He had rarely worn a pair of trainers before last week and was struggling to recover from the shock of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
But now father-one Dean Reilly has found a new lease of life after completing Sunday’s 10k Great Edinburgh Run in style.
After clocking a time of one hour 29 minutes, Dean, 32, from Musselburgh, said running in the event had transformed his attitude to MS and allowed him to move on from his “death sentence” diagnosis six months ago.
He told the News: “It was tough time at times, particularly in the early stage when it’s all uphill, but I genuinely loved it.
“I hadn’t really done any training for this, and with MS you fatigue really easily, so my time was never going to set the world alight.
“But this was about me taking my life back. I’ve felt really down the past five or six months, but I just decided last Monday I was going to do the run. Now I’ve done it, I feel nothing is impossible.”
The turnaround comes after Dean began to experience blurred vision in February, which he believed was the result of faulty glasses.
But there were no issues found with the lenses and Mr Reilly was instead told that he had suspected optic neuritis – an inflammation of the optic nerve.
He was referred to the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion where optic neuritis was confirmed, although doctors said it should clear up itself within weeks.
But after it got worse, Mr Reilly was sent for an MRI scan, which showed he was in the first stages of MS.
It is believed that a series of other health concerns he experienced in recent years – such as a loss of balance which he believed was caused by an ear infection and increased cramps and pins and needles – were actually symptoms of MS.
“I’d read horror stories about MS, I just thought my life was ruined,” said Mr Reilly, who works in an electronics shop.
“I thought ‘I’m never going to take my son, Michael, on holiday to Disneyland or kick a ball about in the park with him’, and I worried about what I would do for work.”
But after crossing the finishing line and smashing his own fundraising target, Hibby Dean – who donned a Hearts shirt for the event while his cousin Natasha Inglis, a Jambo, ran for a brain aneurism charity in memory of their auntie in the green and white – has lined up a number of physical challenges in the coming months.
As well as five and ten-kilometre runs in the Capital and Glasgow, he is also set to complete the Rob Roy Challenge in June – which includes a 16-mile walk and a 39-mile cycle – with the help of Scots boxer Kenny Anderson, who is to help him get into shape.
“I’m already looking at future events,” he said. “I’m pretty unfit so the 10k will be a challenge, but I’m also hoping to run a marathon and climb Kilimanjaro.
“When I was told I had MS I thought it was game over, but now I know MS will change my life it can be for the better or for the worse, which is up to me. That’s the message I’m trying to push out there.”
ON HIS MARKS
Dean has set himself a series of new challenges as he seeks to build his fitness.
Later this month, on October 21, he will take part in the British Heart Foundation’s 5k run in Edinburgh.
Then, on November 10, he will join the Movember 10k run in Glasgow to raise funds for testicular cancer, before returning to the Capital in January to participate in the 5k Winter Warmer Great Edinburgh Run at Holyrood.
Dean hopes these races will prepare him for even bigger challenges ahead, starting with the Edinburgh Marathon on May 26 and then the Rob Roy Challenge from Drymen, near Loch Lomond, to Kenmore on the edge of Loch Tay, on June 22.
He also plans to climb the 19,341ft Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He hopes to begin his ascent, along the Rongai route, in October next year.