Finish Line™ Story: Ruth Williamson
Ruth Williamson knows the meaning of torment having struggled to cope with the debilitating, chronic pain she experienced for six long years.
Now pain is a word she openly embraces, maybe even encourages.
The inevitable pain in her legs and burning in her lungs is something that puts a smile on her face when she laces up the runners for a Saturday morning parkrun.
The 41-year-old has no plans to run a half-marathon anytime soon but the joy of putting one foot after the other, sometimes a jog, sometimes a walk, sometimes stopping for a chat with a dog owner, is a simple freedom she is still coming to terms with.
“What’s my life like now … totally different,” she says with a giggle that suggests there’s more to this development.
“I was never a runner. I mocked runners. I was a ‘running mocker’. And I really enjoy it now, absolutely.”I was never a runner. I mocked runners. I was a ‘running mocker. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Ruth says the lightbulb moment happened during a session on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at POGO a few months ago.
Her ‘runs’, the first of which never reached speeds above a walk, had been particularly painful. But something changed during the third session and Ruth was bursting with surprising news for her physio Lewis Craig.
“I pretty much walked the first half-hour block. I was so unfit, it was ridiculous,” Ruth says.
“After the third I said to Lewis ‘Something terrible has happened … I like running!’.
“It is probably the first time I’ve ever enjoyed anything remotely sport-ish.
“I do that probably three times a week and then run on my own a couple more times a week, anywhere between 2km and 5km.
“It’s fun. Now my husband mocks me. He says: ‘I can’t believe you get up early and go and run’. But I always feel good afterwards.”
The other pain, the one that plagued Ruth’s life for the past six years was the result of a serious traffic accident on the Smith Street Motorway.
She laughs a little ruefully when she recalls the frustration of feeling trapped in a body that was screaming out for some affirmative action yet no one seemed to be truly listening.
“I had pain in my neck, shoulder, and down my arm,” she said.
“Basically it sat at around a six (out of 10) for about six years, fluctuating up and down.
“I had 16 epidural procedures in my neck and back to try to ease the pain. I had surgery on my elbow to relieve one of the nerves.
“No one really could tell me what was wrong. It was my neck. It was my shoulder. It was this, that and the other but it wasn’t actually any of those things.
“Up until this year I haven’t really known why I was in pain. And it progressed to the point where I ended up having seizures and basically I was bed-ridden for 18 months. It was horrible.
“I learned to keep my sense of humour because I decided if I didn’t laugh I’d cry. And if I cried I probably wouldn’t stop.”
Ruth says the pressure on husband Matt was enormous with the couple having set up their own business as well as homeschooling their two boys Sam, now 20 and recently married, and James, now 17.
“It all fell on Matt, he was amazing!” Ruth says.
“And the whole time I was trying to find somebody who cared enough to actually figure out what was wrong with me. That’s how I felt.
“I found a new GP at the end of last year who said ‘This isn’t right. Your pain doesn’t match up with what I’m seeing’ so he sent me for a different scan on my shoulder. He obviously already had an inkling of what my issue might be.
“I had a scan and they found something, after nearly six years they finally found I had a torn tendon in my shoulder. All that time!
“My doctor sent me off to a surgeon who said ‘I can fix that’. I nearly cried with relief.
“I haven’t looked back. The pain when I woke up from the anaesthetic, apart from the obvious surgery pain, had lowered incredibly. And I just started to get stronger from there.”
Before that life-changing diagnosis Ruth had become a POGO client after meeting Brad Beer. Although her previous experiences with physios had led to more frustration she was impressed by Brad’s level of compassion which was then matched by Lewis who became her go-to guy.
“I was a bit cheeky to approach Brad when I did to ask a physio question but he was gracious and after a chat said he was confident they could help,” Ruth says.
“I was really impressed with how Lewis – and I’m saying Lewis because I see him but I imagine all the POGO physios are similar in this way – he actually took the time to get to know me and how I think and how I work, what’s going to work for me, what’s not going to work, what I like and what I don’t.
“No one else I’d seen had taken the time to do that. And it has made the world of difference.
“There are some things where I say ‘that’s just not going to work for me, I don’t like it’, and Lewis will say ‘well we’ll try something different’.”
Ruth faced a long rehabilitation on her shoulder after the surgery and decided after a discussion with Matt that POGO’s 12-week Finish Line Program was the option that best suited her.
Her explanation for choosing that option was simple: “Because I know what I’m like.”
“It worked really well for me mentally because I paid up front,” she said.
“I decided if I paid up front, I had no excuse not to go. I’d already forked out and I was just going to do it.”
“I knew exactly what I was going to get. I like to be organised and plan ahead.
“From day one I noticed progress. Sometimes it was just little but sometimes it felt like … I hadn’t been able to do something and then all of a sudden I could do it.
“And that worked for me too because I like to see results from my hard work.”
Once her Finish Line objective was complete Ruth was joined on her first parkrun at Mudgeeraba by POGO office manager Libby Maxwell.
“I was so grateful that Libby ran with me,” Ruth says. “She had some great advice as we ran and she made me ring the bell to signify a PB. Well it had to be … it was my first run.
“Now, my days are much more full with things that I want to do.
“Previously I had to manage everything and if I overdid things I’d end up in bed for days on end.
“Now I feel like I have a life again which is amazing. It makes me happy.”