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Spinal Research Benefits from Bridget Higgs’ Inspirational Marathon Journey

Society Member Bridget Higgs recently completed the London Marathon, running in support of the Spinal Research Charity.

Bridget’s story is a fascinating one and from so many different angles; as someone not sure about taking on such a challenge, to not getting a place, to plucking up courage to run for Spinal Research, to how her desire to provide the best possible sports therapy advice to marathon runners inspired her to go on this journey.

Tell us a little about yourself and how and where Sports Therapy fits in.

I graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2005 with a BSc Sport and Exercise Science. Unable to decide my next step, I spent a year travelling. In that time, I searched for a course that would combine my passion for anatomy and physiology with my love of sport. Sports Therapy was the answer. So, in 2008 I completed my MSc Sports Therapy from the University of Teesside. It feels crazy that I’ve been qualified for nearly 10 years! Since then I have worked in multiple sports at elite level. I currently work in a private clinic as well as having my own mobile Sports Therapy company and I have just started a new job with England Touch Rugby.

What prompted you to run the London Marathon? Had you ever done anything of this scale before?

When I turned 30 I decided to celebrate by applying for the London Marathon (crazy I know!), but unfortunately, I didn’t get a place. I decided against applying for a charity place because I was worried about having to raise the dedicated amount. Over the next couple of years, I totally talked myself out of the idea of ever running a marathon. I convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to stick to the training and that my body wouldn’t cope. Then last year I had a patient who had completed multiple marathons over the years and I was helping to get her fit again following a bout of illness. During her appointments I realised that she was providing me with far more knowledge about marathon training than I was able to give her. It really made me stop and think. If I ever wanted to be able to give the best advice to patients about marathon training, going above and beyond just injury advice, I needed to experience one myself. So, in 2016 I entered the ballot for 2017. Unfortunately, again I didn’t get a place but my partner did. I thought ‘right, now or never’! I knew I would be far more motivated with a training partner so I plucked up the courage to contact a charity and within 10 minutes of talking with the Spinal Research Charity I was signed up. It really was that easy!

Is there a reason why you chose to support the Spinal Research charity?

I actually have three reasons as to why I chose to support Spinal Research.

  1. At secondary school I completed a work experience placement at a Rehabilitation Centre for those affected by spinal cord injuries. I was placed with a young lad (the same age as me) who had dived into a swimming pool on holiday and was now paralysed from the neck down. Whilst I was helping him with his rehab I realised it so easily could have been me, it was a silly mistake anyone could make. I really wanted to help him and he really was the spark that ignited my rehabilitation journey.
  2. A family friend was in a car accident a few years ago. He was 19 at the time about to go to Cambridge University when he suffered an upper cervical fracture and is now quadriplegic. Spinal Research does a fantastic job funding research into the repair and recovery of the spinal cord so that people like him could have a better quality of life.
  3. I work alongside chiropractors and the majority of my patients have spinal injuries. Although they are not spinal cord injuries I am fascinated by and have a lot of respect for the spine/ spinal cord and nervous system. I felt supporting Spinal Research fitted in perfectly.

As far as the fundraising is concerned, I am so thankful to my friends, family and patients who supported me. I really couldn’t have done it without them. It wasn’t easy. I constantly uploaded Facebook posts and wrote blog posts about my progress to gently nudge people to support me. I also made cards to sell at work and I organised a big fundraising afternoon tea. It was all worth it though and I was thrilled to raise £3170.25 in total which was well over the £1800 target the charity set.

What was the training/build up like?

If you think the 26.2 miles race will be tough, believe me, the training is tougher! Prior to starting the training programme, I was a recreational runner. I had completed some 10km events and half marathon years ago. However, the thought of 26.2 miles was very daunting. I decided to follow a programme in which I completed 4 runs, 1 cross training day and 2 rest days per week. The long run was completed on a Saturday. I started training just before Christmas running regular 5km 2-3 times per week and then followed an 18 week program. I did all the training on my own with the occasional friend joining me for a run. On the whole I think I stuck to 90% of the programme and I never missed a long run. To be honest I think I was scared into it. The long run is so important as this is where your confidence is gained.

Were there any big changes to your daily routine?

There were no real changes to my daily routine just making sure I kicked myself out of the door to do a run, even when the weather was bad and I really didn’t want to. I also had to up my food intake and take on more carbohydrates.

How did you use your Sports Therapy knowledge to prevent getting injured ?

One of the main reasons for doing a marathon at this point in my life was because I have such a great support network. I work in a clinic with another Sports Therapist, Adam, and two Chiropractors. I knew I would be able to rely on them if my body struggled with the increased distance. To be honest I already wear orthotics so my biomechanical issues for running had already been addressed. I then made sure that I had weekly massages and Chiropractic adjustments to keep me functioning properly throughout training. Two weeks prior to race day I went to a podiatrist who gave my feet some TLC where hard skin had built up. They felt amazing afterwards. Injury wise, apart from some initial blisters, I didn’t really suffer. I had one little wobble half way through my training where my knee plicae flared up due to too much downhill running. I rested, iced and taped my knee and it settled down after a few days. I was nervous of it returning but it was fine. Otherwise I just kept on top of stretching and to be honest didn’t overdo it. If I felt too tired for a mid-week run I listened to my body and skipped that run. On the race day Vaseline and blister plasters were my friends and I finished the race with nothing more than muscle fatigue!

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line?

So many emotions engulfed me as I crossed the finish line. I was bursting with pride, utterly exhausted, totally relieved to have finished and amazed that I had actually just completed a challenge I thought I would never be able to do. I must admit there were a few tears; I think it is just so overwhelming.
I did wander around totally exhausted not really knowing what to do. All I wanted to do was hug someone, but my family and boyfriend were waiting with the charity. I was reunited with them after about 10 minutes and I think I had the biggest smile on my face!

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of running the marathon in the future?

JUST DO IT! I doubted myself a lot. Was I fit enough? Would I be able to get myself out the door when it’s miserable outside? Could I raise the amount requested by the charity? Would I get injured? The list goes on. But I did it. I managed the training and I smashed my fundraising target. So, you can too! It just takes a lot of determination, a huge amount of positive thinking and great support from those around you. I found patients loved it as it was a great talking point. The support received from so many people is fantastic and the feeling you get once you have completed the race is incredible. Go and make yourself proud.

Can people still make a donation?

Yes people can still donate by going to Virgin Giving and typing in Bridget Higgs or by clicking on the link below:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=bridget-higgs-SAVMLMBONDS3332017-86603561&faId=783731&isTeam=false

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