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After seeing Amanda share her difficult experience following breast cancer, Charlotte felt the urge to show her support. She tells us why she signed up to run a half marathon, and how meaningful it felt to fundraise for Breast Cancer Now.
On 15 October 2019, somewhere between midnight and 2am, I signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon. Evidently a time when all good life decisions are made!
A few days earlier, I had read a blog post written by actor and Breast Cancer Now Ambassador, Amanda Mealing. In her post, Amanda reflected on her experience of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how she has learnt to recognise signs of anxiety and prevent these from taking hold.
Amanda’s post was honest and open, and her words stayed with me. It was a poignant reminder that, no matter how someone may appear on the outside, you never know what internal battles they may be fighting.
However, it was also an encouragement that there is great strength in vulnerability.
I knew I wanted to do something proactive to give back, to someone I have long admired and who always gives so freely to others. So, I turned to Breast Cancer Now.
I’d been familiar with the charity for a while, and I especially appreciate how effective they are in raising awareness of signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Last October, I actually went to the GP about some changes I noticed in my breasts because of something I’d seen on Breast Cancer Now’s Twitter account, which shows how important their work is for everyone – not just people with an existing diagnosis of breast cancer.
I scrolled through the events page on their website and right at the bottom was the Cardiff Half Marathon. It was the perfect fit. A 5K seemed too easy, and a marathon out of reach, but a half marathon felt achievable while still being a challenge. And so began the training… 2.5 years of it! Due to COVID-19, the race was postponed three times.
It would have been easy to give up, but I am the kind of person who will always see something through, and not even a global pandemic was going to stop me running this race!
The Events Team at Breast Cancer Now were so incredibly supportive during the long lead up to race day. They were always on hand to ask for advice or give support with fundraising, and frequently checked in to see how I was getting on.
The Team Now Challenges Facebook group were also a great source of encouragement. If you are thinking of taking part in any kind of challenge for Breast Cancer Now, I'd recommend joining.
When it comes to getting sponsorship from people, I think connection is key. Not just connecting with other people, but having a connection to the cause and being able to say why it’s so important to you.
Sometimes sharing such personal stories can be difficult, but social media is a great tool for reaching people. It also allowed me to keep people updated with my progress.
I was very nervous on the morning of the race, but that soon dissipated as I walked through the event village. I spotted a familiar bright pink and orange vest amongst the crowds and introduced myself to a fellow Breast Cancer Now runner. We talked about why we had signed up for the race, and - to our great amusement - realised we had signed up on the same date, and both in the middle of the night!
The sun was shining, the infamous Cardiff Bay breeze a welcome relief in the midday sun - 13.1 happy miles. The atmosphere was electric, with a live band playing, a choir singing, and crowds cheering words of encouragement at just the right moments.
Despite my frustration at multiple postponements, this too was the ‘right moment’. On 27th March 2022 - Mother’s Day - and in the 20th year after Amanda’s diagnosis, running this race felt all the more poignant.
Naturally I wanted a good time but, as it was my first official race, any time would be a personal best. Instead, I focused on soaking up the race-day atmosphere and finding joy in every mile.
Having now completed the race, there are three top tips I can offer to other people. First, make sure you have trainers that fit properly. Ill-fitting trainers are a recipe for injury! Second, accept that life will get in the way sometimes, and that you might have setbacks in your training. You’ve got to be willing to just ‘put it in the bin’, as one of my friends says – move past it and carry on. Finally, keep your focus on why you’re doing this.
It may sound cliché but, during the toughest moments of the race, I kept reminding myself who I was running for. I’d say to myself, ‘Amanda has been through much worse, so you can absolutely make it through the next mile’.
I like to think we’re all driven by a desire to help other people. Sometimes we can do that directly but, when that’s not possible, fundraising still allows us to contribute. It may seem small or insignificant, and we might never know the impact of our actions, but fundraising will make a difference.
As much as running a half marathon was a personal achievement, ultimately it was a celebration - not of me, but of Amanda and everything she has - and continues to - overcome.