In 2013 I spent 52 days lying in a hospital bed unable to even sit up and to think that now I am about to run my first full marathon is just crazy!
It sometimes takes losing all that we think we have in order to really appreciate how awesome life actually is.
I was born in England and have lived in South Africa for 22 years. I was a professional Dressage Rider for 20 years and rode for the South African Lipizzaners for 10 of those years. I broke my back twice in riding accidents in 2000 and 2008. Due to that and after a subsequent fall from a horse in 2012 I had to have many back surgeries including a spinal fusion which resulted in permanent nerve damage and pain in my right leg. I have a Spinal Cord Stimulator implant which greatly reduces this nerve pain and has given me my life back. The Spinal Cord Stimulator is an implanted medical device that sends electrical impulses down the path of the nerves from my spinal cord into my legs and this blocks out the pain signals from the damaged nerves. I also had to have heart surgery in 2017 for Supraventricular Tachycadia and a First Rib Resection for Thoracic outlet Syndrome 🙈.
I no longer ride horses as the risk of further severe injury if I fall again is too high but I decided to try running as it’s the only other sport I really enjoy. I started running in the beginning of 2018. In theory it shouldn’t be good for my back at all and my doctors advised me not to run at first but surprisingly the more I run the better my back is.
I started with In-Reach Run Coaching with Coach Corne van Zyl in April 2018, after receiving a months free coaching for being placed 2nd in a 5k night race at Jackal Creek. At that stage, I had been running for 3 months and the furthest that I had run was 8k. As I am a coach myself, coaching dressage, I know the importance of training with someone knowledgeable. I have had some quite significant injuries and I wanted to make sure that I increased the training progressively as I built up my strength and endurance. Corne's knowledge and enthusiasm was a massive help and I have continued training with him since. I had a lot of fun over the first half of 2018 running in the 5km and 10km trail races with In-Reach Run and other trail running organiser with regular placing in the Top 3 in my age category. I then started to do some road running races which I really enjoyed and I found it was better for my back and leg to run on a consistent surface as apposed to trail. With Corne's run coaching I ran my first half marathon in June 2018 and absolutely loved the challenge.
Running has totally changed my life, after being a competitive and successful Dressage rider for so many years I needed to find something that challenged me again.
With Corne's training, along side his recommendation to go to Biokineticist Stephan Muller for strength training, I am the fittest, strongest and healthiest that I have been in many years.
My doctors now fully support my running as they see the benefits which I am getting from it. I am off most of my medication and with the spinal cord stimulator implant I am now able to run pretty much pain free. I have, to date, completed 12 half marathons and I am so excited to have the opportunity to run The London Marathon 2019 as my first marathon. From not being able to work for 18 months and struggling to be able to walk just across the room, I am extremely grateful for every running stride that I take.
I am running the London Marathon on 28 April 2019 for the fabulous charity The Children's Society. It is a British charity that my mom was Director of for 20 years so it is a charity very close to my family's hearts. They do amazing work for the most vulnerable children in society and I am most grateful to have this opportunity to support and raise funds for them.
Looking into the future
I have entered The Cape Town Marathon in September this year. I also plan on entering the Two Oceans Ultra in 2020. Another great one on my wish list for 2020, is the Berlin Marathon in September.
I am very much looking forward to continue training with Corne and In-Reach Run, to see if I can build up my speed and hopefully creep up towards a podium finish one day in my category in the road races too. Even if that never happens, every day that I get to run is a win in my life and I have proven to my body that it will take a lot more than a few broken bones, a dodgy heart and a bunch of metal work in my spine to stop me from living an amazing life!