An Australian man has become known as the COPD Athlete because of his incredible ability to run entire marathons despite having only 30 percent lung capacity as a result of an incurable and progressive condition.
This is the story of Russell Winwood, and he was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in 2011.
By that time, the Brisbane native had already turned his life around, having survived a stroke at age 36. He had given up smoking, cut down on drinking alcohol, started eating better, and, most importantly, he had taken up sports.
For years, he competed in varying distances of triathlons, from sprint to Half Ironman and even a few ultra-marathons.
Everything was going great, but at one point he noticed that his usual training felt harder and he found it difficult to breathe. That’s when he received his COPD diagnosis, along with the warning that his lungs were operating at less than 30 percent capacity.
“Being diagnosed with COPD was hard. I felt cheated because I had worked so hard to rebuild my health after having a stroke,” he told Lung Foundation Australia.
“I could have let this disease slowly suffocate the life out of me. Instead, I decided to do an Ironman event and then another, and another. Then I thought I’d run marathons around the world and raise money for charities.”
He started reading about his condition, taking the proper medication, eating well and increasing his cardio-respiratory fitness level and, just six months after hearing the bad news, Russell Winwood completed his first full Iron Man triathlon, as if to show himself and the rest of the world that he would not allow COPD to take the control of his life.
Running full marathons is quite the challenge for any able-bodied person, but even more so for someone who struggles to breathe.
Many people in Russell’s condition are generally housebound or completely immobile, and the man is inspiring millions with his ambition and never-say-die attitude.
Russell runs with an oxygen tank on his back, and always has a support runner along with him, but he still has to do all the hard parts, the running and the breathing, himself.
He compares running at 30 percent lung capacity to suffocating or drowning, but adds that extra oxygen, consistent training, proper breathing techniques will allow him to keep doing what he loves.
Images from web – Google Research