Brian W. Sharp
My name is Brian W. Sharp and I have Ankylosing Spondylitis.
At the age of 23, I was diagnosed with this terrible disease. Today, 20+ years later, my spine, neck and rib cage are fused, the cartiledge in my knees has long deteriorated, my left knee is splintered, both ankles are partially fused, my right foot has degenerative joint disease, and I have lost most of my range of motion in my upper torso.
Several years after my diagnosis, my condition became so severe that I was medically retired from the United States Air Force after only 13 1/2 years of military service.
In the years after my retirement from active duty, I became sedentary and my condition worsened. As well, I started gaining weight and started slipping into bouts of depression. At one point I became so disgusted at my appearance, and frustrated with the daily struggles I was undergoing, that I said “Enough is enough.” I had to find some sort of exercise regiment that I could perform to strengthen my legs, improve my fitness, lose weight and better my appearance.
This occurred in the Fall of 2010. I saw an advertisement for the annual ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot 10K in my hometown of Austin, Texas so I decided to signup. Keep in mond, I had no idea how far a 10K was and didn’t bother to find out prior to the event. My thinking was that if I can walk a 10K, then maybe walking (and eventually Running) might be the form of exercise that could help me.
So on Thanksgiving Day, I got up at 4:30 am, put on some gym-type clothes and a pair of tennis shoes and drove up to Austin to pickup my packet and to get myself mentally ready for the event.
In short, I completed the 10K in 1:14:36. I was so happy, not to mention exhausted and in severe pain, but I didn’t care. I had just done something I never imagined, and found the form of exercise that I knew would help me combat A.S..
Since then, I have changed my eating habits for the better, lost 60+ pounds, and completed 64 total Running events, which includes 15 Half Marathons and 1 Marathon. And I’m still Running today!!! In fact, I’ve been coaching and mentoring a couch to 5K (and 10K) Running Group with Fleet Feet Sports San Antonio for almost 3-years now and have helped over 300 people reach their Running Goals.
As time passes, my physical condition will continue to deteriorate, but I’m not giving in or giving up. My inspiration along my Running Journey has been the words of Deena Kastor who said “Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us”. I live by these words each and every day.
As a result of everything I’ve accomplished over the last 4-years, I was asked to be the Adult Hero for the South Central Texas Arthritis Walk in 2014. I helped raise money for my team and the owners of Fleet Sports San Antonio registered their entire Running Group for the Walk to show their support for me and to help raise awareness for Arthritis.
That is my story. Even if my story doesn’t make it to your website, I hope that you will know that many people with Arthritis struggle everyday to be as normal as possible, while trying to maintain a positive attitude. I am one of those people, and my own personal motto tells people just how hard I’m fighting this terrible disease…”Disability Doesn’t Mean Inability.”
Brian W. Sharp (a.k.a., Salt Life Runner)
Texas, United States of America