From a broken back to running 8 marathons in 8 days [Updated-21 April]

In just under two weeks time Victoria and Anna will be running the 220 miles from Paris to London. Starting with the Paris Marathon on 15 April, they will finish their epic run eight days later at the finishing line of the Virgin London Marathon. Victoria tells us her story:

This time last year I had just been flown home from Chile with three fractured vertebrae in my back; a result of a horrific rock climbing accident in Patagonia.

Now, just 14 months from the date of the accident, I am about to embark on a 220 mile from Paris to London, to raise money for spinal injuries charities Backup and Aspire.

Along with my team mate, Anna, we will run approximately 220 miles, starting with the Paris marathon, running through the French countryside to the coast, take a short ferry ride across the channel and then run on to London, rounding off our challenge by completing the Virgin London Marathon a week later.  This equates to a total of approximately 220 miles – more than eight full marathons in eight days.

We have already raised over £6,000 for charities, helping those affected by spinal cord injuries to rebuild their lives, and hope this figure will rise as we embark on this enormous challenge.

We have had a huge amount of support with fundraising for the cause. Our success has been boosted through a number of events and activities which together have had a cumulative effect on increasing our total.

Cake Sales, pub quizzes, raffles and fun runs are to name just a few of the events we have held. Kind friends have even gone the extra mile by holding cake sales at their workplace to raise funds for our cause. These have been subsequently matched by employers, boosting our total even further.

We have been very active with online activities such as blogs, sending emails to colleague, sending E-newletters as well as creating our own website. All of these things were low cost and readily available event to non-technical experts, such as ourselves!

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been incredibly useful with raising awareness, connecting us with like-minded people, as well as gaining hints and tips on training.

One of the most effective ways we have found to inform and engage others was through shooting videos. These were really good fun to film and have brought home the effort put in ‘behind the scenes’. Our latest video gives an insight into what it takes to be ready for a challenge such as this.

I narrowly avoided injury to my spinal cord and feel lucky to alive, let alone be walking and now running and hope this challenge will inspire people to do things they never thought were possible.

Vicky and Anna’s challenge takes place between 15-22 April 2012, For more details head to their website, and to donate visit their Virgin Money Giving page.

Update (16 April)

We’ve had an update from the ParisLondonRun team after they completed the Paris Marathon yesterday:

High point of the day: Finishing the Marathon.
Low point of the day: Anna’s poorly hamstring.
Quote of the day: “I forget that it is actually quite hard to run a marathon!” (Anna)

After negotiating the roads of France, a few near misses and wrong turns (let’s hope we get this right on the way!), we collected our numbers, found our hotel and made it to the start line! A cold morning to be on the Champs Elysees but beautiful nonetheless. Paris had a carnival atmosphere and we were so happy to see the Brazier sisters, Lauren Evans, Johan, Will, Kate, Tilly and Tom along the route! We finished it in 4h 30 and were happy to be greeted by Rich and Lauren. Our final member of the team has now joined us and we’re all ready to go tomorrow.

Congratulations to everyone who completed the Paris Marathon.

Update (17 April)

High point of the day: Getting lost running up a hill but discovering an amazing cathedral at the top

Low point of the day: Poor directional skills from a Parisian sending us back towards Paris.

Quote of the day: Whilst waiting for the support car and running in circles to keep warm “Eddie Izzard didn’t have to put up with this” (VG)

Our first day on the road, relying on our own navigational skills proved to be quite a challenge – but was a welcome distraction from the sore muscles. With copious amounts of tape holding us up, Anna’s hamstring and Vicky’s calf somehow managed to make it through another full marathon distance.  The reward: Makeshift medals (fashioned from today’s route map and some cotton) as we crossed the finish tape (fashioned from measuring tape courtesy of the medical box).

A number of thank yous to mention today….The little bakery who kindly allowed us to commandeer their toilette en route.  All of the motivation texts we have received to keep us going when it gets tough.

