appendix was removed from had then become ischaemic and necessitated a right hemicolectomy leading to second open surgery to remove a large part of my bowel and the sepsis. Within 48 hours my life had turned upside down, leaving me to retire from my football career and never be able to go to the toilet without the help of an irrigation kit and medication the same way ever again.
For the past three years I have worked with many professionals across the NHS and through private practices to improve the strength of my remaining bowel and ultimately bring me SOME form of quality of life. I have had endless MRIs, X-rays, intrusive procedures, Ultrasounds and CT scans leaving me weaker, more clueless and ultimately near breaking point. THESE have been the hardest few years of my life!
After searching for more professional help through a private consultant and clinic in London, and through the help of my much-loved family who were able to support me with the costs, since working with these professionals my quality of life has become much better. I have worked with a dietician, bowel specialist, and surgeon to get me to a point where my bowel and body can support me in a way that helps me to enjoy exercise and certain foods again, however it does still come with heavy limitations that unfortunately I now have to consider as my norm.
Being an ex-pro footballer having played in America and for my country Wales and clubs including Birmingham City, Shrewsbury Town, Coventry City, Coventry United, West Brom, and a few more, exercise WAS always a huge part of who I am, and what I do. Realising my body could never support my profession again, I turned to running as a form of therapy and release.
From lockdown I started off really slow, usually with little Oreo – my dog by my side, but as my confidence and strength grew so did my love for this sport! Fast forward to February 5 th 2023 I ran the RunThrough Warwick Wigley half marathon beating my PB by OVER 10 minutes for a 1:34:13 finish! The week after the race my body really struggled and my bowel was horrendous, BUT I was beaming from ear to ear because I ran that race to raise money for my late mother-in-law who sadly lost her battle to Alzheimer’s in 2006. I managed to raise over £800 for the charity, and I knew she was in heaven smiling down on me, beaming with pride.
THIS IS LIFE! Running because you love it, but also because even though you may have been through or are going through hard times, emotional times, and times you think you will never come out of, there is ALWAYS hope, there is always something else out there that can bring you joy in the dark times, and the running community has helped me to realise this.
My body may not be able to achieve the levels of brilliance and excellence that it used to, I may not be as strong or as fast as I used to be, but boy am I more resilient, mentally tough and most importantly – unbreakable!! I still struggle with my bowel and always will, and this means I have limitations that I must consider every time I choose to go out for a run, but ultimately, I am getting stronger, faster and more passionate about my movement!
I wouldn’t say I’m proud of myself, I suppose I expect it in a way. What I’ve been through has made me tougher mentally and physically, but also determined and resilient to be the best I can be and to reach every goal I set for myself. Gina-Burton isn’t finished yet, the goalposts have just moved that’s all. Here doesn’t mark the end of my running journey, heck I’ve only just begun. Just like adding words to paper creates a book revealing the next stage of a story, so does each step that I take along these pavements creates a new chapter to the next page in the story of my life.
Instagram – @ginaburrton