11th July 2021 started like many other Sundays…

A huge bowl of porridge, race kit prepped and ready, 14 trips to the loo and a drive to the start line arriving at least an hour before I needed to be there! But the day didn’t end quite as planned.

I was on pacing duties at the Farnborough half marathon, helping a friend achieve their target of a sub 90 finish. It was a warm day, a little too warm for speedy running with lots of sunshine but we went with it. There were lots of friendly and familiar faces and lots of pre-race catching up. It was so good to be back racing after such a long time. A gentle couple of miles to warm up, more emergency loo trips where Sarah did an absolute epic queue jump and we were on the start line!

I set the plan – even pace all the way, 6.52 min mile pace and a push at the end of we had anything left. That would get Sarah her target.

It was great to be joined by Chris, a team mate from my days with Team Project Run. The 3 of us lined up, off went the start gun and we were finally running a real race after what felt like an age.

The first marker I had set for us was getting to 5 km in just over 20 mins and we were bang on target. I was regaling running stories and loving life, talking about the Wendover Woods 100 miler that my running bestie Faye had taken part in on the Friday and things could not have been better.

Then BAM! I hit mile 4 and felt what I can only describe as the worst stitch pain of my life in my right side – The thoughts running through my head were “can I carry on and not spoil Sarah’s chances of her sub 90?” I knew something was really wrong and I knew the answer was “no way”. I turned and explained and urged Sarah and Chris to carry on which reluctantly they did.

What followed was something I would not wish on my worst enemy and something I never ever want to go through again but in hindsight I take so many positive things from the experience which could have ended so differently that day.

When told the Ambulance was going to be 2-4 hours, I couldn’t wait and I was rushed to Frimley Park Hospital A&E department by the kindest man from Rushmoor Council (who’s name I still don’t remember). Blood tests, questions, examinations, scans, drips and the kindest of hospital staff and 7 hours later I was diagnosed with a perforated duodenum ulcer that was leaking poison into my body leading to sepsis and I was being prepped for emergency surgery to save me.

The hardest part was being on my own – Covid-19 restrictions meant nobody was allowed in and then being given your mortality rate for a serious operation was just too much to face alone but it was going to save my life and so there were no questions.

In my head and once the drugs had kicked in, I think I secretly thought the fact that I couldn’t have Jason, my husband by my side was a good thing – it was Euro football finals day – England v Italy and living in a house of football fans, I didn’t want to spoil it for them (how crazy is that when they were worried sick).

Anyway, the operation went well, I came around from the anaesthetic just in time for the penalties and hoping for the England win which sadly was not to be but I had survived the operation, the ulcer had been dealt with and for that I was more than relieved.

In some ways, the days that followed with recovery in hospital were some of the lowest I have ever experienced. I had gone from athlete to invalid in the blink of an eye. From my beloved running kit with fancy trainers to a pink hospital nightie, compression tights and brown bed socks. I didn’t recognise myself and I didn’t like it. The environment was a challenge being on a hospital ward with so many older and really sick people and I just didn’t feel like I was recovering. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t allowed to eat and everything was a struggle.

A few days later when I returned home I knew this was the place that recovery would start to happen but I needed to be strong, fully rest, allow people to help me and take the support I was being offered – none of these things come naturally to me.

And so here I am – 2 weeks later – Recovery has been slower than I have obviously wanted but I am getting there – building up my walking and trying to rest as much as I can. I know I need this to get back to the old me.

Do I miss my running? Hell yes – It was part of who I am but I have realised that running didn’t define me – it was a huge part of my life, my love and passion but it will still be waiting for me when I am good and ready to come back. In the meantime, I am concentrating on something I have found an equal passion for and that is my coaching journey. Watch this space!