The support team, who were second to none – jelly babies, lucozade, medical treatment and warm clothes to hand at regular checkpoints.

All followed by a gourmet meal of pasta, tuna niscoise, chocolate ice cream for dessert, all rounded off with a sports massage to get us ready what is in-store tomorrow…another 26 miles!

And of course thanks to all those people who have kindly sponsored us to help us reach nearly £10,000.

Update (18 April)

High point of the day: The dedication of the support team being on hand even in the wind and rain.
Low point of the day: Vicky’s fluid-filled big toe nail – and the needle being jammed in. Oh and the stinging cross winds and rain horizontal rain.
Quote of the day: Too exhausted and wet to be witty – sorry, will try better tomorrow!!

Today the elements were against us rather than the navigation!! Rain, wind and an open road accompanied us for the 26 miles as well as many toots from overly friendly truck drivers, someone even offered us a lift (we said yes…only kidding!!). In Gisors we had a motivational boost thanks to a sign left by Paul Cox’s sister. Just a shame Anna couldn’t read it as she was having a mini migraine at the time (swiftly cured by drugs and lucozade).

It was far prettier today than the Paris suburbs, shame we couldn’t see it. We even put in a massive effort to climb a never ending hill over the final 4 miles at the end of the day for the good view…shame the route took us that way! We crossed the finish line (banner borrowed from Asda!) sodden, drained but ultimately elated that we now have 78 miles in the bag and £10,000 in the bank!

We made it to our accommodation to find that Vicky’s big toe was rather swollen and required a minor surgical procedure to alleviate the pressure. Not to worry Dr Spice was to the rescue again armed with a sharp needle and a headtorch to sort it out. Sad to say he has had to leave to return to his patients at home, but know he would have much preferred to stay with us if he could have ;) He’s looked after us well, now it’s an all girl team tomorrow and Teg and Lauren have had a mini masterclass in taping methods!

One last thing – thank you to Mumma Grove for the cake that has kept us going the last few days!

Update (19 April)

Highlight: Teg stumbling into a ditch whilst trying to dismount her bike to provide support aid

Lowlight: Horizontal sleet for the final 8 miles

Quote of the day: Whilst passing a wind farm in the support car having seen a weather forecast yesterday predicting 40 mph winds in the Rouen area – “I can’t believe these girls have chosen a route through an area that is scientifically proven to be particularly windy”

Day four is now complete and the girls are now in Forges-les-Eaux and halfway through this amazing challenge having run over 100 miles. For Vicky today has proven to be by far the hardest, but luckily Anna was able to keep spirits high for the both of them – a role reversal after yesterday when Vicky had to be Anna’s guide dog for the duration of her migraine – these girls really do make a great team! The weather improved today enabling the support team to take to their bikes to provide in-flight entertainment (see above highlight) and supplies of water, Lucozade, KT tape, paracetomol, ibuprofen, ibuprofen spray, nutella baguettes (we had to get something French in there), jelly babies, jelly beans, milky ways, mars bars, bananas, cereal bars, wet weather gear and of course motivational chat.

A last minute amendment to the route meant that we spent the final 8 miles on the Avenue Verte – a beautiful path along a disused railway line, along which we will continue to Dieppe tomorrow for our final leg in France.
We also came across Rob Evans and his support team, who is undertaking the same challenge in aid of Barnados (www.paristolondonchallenge.co.uk) – although he seemed a bit taken aback to have Teg’s camera shoved in his face from the support car as we passed him, so much so that he slowed to a walk… but not for long after being ordered “DON’T STOP RUNNING” by Lauren.

After a crash course in kinesio taping from Rich, Teg and Lauren have been assigned 2 legs each to look after: strapping up knees, calves, quads, ITBs and hamstrings.

Tomorrow is our last day on the continent – bring on the English Channel!

Update (20 April)

High point 1: Rob’s commitment when he picked himself up off the pavement to support the girls in their challenge.
High point 2: Loading our car on to the ferry knowing that all that lay between Dieppe and Newhaven was water and even Jesus didn’t run on water.

