It was during a visit to the Haven that it first entered my head that I might be able to run again one day.

I’d started my Moving On class post-treatment at the Fulham Haven, feeling incredibly fragile. The months of uncertainty, diagnosis and treatment were behind me, the friends and family who had given me the support I couldn’t have imagined, were ready to put this all behind us – and I was too. So, so ready. But I didn’t know where to start. I felt shell-shocked, lost, completely unsure what my next move should be. Which is where Eve Warren and the ladies I met in the class came in.

I discovered this feeling was normal. That I had to expect that it would take time for me to adapt to what had happened. And it was at that class, in a moment of sharing our own small steps of progress,  that of my fellow classmates mentioned they’d just started jogging. It sparked an interest. My almost unconsidered assumption that post-mastectomy, my jogging days were over, was questioned.  Jogging round the park slowly, watching the ducks on the water and noticing spring, sounded like something I might like to do.

A few weeks later, at another of Eve’s classes, the Haven’s personal trainer, Carolyn came to talk to us. Keeping active for 30 minutes, 5 times a week, could reduce risk of a recurrence by 40%, she told us. The fact that it didn’t matter what exercise we did, that the important part was to just raise our heartrates, really hooked me. Even if I could only walk fast, it would be enough. It gave me the confidence to give it a try.

The next week, I dropped my sons at school and set off for the journey home, my newly reconstructed breasts tightly held in place in a sports bra. I walked until I was sure no other mums were around, then I started to jog. It felt okay. My chest didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and as soon as I felt tired, I went back to walking. I walked until I felt my heart rate start to lower and then broke into a little run again. I probably stopped and started seven times on the way home (it’s about 2 kilometers) but my heartrate remained elevated even when I was walking, so I felt delighted with having achieved my aim of half an hour’s exercise.

Making jogs part of my daily schedule meant they were harder to miss. Even if I didn’t feel like it, by the time I was standing in my running gear at the school gates having dropped off the boys, it seemed silly not to at least jog part of the way home. And as the days and weeks passed my progress was amazing.

Within a month, I could run the whole way. Within 5 I was running there too (the boys by this time had hopped on scooters or bikes to keep me company). To start with the motivation was fear. At times I felt I was literally trying to run away from cancer. But as time went on, that changed. My attempts to find beauty in the natural world around me, as instructed by Eve as a way of harnessing happiness, were futile at first. But gradually, without realizing it, I began to see the beauty again, and was starting to genuinely enjoy the peace from the daily grind.

That was when the Haven contacted me and asked if I’d like to do a race for them. The thing I loved about running these days was that I wasn’t competitive with myself. When increased heart rate is your aim, it doesn’t matter how long you take, or how fast you run. Merely doing it is good enough, and that was freeing for me. But the Haven had been a lifeline, and I felt so much brighter now, than I had all those months ago, so I felt determined to give something back.

I talked it over with my family, and my younger brother, Rory, said he’d join me. So we signed up for the Great British 10k together.

I felt determined to keep my no-pressure approach, to make sure I didn’t start disliking my running, so I persisted with my usual daily run for most of the training period. As race day approached, I started running longer weekend runs, and slowly built myself up from 5 to 9 kilometers, 500 meters at a time.

I also discovered music! Now That’s What I Call Running gave me not only a release from my thoughts, but no matter how tired I felt, when a good tune came on, I found the energy to power through that song (and through my dip in energy).

Rory and I didn’t train together – again, I didn’t want to compete, but I have to admit as the race approached, I did start to wonder what my time would be. I borrowed my husband’s Garmin watch and realised that all my daily jogs had actually, unknowingly, got me fitter than I’d probably ever been. I’d only ever run seriously once in the past, when I’d trained for a 10k about 6 years ago. I hadn’t loved running like I did now, and had not so much as gone for a jog since that race was over, which was another reason I’d been concerned about signing up for this one. But it suddenly dawned on me that I might be able to beat my last time, without too much effort.

My competitive nature got the better of me, and I upped my training in the last month. I added in a few sprint sections to my run home, and did weekend runs with the Garmin watch, keeping an eye on my pace. When race day came Rory and I went for it. He zoomed off in the first kilometer and I set off too fast, all the adrenaline pumping, in my pink Haven t-shirt. But with our family along the route, and spotting each other during the sections that we looped back along the same roads, we had plenty of encouragement along the way.

Seeing my boys at kilometer 7 was a highlight, and with one eye on my time, I slowed down and swooped in for a kiss. I wanted a fast time but if cancer had given me anything, it was a sense of priorities, and my two sons trumped everything. Buoyed by their presence I dug deep for the last 3k.

We both threw ourselves over the finishing line, having given it everything we had, our faces as puce as our Haven tops, full of elation. We got our medals, made our way to the tube station and headed home.

A few days later we totted up our sponsorship money. We’d raised over £800 from our close friends and family and were so touched by their support and generosity. And despite my fears, I was very easily able to leave my competitive streak behind, and return to my daily run-for-fun jogs, without a thought of my pace or my time (although admittedly a little smug in the knowledge I’d beaten my last PB by a whole 5 minutes!).

In fact, as it turned out, I was 3 seconds off a sub-54 minute time – not bad for a nearly 40-year-old! I think the old me might have been a
little frustrated to be so close yet so far. But while I’d have loved to have been a few seconds closer to my brother’s impressive 42 minutes, the new me knew without a doubt those special road-side kisses with my kids were worth every second they took!