Jon’s Inspiring Q&A About Running with A Stoma

What is colitis and what was the surgery that took place? In a short paragraph, please tell us about your condition.

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It’s a lifelong condition that can be very unpredictable and currently has no cure.

With colitis, your own immune system starts attacking the lining of your gut causing inflammation and ulcers in the colon (large bowel). Symptoms are different from person to person but can include diarrhoea, tiredness, tummy pains, and blood in your poo.

In August 2022, unaware of my diagnosis, a serious colitis flare-up put me in hospital and in urgent need of medical care. Unfortunately for me, the flare couldn’t be controlled fast enough by medication, so I was rushed into the operating theatre to have emergency life-saving surgery to remove my colon leaving me with a stoma.

My stoma is a surgical opening on my tummy through which my small bowel is brought to the outside and covered by a stoma bag. There are around 190,000 of us ‘ostomates’ in the UK with a stoma (that’s about 1 in 500 people).

What daily impact do you now need to consider following surgery?

Right now, my biggest challenge is staying hydrated. I need to make sure that I drink enough fluids to avoid getting dehydrated as it is your large bowel that does most of your body’s water and salt absorption.

Immediately following surgery, my recovery focused on slowly rebuilding my strength having lost 3 stone whilst in hospital. Everyone’s experience is different following surgery, I had to adjust both mentally and physically. I was very lucky, and whilst it took a bit of time, I was able to return to eating a normal, balanced diet and became confident in looking after my stoma. It also took time for me to realise that having a stoma does not prevent me from doing the things that I did before surgery (and more!)

I have adjusted well to my stoma and can honestly say that living with a stoma is much better than I ever expected.

Was your surgery the main thing that motivated you to take up running having hated it previously? Please tell us about your motivations.

Having life-changing surgery showed me that I was far more resilient than I ever imagined.

I was not a runner prior to surgery and when I did run (never more than 5km) I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Taking on the Oxford Half one year on from surgery seemed like a great challenge for me to prove to myself how far I have come and how well I am doing.

The Oxford Half is also a fantastic opportunity for me to fundraise for the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK (Jon Hurrell is fundraising for Crohn’s & Colitis UK) but also to raise awareness that living with a stoma can be positive and does not have to stop you from pushing your boundaries.

What considerations do you need to make for running following surgery and running with a stoma bag?

Having a stoma means that I am more prone to a hernia, so I had to build up to running gradually, first doing gentle exercise and building up my tummy muscles.

Whilst running, I wear a support waistband that keeps my stoma bag secure and discretely hidden as well as supporting my tummy muscles. I also run with a hydration pack containing electrolyte fluids, even on short runs, to help avoid dehydration.

Is there anything running events could do / should think of on race day to support those living with a stoma bag?

Given that this is my first running event (ever!) I am not sure that I am too well placed to comment. However, the general information that I have had so far and the support available on the LimeLight event website is brilliant. I would perhaps recommend access to priority or queue jump toilets for those that may be in a similar situation – we all know how long the queues can sometimes be!

Why did you choose the Oxford Half out of all races?

The Oxford Half is just over one year on from when I had surgery at the Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital – a huge thank you and shout out to all the amazing doctors and nurses at the JR!

Living in South Oxfordshire, this is also a ‘home’ run for me. Back in 2021, I was actually at the Oxford Half to support my brother-in-law who was racing. The buzz and atmosphere around the race day was inspiring although I swore that I would never get roped into doing one!

How has running helped your journey post-surgery?

Running has been immeasurably helpful for me post-surgery. It has been central to my physical recovery but has also hugely supported my mental health.

Having a training plan has given me great focus with a clear goal in sight. Dare I say that I have started to enjoy running!

Jon’s JustGiving page for Crohn’s and Colitis UK can be found here!

His IG can be found here!