Running has been my passion for a number of years now and I have continued to challenge myself during this time. Life has certainly thrown many challenges my way, many might have thrown the towel in and gave up however I refuse to let anything define me and dictate how I live my life. Running for me, is more than just keeping fit. It’s my go to on a bad day and helps me keep a clear head.
During lock down in 2020 I started suffering from severe pelvic pain, pain so bad I couldn’t get out of bed. After a lot of investigations it was discovered that I had endometriosis. At roughly the same time I was also being treated for overactive bladder, a condition I suffered from only when running and a forever keepsake of bringing my little boy into the world 5 years earlier. I won’t elaborate too much on the side effects of that but let’s just say it’s not nice at all, especially on those long runs !!!
Over the next couple of years I spent hours in hospital for appointments, failed treatments and various surgeries to try and help these conditions but the end result was having my ovaries removed in 2022 and weeks later having a sacral nerve stimulator implanted into my body to help stimulate the nerves that control my bladder. Both came with hefty down time for recovery which meant time away from running. When I had fully recovered late 2022 I was so happy to get back to running, I had missed racing, I had missed my amazing running club The Knowsley Harriers, I had missed just going out and clearing my head after a hard day.
My running fitness had taken a hit and it was hard graft to get it back to where it was but I had so much to work for and look forward to and that’s what kept me going. I spent the rest of the year just easing myself back into running and getting my breathing back on track.
I was excited for 2023, I had all the races that I had to miss or had to defer due to my surgeries but I also had to start training for my first ever Ultra Marathon. I signed up to the M2L the year before which is 50 miles from Manchester to Liverpool. I have watched people in complete awe, year after year, complete this and knew it was something in my heart I wanted to do, it took a while to believe I could do this and now I was in better health I felt ready.
I started my training in the January and this was quite a different beast from any marathon training I have ever done but I found myself really enjoying it and as I got into the unknown territory of anything above 26 miles I was amazed at how well I was able to perform. I also found myself signing up very last minute for London Marathon again, running and raising money for Children with Cancer UK. This would be my 3rd London running for CwC. It was 2 weeks after the Ultra so the training was covered.
3 weeks before the M2L and the day after I had ran 30 miles in a training run, I took part in a trail race. My head told me that the trail environment would help loosen my legs and it did which was great. However the end of that race involved running down a very steep hill, and for me, at speed as it’s the only way I tackle hills.. when I hit the ground I ran very fast as my legs were playing catch up.
I finished the race and soon complained of a sore thigh. This sore thigh slowly escalated as the weeks went on and I continued to run and I found myself on the M2L start line on Good Friday. My thigh was still sore but not sore enough to stop me from running, my training plan was going perfectly and I was on track for a 10hr 50 mile ultra. However as the miles increased, my thigh became worse and at 33 miles I couldn’t run any more, the pain was too much.
I was so lucky at this point as I had just entered into the Halewood area of Liverpool and friends from my running club were popping up all over the place to support me, when they saw I was walking ( albeit power walking ) they walked with me for a while to keep me company. There were moments I asked myself if I could finish the race but I have never DNFd in my life and I carried on through the pain. I finished that Ultra in 13hrs and 30 mins, 30 mins shy of the cut off.
I was so proud of myself for doing it, but more so for not giving up and carrying on. The next day however I found myself in the A&E as the pain became a lot worse. I was referred for physio, given some crutches and told as long as I rest London in 2 weeks would be ok.
I didn’t run for 2 weeks and found myself at the London start line. I was so nervous, like the M2L start line, I didn’t know what to expect. I started to run, slowly, but was happy that I could and if that’s the pace I needed to run then so be it. However that positive bubble burst when at aprx 600m my leg just gave way from under me. I was in so much pain and I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t bear weight.
The steward helped me off the course and wanted to call St Johns Ambulance however I had a reality check, I was taking part in London to raise money for Children with Cancer, my ‘sore leg’ was nothing at all in comparison to the pain and battle they are going through. We were also given beads of courage to carry on our laces throughout the race, my bead would go to a child on completion to show them I ran London marathon for them.
These beads mean a great deal during a child’s cancer journey and somewhere there was a child waiting for mine. That really did help give me the strength to carry on. I walked, and dragged my bad leg for 26 miles and I completed the marathon in over 6 hours. I was given an amazing hero’s welcome as I made it a back to the Children with Cancer gathering after the marathon as all my CwC running friends passed me and saw me suffering but refusing to stop.
My physio appointment was luckily the day after London and my physio was very worried that the pain was occurring on the back of a hip movement and I was sent for an MRI scan, this indeed showed that I had a femoral neck stress fracture. Nobody, including myself, could believe I took part in a 50 Mile Ultra and London Marathon with a fractured leg.
My gut response was can I still run Chicago? I was so fortunate to get in via ballot for the 2023 marathon and I was so looking forward to this race. My consultant said it would depend on my recovery and resting completely for 12 weeks.
This broke my heart, more rest and more time away from the thing I love the most but for the first time in my life, I did what I was told and I let my body heal. I used my crutches all the time, I didn’t drive, I did my rehab and 10 weeks later another MRI showed nearly a fully recovered fracture. I was now 3 months away from Chicago.
My consultant said I could train as long as I carry on listening to my body, stop if it hurts and give myself time to recover. And that’s exactly what I did. It hasn’t been easy at all, in fact it’s been the worst bounce back into running after such a long gap and with very little leg movement.
My running fitness had completely gone and it’s been mentally tough. I couldn’t accept I just took part in a 50 mile race and now I couldn’t run 5k. I couldn’t breathe, I found it so hard to get my running lungs back but I never gave up and designed a very kind plan to get me back into running.
Once I managed that, the next plan.. marathon training. It’s been hard increasing the distance past 13 miles, my legs seemed to get very tired but every run was an improvement on the one before and I finished off my training with a very wet but enjoyable 20 mile run around Liverpool followed by the Run Through Warrington Half Marathon 3 days later.
It would be the last long run before my tapering began for Chicago and thanks to those lovely inclines I didn’t know about it, it really was a true test of the leg. I performed so well that day, even more so given I had just ran 20 miles. Chicago Marathon is now only 6 days away and I am as ready as I will ever be. I have no idea what to expect, but to just complete it will be the biggest accomplishment for me.
I want two things, a happier memory of running a marathon and that Chicago medal as it will mean more than any of my other 6 marathon medals on the rack.
I worked for that one so much harder than ever before.