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‘I hit £1,000 last week and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling (or running) since’

Rebecca Bailey Photo.jpegRebecca Bailey was diagnosed with MS during lockdown, and a ‘desperate impulse’ has resulted in her helping others just like herself with overwhelming support, she is our July Fundraiser of the Month

Here’s the thing you should know about me, I’m not a good runner and a strange phenomenon happens where I turn into a sweaty beetroot. Ask anybody. I used to run a bit here and there, nothing fancy. But now, despite the beetroot face, I’m going to keep running until I physically can’t anymore. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) during the pandemic. That was a bit of a surprise for me, in a year full of surprises. And yet, this July, I’m running a (very slow) marathon over the course of the month. All 42km, bit by painstaking bit. Surprised? I know I am!

So what spurred on my July dash? I have to be honest, it was a desperate impulse. My symptoms are mostly tingly feet, but it’s pretty off-putting when I’m running not to feel the ground beneath me. Will I trip and swerve right off the path? Probably not, fingers crossed! For a while, I just wanted to hide and wait until the tingling went away. I couldn’t envision going out on the track like this. I saw the ideal version of myself I had in my head swerve off the path and fall out of sight. My confidence was broken. I stopped running.

Then I saw the MS-UK’s My MS Marathon campaign and madly thought “Yeah, alright then”. I had been trying to be vocal about my new health condition but I never anticipated what happened next. I linked up my fundraising page with friends and family and promptly forgot about it. I put my trainers on and managed to stay on the path for the duration of my run. 

I have email alerts on my phone, and as I pounded my way over tarmac and dirt track, I was accompanied by the ringing sound of emails flying into my inbox. At 2km I stopped for a breather and checked out what was causing the racket. A man was running past me at the exact moment that I whooped for joy, and I think I caused him to leap out of his skin. I couldn’t believe it, I’d smashed my £100 target within a couple of hours. 

Turns out, I hadn’t really told that many people about my diagnosis. My bad. They learned about it through my fundraiser, and all I can surmise is that they wanted to give me a hand. I just didn’t realise how many hands there were, reaching to give me a boost, a pat on the back, a high five. Old family friends, co-workers, lost friends, and against the backdrop of well-wishers, always my family. I haven’t seen my mum or dad, haven’t hugged them in four months. Not since before my diagnosis. But my family led the way with my fundraiser, reaching across the distance to keep me going. I was crying by 3km because my next target had whooshed by like the kilometres. By 4km, I didn’t know what to do with myself but laugh. To myself. In the middle of the street. As it rained. It was that kind of a day.

I started out doing small runs - 1.5km, maybe 2.5km if I was feeling brave. Before long, I fell back into the rhythm of my run. My muscles remembered what they were doing, I recognised the twinge of a stitch but pushed through it. I inched back up to 5km, and it had been over a year since I had the energy or the confidence to push that far. And now, when I feel like walking, I remember my backers’ messages and I keep running. 

I know that for many other people with MS, having MS-UK there will keep them going. It’s so important to help support people going through this frightening time. I know because I’m going through it too, and I need all the help I can get.

I hit £1,000 last week and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling (or running) since. I’m still on the right path, for now. If you've been inspired by Rebecca's story or would like to donate, visit my-ms-marathon.everydayhero.com/uk/running-for-my-life

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