Simon Harris

I knew something was different. Something had changed, was it age? Was I unfit? Was I drinking too much with the effects taking longer to wear off? I wasn’t sure, but something had changed.
I have always had a busy life, work, my family; I’m always looking for something to do. I have a driven personality and my motto is ‘never give up’. If you want or believe in something enough to make it a goal in life, keep going, it will happen.
I had always wanted to learn to fly a light aircraft, as a hobby. Having experienced flight in a small plane when I was a child, as a member of the ATC (Air Training Corp) and later in life, on a few ‘Red Letter Days’. I decided to commit myself to attaining my Pilot’s Licence. Having spent some time considering the type of course, the location of the flying school and the instructor, I took the plunge and booked the first lesson. The day approached, the excitement, the adrenaline started to race through me. Driving to the airfield seemed to take an age. Finally I was there, the instructor was ready, the plane was fuelled, and we were off. Up in the clouds, I was amazed at how small everything had become so very quickly. Looking at the cars on the road network below me. Looking at the homes, the fields, everything you take as normal, the scale of it all, changes. It is those moments, which makes you realize, we do live in an amazing world.
We landed, safely and exhilarated. I completed some forms, signed up for the course and booked my flight medical. A month later I am in the doctor’s small consulting room having a very detailed examination. I am feeling confident all is fine. I train in the gym twice a week, I haven’t smoked for 20 years, and my stress levels have been significantly reduced. I’m not over weight and I eat healthily. The doctor then asked me to stand upright, feet and knees together, hands by my side, close my eyes and tilt my head upwards. I was shocked to feel myself wobble and almost fall over. The movement was so dramatic; the doctor was concerned, advising me to book to see my GP sooner, rather than later. That appointment and my subsequent diagnosis, has led me on a different journey than I had planned. Not bad, just different. I am managing the changes in my life. I have educated myself and understand the issues better. There is no cure, no pill, and no magical potion. However, there is fitness and strength, these have become my focus for my future. I will not allow myself to ever give up!
With this in mind and determined to keep the effects at bay, my energy goes towards getting fitter and stronger. I took on a personal trainer, deciding not only gym training, but overall body fitness was vital. The discipline of training keeps me focused and now it is giving me new goals. Distance running was suggested, I said NO! All my life, I have avoided any kind of running. I would never even run for a bus! I proved this by a demonstration on a treadmill at the gym. If I make 3 minutes, I would have been surprised. However, I was persuaded; a few days later I was running for 2 minutes and then walking for 2 minutes. A total 28 minutes of hell, twice a week! Then, my trainer set the challenge, ‘Lets train for the Brighton Half Marathon’. That is a long way!
It all started on Saturday the 15th October 2016 – A day that will stay with me forever. My first run was horrendous and for it’s entirety, I could not believe I had been convinced it was a good idea. The second run was equally as bad, and I was trying to think of excuses, how to get out of my third run, but the third was my breakthrough, I felt my body and my breathing relax. It still wasn’t easy, but it certainly felt better. Now, I was all in!
The day of the race is drawing closer - Sunday 26th February. I now run 5k twice a week, and a 15k at the weekend. I also do two; one-hour sessions in the gym; and my times for each run are getting better. In this relatively short space of time, I cannot believe what I have achieved. My fitness levels are through the roof, I feel amazing and I’m on target to run the Brighton Half Marathon, in about 2 hour 30 mins – not bad for a 53 year old.
My future is good. My Spinocerebellar Ataxia is part of who I am; it will affect some of the things I do. But however aggressive it becomes, I will not stop and I will not give up. I shall focus; set myself challenges and work towards a new goal. A new journey. Thank you to all my family, loved ones, friends, my running partner, Laura and trainers, without their constant love, support and encouragement, I know, I would not be where I am today. Wish me luck!

Simon Harris