Every year, Fleet Feet Sports stores across the nation partner with Mizuno to identify runners in our communities who inspire others to be their best. We look for runners who serve as an inspiration by improving their health, overcoming challenges, doing charitable work, and rallying communities. Of the many nominees we received in 2016, three St. Louisans were selected to receive The Power of Running to Inspire award. This is the story of Serena Hopson, who was nominated by her husband, Richard.
"Last year, I was paralyzed from a brain injury. That same year, I had run my first half marathon. My wife was not a runner, but she said she would train and run this year's race for me. She did...and even beat my time! She inspires me to work hard everyday; I am walking again." - Richard Hopson
We asked Serena to expand on their story for us.
"As my husband wrote, in August last year he was hospitalized with what was originally diagnosed as multiple brain stem strokes. This baffled all of the doctors because he was in great physical health, having just completed a half marathon that April - and being only 31 years of age. After being released from the hospital, everything got much worse. By the time he was admitted to Barnes Jewish Hospital on August 9, he could barely walk on his own, half of his body was numb, and he had severe double vision. Over the next two weeks, as the doctors tried to diagnose him, he lost his ability to speak, hear, and move any part of his body except his head on forearms. He had no motor skills and he could barely see because the double vision was so bad.
I thought I was losing my husband. In the first week he was in the hospital, I told him that I knew he wouldn't be able to run the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon in April of 2016, so I was going to run it for him. Like he said, I was not a runner. And by that I mean that I absolutely hated it! I had tried so many times to do a 'couch to 5K' training program but had never finished one. Almost immediately after telling him I would run it, I regretted it.
Over the next few weeks, after the doctors started treating him for a general autoimmune disease, his disease gradually stopped progressing and started regressing. It started with him being able to move the side of his face that had been paralyzed. His smile started to come back! Then he started hearing a little! By mid-September, he was able to go to a rehab facility to start relearning how to walk and do everyday things like shower and feed himself.
During his time in rehab, I again started 5K program. I ran at the small gym at work during my lunch time. Whenever running for two minutes straight seemed daunting, I would chant to myself , 'This isn't hard. Learning how to walk again is hard.' I wanted to remind myself of the reason I was doing this. I ran my first 5K on Thanksgiving with my dad. Richard was able to walk with us to the start/finish line and cheer us on in person!
From that point, I worked diligently each week to increase my mileage. Some Sundays were brutal! There were a lot of tears, a lot of cramps, a lot of chaffing, a LOT of self-doubt, and some peeing in the woods. I have always wanted to run because I thought it was the epitome of health and wellness. No one ever warned me of how unglamorous it can be!
Finally, after six months of training starting from not being able to run at all, I finished my first half marathon in April 2016. Like Richard mentioned, I beat his time (by about 14 minutes!).
As much as he says that I inspire him, there is no possible way that I would have done this without him. Anytime I wanted to quit (which was almost every week), I thought about how hard he worked to regain his life and the ability to walk. That is what kept me going. Even on the day of the race, I chanted to myself , 'This isn't hard. Learning to how to walk again is hard.' He is my rock! I cannot express how thankful I am that he is still here. He is the one that inspired me to complete that race, and he continues to inspire me every single day!"
- Serena Hopson