Running ahead of Crohn’s disease


“I didn’t think I would ever be able to run 10k” said Epsom man and Crohn’s disease sufferer Harry Reed. But he will now compete in the London race on 9 July to raise awareness of disease.

Last year, after a long battle with Crohn’s Disease, 24-year-old Harry Reed weighed just 48kg. Today he is training for the ASICS London 10k and is in his best health of recent years. “I’m super excited,” says Harry who is due to compete on July 9.

“My knee’s been playing up recently, so I’ve had to take it easy over the last couple of weeks…but apart from that…I have a feeling it’s going to go very well.” Before [developing Crohn’s] I was an athlete,” says Harry who grew up in Epsom. “I was a county sprinter and I actually qualified for the county races.”

After losing much of his strength due to illness Harry’s race preparation now incorporates muscle training to help with his endurance. “All the strength that you’d normally build up in like your joints, I lost it. So, I’m currently doing a lot of work to kind of build up the strength in my ligaments, tendons and around my
knees and ankles.”

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic condition which causes parts of the gut to become swollen and inflamed resulting in symptoms including pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and extreme tiredness.

Harry developed Crohn’s in 2015 when, after a calf muscle injury, he contracted glandular fever later leading to the onset of his disease. The route to a diagnosis was not straight forward and Harry spent his GCSEs through to A levels in and out of hospitals. “They just couldn’t figure it out because my blood tests weren’t coming back with anything specific that was wrong,” Harry says.

Harry was finally diagnosed in 2017, 2 years after his symptoms began. But, that year, during an initial surgery to treat the Crohn’s, Harry developed life threatening infections of the blood and stomach lining known as sepsis and peritonitis. He was transferred from Epsom to St Helier’s hospital for emergency surgery.

“I wasn’t expected to live. So that was a bit of a miracle in itself…I had to basically say goodbye to my parents, my family at that time because we all knew that it wasn’t good.”

The complications did not end there. In 2019, Harry developed hair loss known as alopecia. He also experienced two rounds of failed drug treatments which led to a severe return of symptoms in 2022.

“My diet sort of got narrower and narrower about things that were okay for me to eat…by the end of September [2022], I had not been able to eat for a couple of weeks. I ended up going into hospital through A&E due to the backlog of patients with COVID.”

Harry was given intravenous nutrition before undergoing further surgery to remove the problem part of his bowel. Thankfully the operation was a success, and it was in 2022 that Harry was able to rediscover
his love for running.

“When I first started…. it went terribly. But it felt great when I got back, to actually feel like I accomplished something or at least to have that sort of exercise endorphin release. Mentally the fog had been lifted for just a moment which was really great.”

“As I was able to eat more, my body was able to take in more calories, my strength grew. By November of 2022 I was given the kind of all clear by my surgeon… It’s been a blessing to be able to do it for myself and prove to myself that I can do it. I didn’t think I would ever be able to run 10k so to be able to feel confident about doing a good job is so exciting.”

Harry will run to raise awareness of the disease, which affects over 1 in 123 people in the UK*.

“It’s an invisible illness – you’ll never know if someone’s got Crohn’s,” says Harry. “I think the tough thing… is realising the severity and the kind of the intensity that people suffer when it comes to the flare ups. It’s something that is really hard to put into perspective. I think also the lack of energy that you have…it’s like you have to work 10 times as hard. And most of the time your output is 10 times less. I think once you can be educated, you can then have empathy towards people and some more understanding”.

Harry currently works as a creative director for a publishing house start-up based in Epsom, where he lives with his fiancé. His upcoming race will be the start of many, with plans to run the Bacchus Wine 10k at Denbies Wine Estate in September.

You can find out more about Harry’s upcoming race at

*Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis – stats from Crohn’s and Colitis UK

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