Low point: Realising our bodies may decide to give up before we do.

Quote of the day: “If you find yourself running through green fields with the sun on your back, do not fear, for you are on the Avenue Verte and you’re are already over half way there.” (Quote adapted from Maximus Decimus Meridius (aka Gladiator) – you should know by now we’re not capable of such literary gems after a day on the road).
Today was the last stretch to the French coast and, unsurprisingly, the last four marathons are taking their toll on the girls’ legs.  But after a good night’s sleep in the French Fawlty Towers, some ‘expert’ support taping, various (legal) drugs and a healthy supply of Positive-Mental-Attitude, they hit the Avenue Verte cycle path and the green valleys en route to Dieppe.
We were joined this morning by Rob McKenzie, who caught the overnight ferry landing in Dieppe at 4am this morning.  After a short detour to Rouen and cycling straight into a closed gate in the pitch black and horizontal rain, he made it to us 4 hours later but still smiling and left a suspicious wet patch in the support car front seat.

The weather is still playing with our emotions.  April showers persist and sunshine tempts you out of the rain jackets before punishing your optimism.

The Avenue Verte is a disused railway that meanders through the northern French countryside; however, the scenery provided only a brief distraction from the screams of tired muscles and sore feet.

The support team were in the saddle again today, with Nurse Rob escorting the ‘ladies what marathon’ along the whole route.  They were met at frequent intervals by the support girls who offered tales of spooky gnome houses and much-needed baguettes and energy-boosting snacks.

We’re currently writing this on the ferry to Newhaven where we will be met once again by Rich ‘healing hands’ Spice and will be reluctantly waving goodbye to Lauren ‘support superstar’ Evans.

The rolling hills of the South Downs await

Update (21 April)

High point of the day: Being surprised many times by new members to the team joining us – we had a marathon train today. Toot Toot!

Low point of the day: As the hail set in, realising there was still a mile to go to the finish line… up a hill.

Quote of the day: “Uphills hurt, downhills hurt, in fact flats hurt too” (AR)

After a very long night of calling NHS direct, treatment, meeting Vicky’s Uncle and Mum in Newhaven and finally going to bed at 1am, we woke up to a lovely view of sunshine! Today we were joined by a new support crew – Paul and Sarah Ridout. With Teg and Rob to guide them in ‘how to treat Anna and Vicky’s ailments’ we knew we were in safe hands. We were also joined by a contingent of Vicky’s friends – Rosie Camburn, George Holdcroft, Chris Jee and Ollie Porter and a surprise of Vicky’s parents too. We ended up causing havoc between Newhaven and Crawley by creating our own ‘marathon train’ along the winding roads.

The girls’ bodies are now significantly deteriorating, with swollen ankles, knees and general fatigue. It was really important to keep us fuelled up, especially as it was sunny all day (for the first time!). Joined by some fresh legs, navigation was handed over to the Sandhurst Cadets who got us from Newhaven to Crawley, replenishing us all the way. Support team tottie Teg, also put on her running shoes and joined in for 10km aboard marathon train (and continued to cycle the the remander).

Paul Ridout (Anna’s Dad and Chairman of the sponsor company OSIL) also joined us for a section of the run as did Vicky’s Mum, Mary! They both soon chose the more sensible option of hopping back into their support cars. It was a great sight to see and gave the girls a massive lift to realise how many people were out to support them. A lovely first day back in Blighty.

The final two…
Tomorrow, Saturday 21st April, we will be running from Balcombe, West Sussex to Balham in South London. We should be in Tooting around 3 – 330pm if you would like to join us for the last couple of miles. We will be ending at the Grove Pub in Balham if you would like to join us for a drink or two.

Sunday 22nd April – for those of you watching the London Marathon watch out for 2 yellow tshirts and 2 very tired girls. For those of you watching from the comfort of your own homes, watch out at around 0840am – all going well we should have 20s of fame on BBC1!

