Inspirational Staveley running 100k in May for Arthristis charity

Leeds Rhinos Women’s player, Aimee Staveley has made a new addition to her weekly training routine during lockdown, by setting herself the challenge of completing 100k during May to raise money for Versus Arthritis.  

The charity is one which is close to Staveley’s heart, after she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease when she was just 22 and now she says she wants to do something to raise money and awareness for the charity who are doing vital work for people living with arthritis.

“I am running 100k throughout May and I am just over half way now,” said the second-rower. “The furthest I have run is 11k in one day and the minimum 6k, but it depends on how I feel on the day as I am doing it on top of my rugby sessions , which isn’t accounted for, so my runs are done on my rest days.

“The main reason for doing it was to raise money for charity.  My partner is always telling me that I should tell my story, but I have kept details of my arthritis quite quiet as I want to just get on with things.  During lockdown though I have been furloughed from my job at Specsavers and have a bit of time on my hands, I thought I could maybe do a challenge and I wanted to set myself something that is really hard to do so I feel proud when I have done it and I thought the best charity to do it for would be the one that is close to me.”

For any Rugby League player the tough physical nature of the sport can be demanding on anyone’s body, but for Staveley she faces the extra challenge of pain and fatigue due to her arthritis, but the Leeds born player has not been one to seek sympathy or use and excuse and has kept details of her illness relatively quiet until her recent charity challenge.

“Before I was diagnosed I was playing for Stanningley at the time and I was barley managing to walk, let alone even play,” she said.  “I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis and when my doctor told me what it was, I though the worst because all you really imagine is older people with it who can barley walk and have disfigured joints from it and I thought I am going to be like this forever and I was in a lot of pain and there will be nothing they can do.  I was lucky though, and very soon they started me on some drugs near enough on the day of the diagnosis that massively helped me.

“On a day to day basis I can sometimes wake up in a lot of pain and as weird as it sounds, and I never understood when people said ‘it’s cold or it’s damp and I can feel it in my bones’, but you really can when you have arthritis as it really gets to your joints.  The main impact is the tiredness because it’s constant and nothing ever takes the fatigue you get away.  No matter what type of arthritis you have the fatigue is always there, which can take over your life at times.  For me who works full time and then trains or has a game, the next day I can feel like not getting out of bed.”

Picture by Isabel Pearce/SWpix.com – 11/10/2019 – Rugby League – Women’s Super League Grand Final – Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos – The Totally Wicked Stadium, Langtree Park, St Helens, England – Leeds win the Women’s Super League Grand Final.

Despite the pain, Staveley has continued to play rugby and she believes it has helped her and given her some amazing experiences and memories.

“Sometimes it’s hard having arthritis as a rugby player and I think ‘I’m getting too old for this’ or this is a bit too much with a full time job, but you keep going because you love it.  After my diagnosis I was just concentrating on leading a healthy life without rugby and being healthy and pain free, but to have rugby on top, I don’t think a lot of people with it play high contact sport, but it really helps me both physically and mentally – the stronger you are the better I think.

“It is amazing that I am able to play rugby and that I have played in big games and when we are lucky enough to get to the finals I look around and think ‘soak it up Aimee’ as you never know when you are going to get this again, even for any sportsperson but particularly for me as I am quite prone to infections due to the medication I am on.  When I was at Bradford I suffered two massive infections within the space of two months before our last final to win the treble which meant I could not train as much, so it means a lot to me not to have that obstacle before big games.”

Now a treble winner with Bradford, a two time Challenge Cup and a Grand Final winner with Leeds Rhinos Women, Staveley has defied any doubters to become an inspirational sportsperson to many people living with the disease.

“My message to people who have been recently diagnosed with arthritis or are struggling is to keep yourself active as much as you can, whether it’s sport or team sport or getting out for walks.  I always say do what you can as it’s not only benefitting you physically but mentally.  It can be so isolating sometimes to have the disease and you need to keep healthy and your mind healthy and you will be positive because of it and there are going to be treatments out there.  There will be good days and bad days, but as long as you can ride out the bad days the good days will be very good.”

With the Women’s Rugby League season currently on pause, Staveley and her team mates are having to settle with virtual training sessions and catch up during lock down, but she says they can’t wait to get started.

“I’m missing the girls loads, but we are all encouraging each other in training during this time and we have set up a map my ride log so we can see each other work outs, we’ve done some weekly quiz sessions so we can all see each other and have a laugh and a few Zoom sessions with our strength and conditioning coach Dan Spiers and we are all in touch via What’s App to encourage each other to keep fit as we never know when the season will start.  It will be so nice when we actually do get together again and hopefully as we’ve all still been training so hard we will be able to hit the ground running.”

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