I have held several high pressure, high profile jobs during my career, some very much in the public eye, some affecting national government policy. Running has always been where I go to think. Week in week out, no matter where in the world I am, I make space for the essential solitude running makes possible, clocking up an average 25 miles a week. Running always helps me regain my equilibrium after a particularly hard day. I often work through problems on a long run. That’s where I come up with new strategies and new ideas.
But running has equally been about team endeavour. For the past 12 years, I’ve been Chairman of The Trussell Trust, the charity that created the UK’s largest foodbank network and I’ve run several marathons, half marathons and 10K races with colleagues and supporters of our charity to raise money for our organisation, which I love deeply. The camaraderie at a race and the mutual support everyone gives each other is incredibly uplifting. Yes, I’m competitive and train hard to improve my times but on the day it’s as much about helping someone else do well as about chasing another personal best!
Running on empty
All this came to a juddering halt in 2014 when I found my running times deteriorating and my breathing getting painful. At first, I thought it was just a cold so I pressed through for weeks. The weeks became months and the struggle got worse. I ended up out on a run in the woods somewhere stopped by chest pain and realising I couldn’t put it off any longer and had to see a doctor.
Within weeks of being diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis and a dilated aorta my condition worsened and I found I was unable to jog even for a couple of minutes. It was when I had to turn back less than three minutes after starting out and to face the fact I simply couldn’t do it anymore that I truly realised just how much running meant to me.
A new lease of life
The cause of my heart problems is a congenital bicuspid aortic valve. Two years ago I asked the surgeon who operated on me if I really needed the valve replacement just yet! Could we perhaps wait a little? He gently told me I really didn’t have a choice. As my wife put it, “he told you, you would be dead in a year if he didn’t operate very soon”.
Six days after my surgery I had a complete heart block and spent the next twelve nights in the high dependency unit. The conductive tissue in my heart was damaged and didn’t function properly anymore. My surgeon explained that I was one of the three percent of patients who suffered complications and I had a pacemaker fitted. Today I’m left with first degree heart block and left bundle branch block, so I also have to take beta-blockers.
So, put starkly, my life was saved by the valve replacement and the grafting of my ascending aorta that I also urgently needed. Instead of dying prematurely I can look forward to the years ahead without fear.
The road to recovery
In the year running up to my open heart surgery I became increasingly tired. I’ve always had great reserves of energy and I just couldn’t understand what was going on as I came home exhausted more and more often. I put it down to stress and the challenge of a year where my role had resulted in me meeting one on one with the Prime Minister over the growing problem of food poverty in the UK and engaging with the media every week. Today, I’m back running, climbing mountains and working long hours when I need to without struggling. And there’s still spare energy to help out with our four young grandsons and whatever else comes my way. The turnaround is remarkable. And I regularly remind myself how much the medical technology has done for me.
In the 18 months since surgery, The Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion (FSCI), which I founded back in 2009 and works with vulnerable young adults who are at risk of human trafficking, began to grow very rapidly. This meant me needing to travel somewhere in the Balkans and Eastern Europe once a month, often to quite challenging places – Roma ghettoes, the poorest quarters of cities. The medical technology has enabled me to take all this on without concern, which is quite different from the months leading up to surgery when I simply wanted to stay as close to home as possible and found visits to difficult locations doubly stressful because of my condition.
The Medtronic Twin Cities 10 mile run
The Medtronic’s Global Heroes programme aims to celebrate and profile runners who have benefitted from medical technology. Each Global Hero represents their country and medical condition, but more importantly, they represent a return to “active life”. I feel incredibly privileged to have been selected as one of the 25 Global Heroes to take part in the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 mile race and I am really looking forward to it. I’m an ordinary guy and I don’t feel much like a hero. It’s the medical technology that’s amazing, after all. I enjoy every single day I live and I am very, very thankful.
I’ve given the past twelve years of my life to leading and developing The Trussell Trust and FSCI. It’s been an incredible privilege and I want to use the Global Heroes Programme to stir up a new wave of support for these organisations that do amazing things and have a great impact.
These award-winning charities are all about helping disadvantaged people get back on track; they are creating opportunity and helping people to access a door that leads to a fuller life. I know just how important our work is for the vulnerable and often desperate people we help, but without supporters, we can’t do a thing. All new funding we raise will have impact that endures, underpinning services that touch individuals and communities at a very deep and often transformative level. We have a very important story to tell and I’m longing to reach out to thousands more people and spur them into action, as together, we can make a difference!
Taking part in the Medtronic’s Twin Cities 10 mile race as a Global Hero on 9th October is a wonderful way to mark the fact that life is now firmly back on track. I hope it will encourage people struggling with setbacks in life never to give up and highlight how, with a little adjustment, life really can be enjoyed again in full!
Chairman, Chris Mould
You can support Chris Mould with his Medtronic 10 mile run by making a donation here.