Running Hero Anita Heybourne About Never Giving Up

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Anita Heybourne

Anita Heybourne

At 43 and being told by an orthopaedic surgeon I would have to give up running was devastating. I had been running with hip pain for a number of years which I had been ignoring and just put down to age rather than any specific problem (but in all honestly I was denial).

In 2012 I had trained a client to run The London Marathon (at 50 she had never run before) and I had 16 weeks to achieve this. It was such an amazing event and I entered to run on my own the following year. My training was had not gone to plan, I had set out to complete a 16 mile training run only to call my husband in tears at 6 miles to say I was in agony. Every heel strike sent shocks running up my legs into my hips and spine. And so the investigations began. I became very depressed at the thought of not running. I have loved running ever since I was a young girl with my dad at the weekends.

As a Personal Trainer & Sports Therapist my fitness is so important to me. So in 2012 after spending 6 months feeling very sorry for myself and not running or doing any exercise, I decided enough was enough and to start my own course of rehab and retraining myself to run. I started to get a grip of the condition, (FAI) Femoral Acetabulum Impingement and bilateral tears; the ball and socket were not gliding properly and it meant that it would ‘catch’ when I ran – hence the pain. This meant resurfacing the joint. 6 months out of work and no promises I would be back running.

My decision was not to have the surgery. I set about building my base fitness on the spin bike and started building some strength back in my legs. Even squatting and lunging was agony – the ‘meat and potatoes’ of any running program. I persevered, I gave up alcohol, avoided foods that caused inflammation and started taking joint supplements and holistic anti-inflammatories. After about 6 weeks of spinning I started strength & core training again. Little by little my legs and hips were accepting the movements of squatting and lunging. This was giving me hope.

So I started running 1 mile. Off road, on trails, one minute running one minute walking. I felt alive again. It was frustrating having to pull myself back to such a basic level. I promised myself not to run any more than 3 times a week and not to increase my distance until I was running a mile without stopping. Cutting a very long story short in 6 months I was back up to running 10 km. It was a hard slog. In January of this year I needed a focus and so decided to walk/run The Race to The Stones 100km across the Ridgeway with my running buddy Emma (25 yrs younger than me).

I was amazed at what my body was able to do; I clocked up the mileage. Six weeks before RTTS Emma and I did a 40 mile training run, whilst the hips were uncomfortable I started experiencing stomach pains, burning in my sternum. I was knocking back ibuprofen to cope with the pain. I had convinced myself it was stomach cancer and nothing was going to get in the way of me completing this race.

On the day of the race, I was in great shape. Mentally I was ready for the 100km but physically I knew the hip pain would test the resolve I had. Not to mention the pain in my stomach that started kicking in after about 10km. By mile 42, I had stuffed 10 ice packs down my shorts to keep the hip pain at bay but began being violently sick. The pain in my stomach was unbearable and a shuffled off to the medics tent. “You need to go to hospital” the medic said “you have a bleeding stomach ulcer”. Under duress I resigned from the race. I refused to go to hospital but promised if the symptoms didn’t settle I would see a doctor. On reflection, if I had seen a doctor sooner I could have taken medication to help the ulcer heal.

Despite a DNR, I am hugely proud of what I achieved. To get to 42 miles with the problems I was experiencing was one thing, but to get myself up and running again after being told it wasn’t possible is something that I hope might inspire others not to give up, but to take a look at their training and adjust the way they train, eat right, drink right and get plenty of rest and don’t take no for answer! Next year I have three ultra-marathons pencilled in the diary. I didn’t complete this race, but there will be others and I’ll be back stronger and more determined than ever.

Follow Anita on Instagram @noodle_runs and Twitter @alhtrainer if you want to know more.

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