Eight months after brain surgery personal trainer runs Vegas race
Eight months after surgery to have a brain tumour removed, Betty Doyling got back to racing.
She completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas 10K in 1:14:18 last month.
It was a huge accomplishment for Ms Doyling, a personal trainer who put on 30lbs because of the prolactin adenoma and then had to give up her regular exercise routine for months while she waited for doctors to give her the all-clear.
In Las Vegas on February 27 she focused on the finish line of the 6.2-mile race rather than her speed.
“When I first started back exercising I couldn't run it all. I was told to just walk for three months after the surgery,” said Ms Doyling who received the diagnosis last January and flew to Boston for surgery in June.
“Of course, when you take that break, it's very challenging to start back up; you just feel like you're different out on the road.”
She got through it by mixing “a lot of walking” into her runs.
“I would run for three telephone poles and then walk for two and then I started to increase the telephone poles,” she said.
“When you start running, for the first mile you just want to stop. Ten minutes in I had to stop my brain from telling me to stop; because I really just wanted to stop. I probably did the walking part of my walk/runs a little bit longer than I really had to because I had to gather mental strength. I knew that if I was with a client I would tell them to slow down, just breathe and keep going. I wouldn't tell them to stop.”
She continued that way “probably for another two to three months” before she was able to run a route without stopping.
“I ran the PartnerRe [Women’s 5K] route which started at the Botanical Gardens and then over to Lover’s Lane and then back on Middle Road and over to the Botanical Gardens.
“It was my first run that I could do fully and it was a challenging run. I did it with some friends and I cried at the end of the run. I was just really excited to have been able to complete it.”
It was enough to show Ms Doyling that she still had it in her.
“I'm not at the same speed as I used to be able to run. That's still okay. I want to be able to run seamlessly. I want to feel good and feel comfortable doing it.”
Sometime after that, a client that Ms Doyling was training to run the half marathon in the Las Vegas race suggested she sign up too.
“She told me they have a 5K, they have a 10K. And since I was already running 5k I was like well, I have another three months to prepare for it….”
Members of Ms Doyling’s running group joined in and they began practising, adding about a mile to the route every other week.
“By the time I left I probably got up to seven miles. And I knew that I could run the six miles because the Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll route is all flat and Bermuda is never flat.”
On the day of the race, Las Vegas hit a high somewhere between 65 and 70F, with low humidity.
“I think the hardest part about running on a flat road for so long is that your gait doesn't really change,” said Ms Doyling, who writes a regular fitness column for The Royal Gazette.
“You definitely push yourself a little bit harder when you're running with so many people. Normally in Bermuda I can look ahead and say I’m going [to track a specific] person but there's so many people at all different speeds you couldn't really focus on that. So I had to focus on myself, just continuing.”
She completed the race 22.7 minutes before the cut-off period.
“I didn’t want to push it too hard but I definitely felt stronger running there than when I’m running here.”
Doctors discovered a tumour in Ms Doyling’s pituitary gland – a pea-sized organ behind the eye – after she raised questions about discharge from her breasts and a sudden weight gain despite regular exercise.
Prolactin adenomas are benign growths found within five to ten per cent of the adult population. If untreated they can cause blindness or limit periphery vision.
At her last checkup in August, Ms Doyling was told to “just go with how [her] body was feeling” when it came to exercise.
“I wasn’t on any medications or anything like that. I have no reason not to feel well.
“That's kind of how I discovered about the whole tumour thing. I know what my body normally does. I was working out but I was gaining weight and that's not what my body would normally do.”
With the exercise and the successful operation behind her the weight has started to come off.
“I feel like I'm almost back to myself,” she said. “Earlier on, I just felt like everybody was looking at me – I'm a trainer and I wouldn't say that I was out of shape, but I was definitely heavier than I ever was around any of my clients.
“But my clients have been very gracious. They realise that it was an illness, that it was something out of my control.”
Her health journey also showed them she was “a real person” with struggles of her own.
“Even before the tumour I would eat nachos on Friday nights. I think they want to see a real person. Everyone doesn’t want a trainer that is super strict all the time. They want to be able to live their life as well. So they want to feel like if they go out to a party, they can have a drink and still maintain their fitness level.
“So I think that seeing me come back from the illness they are inspired by that. They see how I got back to health.”