I've been wanting to run the London Marathon for a few years and since my Dad had his accident, I've been more determined than ever to make the most of how lucky I am to have fitness and full mobility - something I took for granted before. 

I’m running for Aspire because since my Dad had a spinal injury in February, I've become so much more aware of the challenges and difficulties faced by people with spinal injuries and it's a deeply personal choice for me to help raise money for this cause. 

I’ve never run a marathon before.  I've been doing a bit of running over the last 6 years or so since moving to London, but normally 10km sort of distances. I've done one half marathon and a few longer training runs.  I love running because of how simple it is - all I need is my running kit and I'm off! It always makes me feel uplifted and de-stressed. Running on my own with an audiobook on is my chance to zone out, but it's even better to go with a friend. Also, it's such a great way to get out and about and explore, especially when I'm travelling - I've done some fantastic sight-seeing runs when I've been on holidays.

My Dad

My Dad is 68. He worked as a self-employed fencing contractor and one day in February he went out to do a day of work on a private property; a completely normal day that turned out to be anything but. Checking things over before leaving, he made the perfectly ordinary decision to hop over a 3' fence to take a short cut. His foot slipped on the rail as he climbed over, and he fell, unfortunately landing on his head. His neck broke, and he was left lying on his own, fully conscious but unable to move to reach his phone in his pocket. He says he knew what he'd done. He was found by the owner of the property about 20 minutes later and was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he underwent an emergency operation on his neck that night.

Hannah as a baby with her dad

A second operation was carried out about 10 days later. Throughout this time, he was in the high dependency unit with very restricted visiting rules and I was not allowed to visit him, which was terribly difficult. He didn't want to have his phone - I think he was too traumatised and unable to cope with the thought of people calling and messaging him - so I couldn't even speak with him. I sent voicemail messages each day instead, which his partner played to him, just talking about this and that, so he knew I was thinking of him. Once we were allowed more visitors, the family took it in turns to go every day at lunchtimes and evenings to spend as much time with him as possible. 

At first, Dad couldn't move anything except his arms. His hands wouldn't move at all, so he couldn't do anything for himself. For a very independent, practical man, this must have been absolutely devastating.

Then one day he called me from his hospital bed to show me that he could move his index finger and thumb. I remember being so relieved and suddenly hopeful, that I burst into tears. Although it was such a tiny thing, it meant so much, because suddenly some level of recovery became possible. Nevertheless, Dad had to learn how to do things without being able to grip or use his fingers, and everyday things like brushing his teeth became major achievements. 

Since May, Dad has been in the Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Injuries Centre for his rehabilitation. At first, he found everything immensely upsetting and difficult, and I spent a lot of time there with him each day, working remotely from the hospital so that he wouldn't be alone, until he got settled in and started making friends among the other patients. He has made tremendous progress and has shown incredible resilience and determination. He still can't really use his hands but has learned to do lots of things for himself and is re-building upper body strength to use a wheelchair and transfer from the chair to bed unaided. He does not have enough leg movement to be able to try standing up, but perhaps this may eventually come. 

Aspire Your Fund

As well as running the London Marathon to support Aspire, part of the funds I’m raising are going into an Aspire Your Fund, which is a way for me to do something directly to help Dad. I was thinking of trying to do some kind of crowdfunding to raise some money to help him get essential equipment, but this feels so much more meaningful as I'm also undertaking a serious challenge to encourage people to support us by sponsoring me. Plus, some of the money I raise will also help other people in the same situation as my Dad. 

We're not yet totally sure what we’ll be using it for because there are quite a few things he needs, but I'd like to ensure that he gets a really good, portable powered wheelchair that enables him to access the types of places he loves - his garden and the local woods and fields - and to be able to do things like go to the beach and on family outings.

People have been so generous and I'm almost halfway to my target of £10,000! I've been really touched by how many people have supported me.  So far, I've just spread the word around friends and family; my fundraising page tells the story of how Dad was injured, and because of that, I think people have been really keen to show their support. 

Hannah with her dad in a wheelchair

My training is going well - I'm following a 16-week plan to get used to running the longer distances, which means that I feel like I'm doing a lot of running each week (like Forrest Gump!) but I've had no difficulty with it and this week will be up to 30km. 

I think running the London Marathon is something that any self-respecting London runner should tick off!  It will be a fantastic experience, like nothing else I've done before.  I'm aiming to run it in under 4 hours but running 26 miles is really just my way to support the true marathon challenge - the one being tackled by Dad.

Sponsor Hannah 

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