Claire’s story: from wheelchair to running marathons

Yvonne Turner
Sep 18 · 4 min read
Claire Todd shows her medal off with pride after recovering from spinal injuries and being wheelchair bound

There was a time when going for a run, or even walking, wasn’t possible, what led you to be in a wheelchair?

During my second pregnancy in 2014 / 2015 I suffered really badly with lower back pain and severe pain on my outer right shin. Physios whilst I was pregnant put it down to Pelvic Girdle Pain and said it would get better after birth. It didn’t get better but actually got worse after my youngest son was born in April 2015. I was on crutches whilst getting around the house and used a wheelchair when outside as my right leg would just collapse underneath me at any given time — all this with 2 boys under 2 to look after.

How did you recover, and what was the recovery period like?

I saw a physio a few months after giving birth and she took one look at me and said she was confident I had a herniated disc in my lower spine. I then saw a spinal surgeon who did an MRI which confirmed my L4/5 disc had herniated and stuck my sciatic nerve to my spine causing constant crippling sciatica. I underwent a micro-discectomy and nerve decompression surgery in September 2015.

After the operation I woke up pain free — the operation had been a success. I started physio to get some movement back into my lower spine whilst also concentrating on building up my core strength and general fitness. Everything was going well until I turned over in bed in December 2015 and herniated my disc again. This time the damage was much worse and I underwent emergency revision surgery shortly afterwards. I then started my physio all over again and also worked with a rehabilitation specialist PT to rebuild my body.

Were there days when you thought it would not be possible to ever walk or run again?

Oh gosh yes. After my back reherniated in December 2015 I was really worried that my surgery wouldn’t be a success. Any operation carries its risks. As a mum of two small boys having your consultant explain everything that could go wrong with the surgery prior to going to theatre was really hard. The thought of being paralysed was just something I couldn’t even comprehend. I’m just incredibly lucky that my consultant and all the rest of his team were able to remove the pieces of disc which had squashed out and free up my trapped nerve.

Do you think you have a different outlook on exercise and running because of what has happened to you?

Absolutely. I only took up running in July 2017 when I did a Couch 2 5K course at a local running group. Prior to that exercise just wasn’t on my radar. Now I’m thankful I can walk, let alone run. I’ll never be super-fast, or find running easy, but I do it anyway. I do it for my recovery — the worst thing I can do is be inactive. I do it to be a positive role model for my children. They are used to seeing me run, and now are getting interested too — even taking part in our local Junior Parkrun. I do it to help others. Spinal Research made me an ambassador for them earlier this year so I can often be spotted at races up and down the country running with their flag on my back raising funds to fund research into treatments for spinal cord injuries.

Does your back still cause you concern / is sore after running?

Yes. I’ll always have struggles with my spine. However, the more I move the better it is. I’m not a fast runner, but I’ve completed the London Marathon and have lots more races planned. It niggles from time to time but I just do my physio exercise, lots of stretching and cross training. I’ll have a few days off running and try again.

I’m lucky as I have an amazing physio, who’s a long-distance runner, an understanding GP and a super talented coach who all help to keep me and my back as healthy as possible.

What are your running achievements since being out of a wheelchair, and next goals?

I’m a Run Leader, I’ve completed 7 half marathons, a marathon and I’ve got lots of races planned already for the remainder of this year and into 2020 including 6 more half marathons and 2 more marathons.

How has the community / #visorclub helped you?

At first I didn’t “get” what #visorclub was all about. I just thought it was runners in visors — I’m so sorry. However, when I did the London Marathon this year I got the biggest hugs off the loveliest of people at the #visorclub cheer point — Becs, Michele and Caroline I remember hugging all 3 of them and others too — they absolutely lifted my spirits.

Since then I go to the pre-race meet ups and have made lots of friends that way too.

It sounds really silly but it gave me the confidence to go and chat to a 1.55 (I think) pacer before the GNR this year (Darren Hendley) without feeling inadequate as I’m nowhere near his pace. It’s like we are all on an equal playing field and one big team. And for me that is something so very special. So I thank the #visorclub for that.

Read more about the Racecheck Community and #visorclub here. Join the supportive Facebook Group here.

Racecheck is a web and app community helping recreational athletes find, book and plan great endurance events through the power of race reviews, while also helping organisers promote their races to a highly relevant audience.

Racecheck

Our website and mobile app bring the global endurance community together, offering event search, registration, sharing of experiences through tens of thousands of race reviews and the connection of participants — all in one welcoming community.

Yvonne Turner

Written by

Racecheck

Racecheck

Our website and mobile app bring the global endurance community together, offering event search, registration, sharing of experiences through tens of thousands of race reviews and the connection of participants — all in one welcoming community.

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