The Marathon Blog: Stroke Victim to Ultra Marathon Runner

At the time of reading this, Brendon Ojala will either be a happy, though very sore, ultra marathoner, or in hospital somewhere … and slightly more sore.

Perhaps the title of this blog is somewhat misleading. However, the facts are as follows: In 2006, Velocity Director, me, Brendon Ojala, had what was diagnosed as a mild stroke.

Comfortably embedded in my office, organising mortgages for clients, I had a sudden shooting pain in my elbow. My face started feeling numb. Over the next couple of hours I began losing movement in my face muscles and my speech started to slur. A trip to after hours, then A&E and an MRI the next day diagnosed a small bleed in my brain. So, technically speaking, we can call that a stroke (however, not serious enough for my trauma cover to pay out … but that is another story).

Apart from taking it quietly for a couple of weeks and some on-going tingly feelings for a year or so down my left side, there were no lingering effects of this event. It did, however, shake me a tad, as it was my first real brush with mortality.

I wondered if all those plans and goals I had set for my life would need to be modified. I can remember the decision I made that I would “do things now, while I could.”

I had always been relatively active but was most certainly not a runner. Nevertheless, I decided to give the treadmill in the garage a nudge.

Then I ventured out of the garage on to the mean footpaths of Berhampore and in a few months I found myself on the start line of a 10-kilometre fun run. That felt like a big, scary thing at the time.

Long story short, on 11 February 2017 I will attempt the Tarawera Ultra Marathon (a 102km trail run!). At time of writing I have two sleeps to go …  at time of reading I will be either an ultra marathoner… or back in hospital.

In my lead up to this event, I often wondered what on Earth I was doing this for.  I didn’t have, and still don’t have, a particularly coherent answer to that question. Here though are some of the things I have been reflecting on along the way.

1) One Step at a Time

The event doesn’t seem such a big deal (easy to say today) to me as it does to those I tell. I think this is because I have been thinking about it, planning it and working towards it for almost a year. Saturday will just be one more step in a process. I agree, hearing for the first time, I am running 100k on Saturday sounds kind of daunting. To be honest that does sound daunting! My plan: To run 11 short races between aid stations. I am pretty sure I can do that.

2) Doing it in a Team

Throughout the year I have come in contact with others who have the same goal and are working towards the same event. Working towards a big goal with others feels very different than doing it by yourself and this camaraderie has helped a lot.   

3) Getting Expert Advice

Following the plan my coach has given has taken a lot of stress out of the training. I don’t have to worry if I am doing the right things to achieve my goal. I just need to trust that my coach knows what he is talking about and to do what he says (that does require some discipline, but a lot of the stress has been removed—I just go back to the plan).

4) It’s the Process, Not the Result

In lots of ways, running an ultra is a meaningless goal … does it really matter if I can run 100km? Not really, to be honest. However, it’s the process of setting goals, working towards something, and achieving (or not, I guess) is a really important part of being human.

That’s all I have got.  I’ll tell you how I got on in the next blog!

Brendon Ojala is a Registered Financial Adviser with Velocity Financial. No investment decision should be taken based on the information in this blog alone. A disclosure statement is available free of charge upon request.