 

Update 22 April

High point: Being welcomed by a large crowd of cheering people in Balham as we crossed the finish line after a 28 mile slog.
Low point: Realising our route calculation was slightly out and at mile 26 we still had another couple to go before reaching the finish line.
Quote of the day: Tired tired tired, just got one more to go. Bed time. Sorry!

After a hearty meal of home cooked lasagne (and lemon meringue pie!) and some well earned rest, our penutlimate marathon started where we left off the previous day – at the Cowdray Pub, Balcombe (West Sussex). The route took us away from country lanes and onto the suburban roads as we made progress towards London.

The support crew today consisted of Vicky’s sister Becky, Michael and, of course, Teg. We were joined on the first 6km by Anna’s mum, Pip, along with a whole host of supporter on bicycles and on foot. Thanks must go to the following for blocking traffic, moral support and sheer efforts – Kat, Charlie, Max, Olllie, Amy, Stephen, Lauren, Will, Johan, Ant and Katie. Even our medic (and birthday boy) Rich Spice joined us mid way after a morning of treating ‘normal’/less exciting patients.

With injuries causing a slow start, it seemed to take an age to reach the halfway point – we were in for long day. We were urged on by all of those supporting us which proved crucial when, at mile 22, we realised the finish line was a little further than 4 miles away!

It was a tough run in the heat, but the cheering as we ran towards our finishing point in central Balham made the pain insignificant – temporarily at least.  We finished the day at the Grove pub for some celebratory drinks as well as Dr Spice’s delicious birthday cake, handmade by Mrs Grove.

A sincere thanks to Polly H, Polly G, Helen S, Charlie Mc who organised the finish line and all those who came and cheered us in and who also joined us for a premature but very very happy celebration.

Tomorrow brings our last and final marathon, a day which we are sure to never forget.

REMINDER:
Sunday – 0830 – tune into BBC 1 to watch the London Mara coverage and watch in particular at 0840 for (hopefully) our 20s of fame. Listen into 5Live Radio at 0900, hopefully you’ll hear us there too!
For those coming to support – we are in our bright yellow Paris marathon tshirts and running together. We are estimating/hoping for 5-6h marathon, but please bear with us if it takes longer! We will update our facebook pages when we are heading to the pub – http://ststephenstavern.co.uk/ PLEASE COME AND CELEBRATE WITH US!

6 Responses to “From a broken back to running 8 marathons in 8 days [Updated-21 April]”


  1. 1 The Dragon April 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Absolutely Inspiring, That is a Fantastic story as allways I am honoured to run with Icons such as yourselves Good Luck and I hope to see you In The Virgin London Marathon, when you pass me just shout out Hi

    best wishes and success from

    The Dragon

  2. 2 Paris London Run April 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    @The Dragon
    Thanks! How will we know who you are? Please tell me you will be wearing a dragon outfit?!…

  3. 3 Natalie Wood April 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    We are delighted to have such fantastically dedicated supporters representing Back Up. Everyone at the charity truly appreciate all the hard work both of these ladies have put into training and fundraising for this incredible challenge.

    We can’t wait to see them cross the finish line!

    Natalie Wood
    Community Fundraiser
    Back Up

  4. 4 Hire a Hero UK April 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    A great story. It is always good to hear about people coming back from such a major setback achieving even more. Some of the ex armed forces personnel we help though our Hire a Hero UK charity are going through similar problems. Just goes to show that injured support isn’t simply about medical services, its about inspiring people to live their lives to the maximum.

  5. 5 Nicci April 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Big respect Ladies…and i am worried about running one marathon next Sunday!!! good luck.x

  6. 6 Alexander April 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    You two are totally crazy, totally lovely, totally inspirational and I think that you should smile when you read this knowing that you have brought sunshine into the world today.

    I have been following your thread for a while, but felt I just had to write. I had to wish you luck. And I had to say that I think you are both brilliant.

    Alexander xx


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