IBDrelief co-founder becomes international athlete

IBDrelief’s co-founder, Seb Tucknott competed in the men’s 200m and 200m x 4 relay race at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Portugal, (20th–27th February). As part of the four strong relay team, he secured a silver medal for Great Britain. Not bad for someone who was told they probably wouldn't be able to exercise at that level again!

Upon diagnosis of ulcerative colitis (UC), Seb was told by the gastroenterologist he probably wouldn’t be able to exercise as much.  Being active has always been a big part of his life, enjoying football, skiing, snowboarding, athletics and biking, so this came as a huge blow. 

“I remember being quite anxious and disappointed as I was very active. It was a shock to hear that. Being inactive is not what you want to hear when you’re a 21-year-old, let alone at any age,”  Seb said.

Seb remembers after he left hospital following his diagnosis that even kicking a ball was overwhelmingly tiring. Feeling that exhausted only reinforced what the health care professional had said to him. 

He did gradually start to recover and get back to playing football and going to the gym. Fatigue and flare-ups inevitably made it challenging, but it wasn’t as hard as Seb originally anticipated. 

“My IBD has limited me to a degree. Flares and fatigue have held me back a bit. I still get days where my legs feel heavy. One day I feel super energetic, the next I have trouble getting up the stairs,”  Seb continued.

Seb describes a life-changing moment watching the 2012 Olympics in London where he was inspired to take up athletics again. He joined Brighton Athletics Club and ran for Brighton and Hove at county level for a few seasons. With the motivation of trying to improve his performances he started to focus more on his general health like improving his diet and sleep. At the same time he found his UC symptoms started to improve, plus his muscles and joint pain lessened and he had more energy. This was the beginning of his keen interest in health and how it impacts performance but also disease. 

After his son Hayden was born, competitive athletics took a back seat but after turning 35 last year Seb now qualifies as a master athlete and had a new motivation to compete again.

Seb earned the opportunity to run as a veteran for Great Britain at the European Master Indoor Athletics Championships in Portugal, where he achieved a silver medal in the relay. Leading up to the championships, Seb did suffer a knee injury and was concerned he wouldn’t be able to compete.

“After my individual 200m race my knee injury got worse and I couldn’t walk that evening. Without much improvement a couple of days later for the relay I really didn't think I was going to be able to run. Having lived with IBD for 14 years I've developed a lot of resilience and was determined to at least try. When I received the relay baton I was amazed I could even run, let alone help win a silver medal.. it was a huge relief not to have let the team down and felt amazing to go up on the podium,” Seb said.

Since starting athletics again in 2012 Seb has learnt a lot about stretching, mobility, strength and mental resilience. He feels all these components have helped manage symptoms of his inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and have motivated him to explore options other than just medication to help support his health including diet, exercise and sleep. Once getting back into exercise he realised the benefits it had on reducing stress and encouraging better sleep. He doesn’t put his success in athletics just down to a rigorous training regime, but a combination of keeping active, sleeping and eating well.

He also competed last weekend at the BMAF Indoor Track & Field Championships 2022 in London, but due to his ongoing knee issue was outside of a medal and is now focussing on upcoming championships in the summer. Good luck Seb!

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