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Running through the good and bad times

I clearly remember when I first started running. In fact I remember my very first run. I was living in London at 23 and had discovered a love for the gym. The gym I went to was near my work which was great during the week, but at the weekends I found myself reluctant to get a tube or bus just to work out. I wanted the freedom of just throwing on a pair of trainers and being able to get outside and workout. I decided to brave it. I’d always thought running wasn’t for me, I didn’t have the right gear and if I am completely honest it felt clunky. For a start my boobs were bouncing all over the place, and there were a lot of roads to cross and people to weave around whilst running around the streets of Islington.

Fast forward 18 years, a move back to Cornwall, numerous 10k’s, a handful of half marathons and two full marathons, it's safe to say running has become a part of my life. Running is my go-to when feeling happy, sad or frustrated. It’s always there and has become a habit that is ingrained in my weekly routine. I love being out in nature taking in the beauty of my surroundings and feeling the benefits of the inevitable post run endorphins.

Running has been my crutch through tough times: deadlines at work were made more manageable by throwing on my trainers, and break ups and bad days were made easier to deal with. Running allows me to deal with my thoughts - it somehow feels like the bad energy is burned off of my body. Believe me, there have been many runs spanning those 18 years where I’ve really pounded the pavements and then felt ready to face the world post-run. I guess you could say I am greedy for endorphins.

As a mother, I ran through my pregnancies. I definitely tapered back a bit, and towards the end I took to walking, but with all three of my beautiful babies once I got the green light from my midwives I went back to running. I’d take it ever so gently, and with my last two babies I ran with them in my trusty Thule running buggy when they were old enough for me to do so.

Running with cancer

In the last few months before my diagnosis from spring through summer I was finding running harder. In fact I was really doubting myself - maybe I’d just gone off it? I definitely felt a shift, but I couldn’t articulate why. I had really low energy levels and a lot of persistent coughs. I put this down to being a new mum, but I didn’t stop to think and after my second birth I ran the Bath Half six months postpartum.

I was diagnosed in November 2021 and carried on running. I run with a friend every Saturday or Sunday morning - having that accountability helped keep me motivated. I ran through my chemo treatments. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty tough to keep going, so I listened to my body and rested when I needed to. Towards the end the sickness from chemo was cumulative and got worse as the treatments went on. I was tired from it all and needed a break.

My chemo treatment finished in late Spring 2022 and I soon felt more like myself again. I couldn’t wait to feel good again so I slowly slowly started running again. I’ve always found with running that being kind to myself and not beating myself up about slower runs definitely helps. Lately pace has slowed and I am ok with that. Because somehow in all this madness I’d become a runner with stage 4 lung cancer. Is that even possible? People asked me that same question I was asking myself, but I was doing it and I am living proof that miraculously it is possible. I know it's not the same for everyone as some people physically can’t exercise with this diagnosis. I honestly don’t know how I am able to, but it just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to. I made it my mission to do it and feel comfortable as I can’t imagine not being able to go out running. When I can’t I’ll find something else that gives me the same feeling.

For me running is my medicine and it is a part of who I am, it makes me feel so good and whilst I’ve been unable to drive it’s given me not only structure to my days but also a feeling of independence, which is something I’ve really missed.

Raising money whilst doing something I love

I can’t remember how it was decided but back in June my friend Roosje who I run with every weekend suggested we visit Amsterdam together to run the half marathon there. I’d never been and seeing as we were pretty much inseparable whilst growing up and having spent a lot of time around their family dinner table listening to the Dutch tongue and enjoying all the sweet treats, it seemed crazy we hadn’t already done this trip together. I’d also listened, salivating as a teenager about the delicious gooey croquettes you could get from a vending machine - this seemed like the coolest thing in the world to my hungry 14-year-old self.

So we booked ourselves onto the half, booked our flights and carried on running. I didn’t put an ounce of pressure on myself with the training - the last thing I needed post-chemo and the shock of this imposter in my life was a gruelling training regime. I literally just added in a few more runs a week and then a couple of miles extra at the weekends.

I was realistic about my situation, I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or not but my oncologist has said running was fine as long as I was comfortable.

A few weeks before I was due to run in Amsterdam the London Marathon took place. Nick and I had always said we would run it together and in a moment of madness we both decided there and then to enter. It had been on my mind that I wanted to give back to a charity the amount that had been raised for us, after people had been so generous helping us to create memories as a family.

Earlier this year I had discovered the amazing charity Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Their website was a huge source of not only comfort but valuable information. Initially I’d felt embarrassed to be diagnosed with lung cancer. I knew very little about the disease, dismissing it as a disease that smokers over the age of 70 got. I found it really hard telling people. Saying you have cancer is a bit of a conversation stopper anyway but sometimes there is no way around it. Roy Castle works hard to provide support to those with a diagnosis, and help people to understand that anyone can get lung cancer - you just need a pair of lungs. A big thumbs up from me was also that they share information about the signs of lung cancer which help early diagnosis and in turn save lives. I recently found out it was due to them that smoking got banned in pubs and clubs. And now I want to help by advocating for lung cancer and shouting as loud as I can about it. So I’ll happily drag myself (and Nick) around 25 miles to raise money for Roy Castle. As I said from the very beginning, something good must come from this.

I’m not sure how I will get on with the training, but I intend to be sensible and take it steady. My main aim is to focus on enjoying the experience. Nick cares about this too, and is aware we can’t really go hell for leather. We want to soak up the atmosphere and just enjoy it without worrying about doing it in a set time. For both my previous marathons I was aiming for sub four-hour and both times I came in just over. I have absolutely no intention of beating my record this time as running is now very different for me: I have nothing to prove and just want to raise as much money as possible.

If you are reading this and think you can’t run, I can definitely tell you I have many many friends that have said that and are now happily running. Even just going out for a walk-run will help you on your way. My motto is ‘no one ever regretted a run’.

Amber xx

PS I probably need to add, I am no expert, just passionate about feeling good and being strong. I would never give medical advice so if you have any kind of medical condition please check with your GP or health practitioner before starting a new exercise regime xx

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