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NHS worker learned to walk again to run marathon in memory of friend

Claire Rothery in a wheelchair and with her London marathon medal

Running a marathon is an amazing achievement for anyone to make, but completing the London marathon less than a year after having a broken pelvis and having to learn to walk again is remarkable.

That is what Claire Rothery from High Harrington did this year. She decided to run the London marathon to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust in memory of her friend Leah Stephenson who passed away in 2018 aged just 16. But when Claire, who works for the NHS in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health team, signed up to the race she didn’t realise just how much of a challenge she was in for.

Leah Stephenson

She explained: “I suffer from a hip condition called Hip Dysplasia and after I had signed up for the marathon I learned I was booked in for an operation which meant they had to break my pelvis in three places and fix it back together with screws. The operation was just 11 months before the marathon.”

Medical advice after this kind of operation is to take a year to recover and to avoid doing nothing strenuous in that time, but that didn’t fit with Claire’s plans.

Claire’s x-ray

She added: “I was in a wheelchair and unable to weight bare properly for 3 months and then I had to learn to walk unaided. The marathon gave me a goal and spurred me on to try hard to get moving properly again. But I did too much too quickly and ended up with a stress fracture which set me back another 8 weeks.

“The fracture meant I could do no running at all until February (and the marathon was April). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it but my boyfriend helped me enormously. As a medic in the Army he was immensely supportive and got me out training. I struggled with finding enough time to train; between work and studying for my degree I only managed to run up to 5 miles before the marathon.

“The day of the marathon I remember passing 6 miles and saying to my boyfriend: ‘I have never run this far before!’ He said to me: ‘You’ve only got another 20 miles left!’

“The marathon was hard, really hard, but I kept thinking of my lovely friend Leah, who had passed away while I was recovering from the operation. She, and all the other teenagers who have fought such a brave battle with cancer, helped me keep focused and keep going even though I was in pain. The crowd were amazing and my supporters were incredible. I finished the marathon in six hours and 55 minutes!” We both crossed the finish line together and it was a very proud moment.

Claire Rothery and her boyfriend Tony Ellwood going past Buckingham Palace

Wendy Stephenson is Leah’s mother and she explained the Teenage Cancer Trust makes: “My daughter Leah tragically died last June at just 16 years of age to cancer. The Teenage Cancer Trust is an amazing charity that helps teenagers to be teenagers whilst battling with this horrendous disease. Leah and Claire were friends and I know that Claire fought her own physical health battle to run the Marathon in Leah’s honour and raise money for this worthwhile charity. I know Leah was with Claire every step of the way and would be as proud of her as we are too.

“I wanted to raise £2000 for the Teenager Cancer Trust but I am a few hundred short of my target and I hope that when people read my story they will show kindness and give even just a little to help me reach the target amount.

“I want to sincerely thank my boyfriend Tony Ellwood who ran the marathon with me and has supported and encouraged me so much, my friends, and family and work colleagues who have sponsored and supported me and to Leah’s family for letting me share the story and raise money in Leah’s memory.”

Claire’s manager Judith McCartney describes her as an inspiration: “We are all extremely proud of Claire. She is an inspiration to all of us and she certainly embodies the trust values in not just undertaking this amazing challenge but in her daily work with colleagues, families and young people. Claire is proof that you can achieve your dreams, ambitions and face your fears with support from loved ones and friends if you keep going even when the going gets tough. This generous and kind act deserves recognition and support and it would be fantastic if we could support Claire to reach her target of £2000 for the charity that means so much to her.”

If you would like to donate and help Claire reach her £2000 goal please visit her virgin money page:

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