In celebration of International Women’s day, we look at MSer Sue Bennet’s amazing achievements since her diagnosis
My story of fundraising began in 2013, but before this I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998. I had gone to my follow up with my neurologist expecting to hear my symptoms were nothing to worry about, but it turned out to be MS.
I was on my own. I think I walked home in shock! Three months later I was receiving intravenous steroids (that’s how it was then) for a relapse. Disease-modifying drugs were in their infancy, and there was a very strict criteria to be able to have them.
A pick me up
Fast forward six years and bilateral optic neuritis meant I couldn’t work for three months. This was a new low point. But then by 2012 I discovered running, first with parkrun and then with my running buddy. A half marathon led to me wanting to do a whole marathon to prove to myself that I could do it. So, Edinburgh marathon it was – blooming tough, but I made it!
Every year I watched the London Marathon on TV. I was fired up, and a challenge was born. I and my running buddy were to raise £4,000 for MS-UK for our treasured places. We decided to make it a real challenge – three marathons in three weeks! Paris, Manchester, and finally, London. We held a large quiz evening, with ourselves providing silver service! We did sponsored night runs for Halloween and Christmas and the favourite a ‘naked male runners calendar’, (all models were friends of ours). It was very popular and raised a lot of money.
Since then I have raised at least £2,000 for every subsequent London Marathon place (this year will now be my 7th, with my quizzes, night runs and raffles).
MS changed my life, but running has made me whole again, I truly believe it has helped me to be what I am today. I am now nearly 61, I have completed more than 20 marathons, three ultramarathons (and, in the last one, winning my age category!). My challenge for 2020, my 60th year, was to run every day, but Covid nearly scuppered that, as my work advised me to stay at home (I’m a nurse practitioner in a general practice). This was scary… but I found if I ran 40 laps of my garden it was a mile, so I could still RUN!
After a number of weeks I was back at work, and I am still running every day. I helped set up a local running group back in 2014 and have helped keep people going through this traumatic year. We have won some awards for this along the way – these wonderful people continue to inspire me with their stories and their running.
However, the caveat to all this is that I do realise I am very lucky. MS changed my life – transformed it. Without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. But for many the change is cruel and not so positive. Keeping physically active is in itself challenging, but with support and inspiration, just maybe there is a challenge that is achievable. The sense of pride in yourself is unmeasurable.
MS-UK lit the touch paper for me with my first Virgin Money London Marathon place – who knows where that rocket will lead to!