Living Well With Alzheimer's: One Man’s Inspiring Story
Despite a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease last year, nothing is stopping Alan Main from staying active and living well. This past spring Alan ran in the Blue Nose full marathon as part of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia’s Charity Challenge team with a time of 4 hours and 49 minutes.
A diagnosis can be difficult for anyone and comes with unique challenges, but conquering challenges seems to be where Alan thrives. Alan was always an athletic individual winning races in both primary and secondary school, but as he reached university and met his lifelong partner Brenda, he extended the distances for the love of running and stopped sprinting. With awareness that things will be harder now, Alan and Brenda have developed strategies that work for them so he can continue doing the things he loves. Together they attended the Shaping the Journey program where they learned the importance of exercise and doing things that open themselves up for success.
For Alan the physical part of the running is easy, but logistics is the hard part. A solution he found was using the Find My Friends app on his cellphone for his training runs. It provides comfort for Alan knowing he can find his way back to Brenda or call if he needs help, and it also provides comfort for Brenda knowing she can login to see where he is.
On race day Alan faced a few bumps in the road, but nothing that stopped him from finishing. “I was three minutes behind the starting gun and was at the absolute back of the pack. I had to push to get up to runners at my level, all while contending with the 10 km runners coming up from behind,” Alan explains. Due to the hills on the route, many consider the Blue Nose Marathon to be one of the hardest in North America. Fortunately, Alan loves the hills, “I don’t know what it is, I think it is the challenge of conquering a hill!” he exclaims.
One of the best parts of running the Blue Nose Marathon for Alan was having his family there to support him. His brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew planned a vacation to Nova Scotia to cheer him on during the race. They set up along different spots along the race and then were all there with his mother June at the finish line.
Every step of the way for the past 39 years, Brenda has supported Alan. When she notices Alan is having a hard day, she encourages him to put on his shoes and go for a run. “It really helps when he gets back. He comes back calm and better able to face the rest of the day,” said Brenda. “In my caregiver support group some people talk about how much trouble their partners have sleeping, but I never find that a problem for Alan after a run or 50 km bike ride!”
Alan shares the following advice for anyone trying to stay active after a diagnosis. “Get connected with people who have been doing it longer than you. I joined a local running group and really like the social aspect of running now,” Alan said. “When I shared that I had a dementia diagnosis and some aphasia, the group was even more welcoming!”