27th March 2017
If anyone has a reason not to run, it’s Caithy Walker. Yet running, in Caithy’s own words, has saved her life. Being diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, losing her dad and going through divorce all within the space of a year would have many people lining up the excuses to stay in bed. But Caithy radiates positive energy and sheer determination, and she decided to pick herself up and get on with things.
Four years later, the 33-year-old secondary school teacher from Manchester is running races she never thought she would run and was recently a finalist in the UK Women’s Health magazine ‘Body 2016’.
I catch up with Caithy a couple of weeks after she completed the ASICS Oulton Park Half Marathon (right), and she is still buzzing from picking up a medal she never expected to be holding. Having suffered a hamstring injury five weeks previous, and been in so much pain on the morning of the race that she almost didn’t go, Caithy’s effort to cross the finish line in the pouring rain and ferocious winds at Oulton Park is nothing short of miraculous.
“I was just so grateful to be able to run, and put one foot in front of the other, that the weather didn’t bother me,” recalls Caithy. “I had hardly trained due my hamstring tear, so crossing that finish line was just amazing. I’m still buzzing from it and still have my medal draped over the side of my bed!”
The ASICS Oulton Park Half Marathon was Caithy’s second half marathon, the first being the inaugural Aldi Manchester Half Marathon in October 2016. Having been told she would never run again due to her spinal condition, completing her first 13.1-mile race was a landmark day for Caithy, and one that had been four long years in the making.
“The Manchester Half Marathon was a day I’ll never forget,” enthuses Caithy. “The race was fantastic and extremely well organised. I was hoping to run it in under 1 hour 45 minutes, but was shocked to finish with a PB of 1 hour 37 minutes. It made all the effort totally worth it!”
Indeed, Caithy’s introduction to running, in her determination to overcome her spinal condition and heal her bereavement, was certainly painstaking. She started by simply walking from lamppost to lamppost, and built this up to speed walking one hour every day, to eventually running. For a lady who takes morphine every day to control her pain, along with plenty of natural remedies and Vitamin D, it’s clear she has a bucket load of mental grit.
“I won’t deny that it is hard and on some days I need to dig deep,” admits Caithy. “Some days the pain is more intense and I’m less inclined to get out of bed, but when I get back into my running it gives me a real lift. Running really has saved me. It has lifted me out of my darkest moments and brought me countless other benefits.
“You have to start somewhere and that’s really the hardest part – I could only run for 30 seconds when I started. It’s the start that counts, and you can build up from there. If I can just inspire one person to get started, or motivate others to keep going, then I’ll be delighted.”
Despite her successes of late, Caithy’s marathon dream has been put on hold after she had pull out of the upcoming ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon on 2nd April. Devastated to be advised by her spinal surgeon that her body is not up to running the hugely popular race in her home town, Caithy is putting on a brave face and will be volunteering on the day instead.
“I have built up a big community online and have met many people running the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon through social media,” says Caithy. “I am gutted to not be able to run, as it’s a brilliant, flat and fast marathon with an incredible atmosphere. But I will still be there to support my running friends and feed them jelly babies from the side!”
As for what the future holds, Caithy is now happily re-married and has her sights set on a fantastic goal of the 2018 New York Marathon. She’s hoping to run another five half marathons this year, along with a few 10Ks, having got the season off to a great start by finishing 3rd placed female in the Heaton Park 10K last week. And perhaps, one day, Caithy will realise her dream of becoming a qualified coach and opening a running academy for children with learning difficulties; if anyone can do it, she surely can.
We’ll certainly be following Caithy’s accomplishments as if anyone deserves those medals, she does. She is an inspiring example of how to never give up, no matter how many mental and physical setbacks life throws at you, and we wish her all the very best!
Follow Caithy Walker on her blog.