Searching for a bit of inspiration? Read some of our stories below - proof that you really can do it!
Jonathan - what a difference a year makes
Jonathan Ball raised money for NASS in 2010 taking part firstly in the Great North Run in September with his wife and sister before taking on the New York Marathon in November. Here is his story.
It all started with a swollen knee. Having just returned from a skiing holiday in January 2003 I put this down to overdoing it on the slopes. When the problem persisted and prevented me from doing any other exercise I thought it was about time to go to the doctors.
After months of going backwards and forwards from the hospital it was one of my consultants that noticed limited movement in my neck which sent us down a different route. A month or so later I was diagnosed with AS.
From being an active individual who loved running, skiing & surfing the condition left me without the ability to do anything....... or so I thought! Six years later I was on crutches watching my sister running the Great North Run an event I'd previously enjoyed participating in I wondered if I would ever be able to do that again.
In September 2009 I started on new medication etanercept - the sixth type of treatment I'd tried. After only a few months I started to really feel a difference and the flare ups became less severe. This combined with regular physio also improved the movement in my neck and spine.
By the start of 2010 I started light jogging and entered myself into a couple of 10k races. In September 2010 I completed the Great North Run (GNR) with my sister and my wife in support of NASS. This definitely gave me the bug again.
Following my success at the GNR and feeling fit and well I decided I wanted a bigger challenge and another opportunity to raise some funds for NASS. I entered the New York City Marathon.
My continued treatment of AS with etanercept injections allowed me to carry on with my training with limited setbacks and I completed my first marathon in November 2010 in 3h 30mins.
If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would've completed a 5km run never mind a marathon I wouldn't have believed them. The body is an amazing thing.
Raj - the man who took on Bob
Raj Mahapatra loves a challenge and in June 2010 he took on 'Bob' - the Bob Graham Round.
For those of you who don't know the Bob Graham Round is a long distance, multi peak challenge involving 70 miles and 42 peaks. If that's not enough for you, the aim is to do it in one day. The combined ascent is just 1,000 feet short of Mount Everest and Raj chose to run it.
Raj was diagnosed with AS when he was a young man. This is his story.
"Twenty years ago I went through a two year spell when I was on crutches unable to walk. I spent a further 3 years unable to run. I later was diagnosed as having AS. It gives me a tendency to repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis and the like. I was diagnosed moderate exercise."
He may have been diagnosed moderate exercise but Raj chose to ignore this and take on Bob, undergoing 8 months of rigorous training.
Although he did not manage to finish it, completing around 40 miles, this is still a massive achievement for Raj and we guess what? He's trying it again in 2011!
Raj has since impressed so much that he was invited to speak at the recent AStretch conference in Manchester about just how he managed!
Duncan - defying the odds
Duncan Ellis and his friend Tom Harvey raised over £4,000 for NASS in 2009. Duncan has AS and told us of his experiences.
"My background with the disease was following a work placement in India for 8 weeks, I was very ill with 'Delhi Belly' through a number of gut infections. This evolved into Crohn's disease and the onset of worsening back pain. Having been through numerous doctors offices and not had a diagnosis for SIJ pain, things went from bad to worse. Pilates and physio was of limited help but swimming gave me some relief. In July 2008 after debilitating pain, I was finally diagnosed with AS. This has lead to me being treated with Infliximab infusions which has turned things around. This coupled with regular swimming keeps me relatively free of side-effects."
After discovering that swimming really helped his AS, Duncan decided to take this to the extreme and do the ultimate swimming challenge with his friend Tom - a cross channel swim from Dover to Calais. This is how Duncan describes the events of that day.
"We made the journey to Dover where we inhaled our last proper meal and headed over to the marina. We departed at about 00:30 on a Thursday morning and motored over to the beach, West of Dover Harbour. Tom drew the short straw and had the first 'shift'. He swam into the beach, got out of the water, and then was given the green light to start. Working in 2hr shifts, one in, one out, we started the slow journey to France. Through the English waters, into the first shipping lane, and then into the second, then finally into the French waters beyond, up to the French coast and the beach of Cap Gris Nez."
"The key to success was good admin and recovery. On leaving the water, taking in energy drinks, hot tea and some hot food. John and Elin (friends of Tom) were amazing in managing this element, making sure all we had to do was swim. The boat pilots steered the most efficient course, radioing and avoiding large ships and negotiating the tides to optimal effect. There were times where it was necessary to sprint, to avoid ships or to beat the worst of the tides, and in the final stages this was particularly important as the tide had turned against us and was threatening to drag us back into the channel."
"Overall it was a dramatic and challenging experience, and having landed in France, the sense of achievement was absolute. A French man approached me on the beach, asking "Vous avez traverser?". "Oui" was the answer, followed by a look from him as if to say "Stupid English!" I'm not sure that I will do anything similar to this again, but I will definitely be continuing open water swimming."
Craig - taking on AS and beating it
Craig Gunn raised money for NASS in 2011 leading a team of 14 in the notorious 3 Peaks Challenge. This involves climbing the 3 highest mountains in Scotland , England and Wales in 24 hours. He and his team have raised so far over £4,400 for NASS. Here is his story.
Have you ever stepped on a plug. Hurts doesn't it? Well in 2003 as I stepped out of bed that is exactly what I thought I had done. I realised in fact it was my left heel that was giving me a shooting pain up my leg. The usual diagnostic questions came into my mind - and in fact that of my GP at the time. Had I over done it in the gym? Do I have flat feet? Am I wearing the right shoes?
The pain subsided a little with some painkillers but it recurred on and off for months. I also started noticing other pains. Neck, back, knees - I tossed and turned in bed all night and couldn't sit still at work or the sofa. I was feeling very much out of sorts. Having been in the Territorial Army for my university life and being quite active at the weekends I shrugged off the pain - but deep inside I had a feeling something was up and I was burying my head in the sand about it.
One Saturday morning the heel pain came back with vengeance. As I lived near a local hospital I hobbled down there and checked into A&E. I asked if I could have an X-Ray because it felt like a bone fracture. They said the wait would be long. I said, 'Not to worry. It's Saturday. I've got all day.' Luckily for me the A&E doctor on call was a rheumatologist. I had offered an explanation of possible plantar fasciitis to him, but a blood test later showed the shattering news, aged 27 years old - I had ankylosing spondylitis.
At first it hit like a bolt out of the blue - the prospect of fusing bones, a bent back in old age and years of pain. I was really upset and the self-diagnosed internet stuff out there is scary to say the least. At the same time I split from my girlfriend of 4 years and decided to attempt Macchu Picchu in Peru with about 200ml of extra fluid on each of my swollen knees. I continued to hit the bars and clubs of London. I was in denial.
I was prescribed various forms of diclofenac based drugs (NSAIDS) and co-codamal, which I still take daily now. I also have had fluid drained from some joints and had localised steroid jabs and steroids tablets, but I didn't really get on with those. Eventually, with the effects of bone fusion obvious in the toes in my left foot, I began to take methotrexate tablets. The side effects I've had on them methotrexate include ulcers and severe mood swings. But in 2005 I met the woman who would eventually become my wife and, with her support, we have dealt with my moods and the physical results of the drugs have been very positive.
I began running and cycling and pretty much returned to a good level of fitness and exercise from the lowest point of my illness when I needed physical help to get out of bed. Recently I moved onto 15ml weekly Methotrexate injections, which I administer to myself and already the side effects seemed less. Injecting is not as scary as I thought it would be. I know my condition will get worse as I get older and my drugs will continue to be modified but I'm trying to make myself as strong as possible to tackle the worse of it later on in life
My experience with AS has been like a rollercoaster - periods of pain and frustration followed by periods of remission and comfort. Methotrexate has severely affected the possibility of children for me, which has been sad for my family and I but with it has come a greater ability to be active in life and enjoy the things I have.
I still go out clubbing and work as a DJ in London, as well as working in a hectic job at the Daily Mail newspaper. Despite feeling very fatigued from time to time, my mental ability to cope with this condition has improved greatly. My physical fitness means I feel about as robust as I ever have and having led a team of people up one of the most challenging things I have ever done - the 3 Peaks Challenge - I'm already planning the next big trip in 2012. AS isn't going to stop me living my life and my advice to anyone is to be active and stay positive. There are many people going through AS. You're not alone.