GP overcomes rheumatoid arthritis to run 12 marathons in a year

A north London GP who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for a decade was set to complete his 12th marathon in a year on 6 December.

Dr Johan Byran aims to raise £12,000 for Arthritis Research UK by completing his final marathon of the year in Singapore. Runs this year have taken him to Dubai, Texas, Barcelona, Rekjavik and other parts of world - along with four marathons in the UK while he completed GP training.

The Romford, Essex GP - who works two days a week in general practice and two in palliative care at a hospice - said juggling work as a GP with training and working around his condition had been a significant challenge.

But the benefits have gone beyond charity fundraising - Dr Byran says his experience has helped him take control of his condition, and provides a story he has been able to share with patients living with chronic conditions to show them they do not have to simply 'exist' with illness, but can progress.

GP training

'One of my triumphs has been to find a balance,' he told GPonline, 'I found it very difficult at medical school, and as a registrar working full time - I would come back from a marathon feeling sore, and sometimes there was a quick turnaround from one thing to the next.

'The most difficult was Barcelona - we ran Sunday morning, came back Sunday night, and I was in work Monday morning.'

After marathons he had often felt tired and low, he said. 'Straight after the marathons it is difficult. Through the year my motivation has wavered - between the sixth and seventh I felt really tired and fatigued.'

But Dr Byran said support from his wife, family and colleagues had been 'fantastic' and helped to keep him going.

The benefits of pushing himself through the marathons, however, were already clear, he told GPonline. First of all among family and friends, who had been inspired to get into sport because of Dr Byran's efforts - including two other friends with chronic conditions who had completed marathons with him.

Chronic illness

As a GP, the benefits were clear too, he said. Patients have been aware of his fundraising challenge because of information and a collection tin in the reception area.

But he added: 'With chronic illness, it's about trying to empower patients to take control and self manage. It is difficult in 10 minutes to talk about the holistic needs of a patient. I have definitely felt that my own illness has made it easier to inspire them. I have shared my story with patients through information - I really feel consultations with patients have changed, they are able to open up and really talk to me about what they are feeling, and their hopes and goals.'

He had also learned from personal experience about the kind of support patients with chronic conditions would appreciate from GPs, he added. 'With GPs and chronic illness, some of the specialist aspects are dealt with in hospital, with the GP often linking care together. For me at this point for example - I have had RA for 10 years, my meds are stable - the GP would not have to tinker around, but it would have helped if GPs linked into support groups, for example.'

Helping patients self care and take control of their condition could 'help them look at progressing rather than just existing', he said.

Louise Skinner, head of events and community fundraising at Arthritis UK added: 'Arthritis has a huge impact on people’s lives. Johan’s story is incredibly inspirational and we are hugely grateful to him for supporting our work. There are still too many people who live with the pain of arthritis, and that’s why we must continue to raise money to fight for better treatments and an end to their pain.'

Click here to visit Dr Byran's fundraising page

Click here to find out more about Arthritis UK's work

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