A WARRINGTON woman has run 52 races in 52 weeks – after falling victim to a debilitating illness that can cause her whole body to freeze.
Sarah Matthews can also find herself unable to speak and lose the ability to hold a cup or even feed herself.
This resulted in her being unable to work – but it only encouraged her to make the most of her good days and do something to see how far she could push herself to achieve goals.
Sarah, 39, started running after visiting Disney World with her husband and seeing the “Dopey Challenge” – a series of four races on successive days totalling 48.6 miles
That started her off and in 2016 she had the idea of running 1,000 miles in a year. In fact, she completed 1,224.
Then she decided she wanted to be in the 100 Marathons Club before she turned 40, heard about the 52 Marathons in 52 Week challenge and realised this had to be part of it.
The first of the 52 was in Lanzarote in December last year and the 52nd was on December 1 this year. In the meantime she achieved the huge milestone of her 100th marathon on November 30 this year.
Until a year ago, Sarah was not running for charity but then she decided she wanted to make the most of her running.
She said: “I wanted to make sure it was to help a local charity that was doing inspiring work, particularly with disability. That is why I chose Warrington Disability Partnership.”
Sarah’s health is better some days than others and in some races this has led to difficulties. Sometimes, in the second half she is not able to see or talk. But because her disability is not visible, other runners are not always aware of it. In Berlin, for instance, she was jostled by competitive runners. As a result she decided to wear a disabled label.
She said: “In Chicago, although it was such a big race, it felt like a tight community. I was overwhelmed with emotion because the supporters and runners could see my name and were aware of my disability.
“I received so much support and cheers, with people chanting my name as I ran by, other runners coming towards me and congratulating me. That is one race that really stood out and having the disabled label felt worth it.”
Sarah has done three of six world majors as a disabled runner. Her 52 in 52 included a total of 39 marathons and 13 ultras.
But she says she would never have been a runner if it were not for park runs – something everyone can get involved in.
She will be Warrington Disability Partnership’s VIP runner at their 3k Santa Dash/Walk on Saturday, December 15 at Walton Gardens.
Anyone who wants to join in and enjoy something fun, festive and fit with the family can book online at www.disabilitypartnership.org.uk.
To support Sarah Matthews’ incredible achievements, visit her Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarahmatthews52