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22nd September 2021

Running for Mandy

Anna Yell is training to run the Chelmsford marathon, and is looking forward to proudly wearing a St Helena running vest on 17th October 2021, as it is embellished with the name of her friend Mandy, who is currently having treatment for cancer.

Anna’s own condition, functional neurological disorder, makes it an extra personal challenge as seizures, pain and fatigue means she can’t always follow a training schedule. Anna shares her challenge…

Anna Yell

I'll need  the support of people cheering when I'm going along because I've never run any further than 13 miles. It's going to be really hard and I'm going to need that support as I go along.

The crowd gets you going. It really does make such a huge difference. I could go out and run 13 miles tomorrow and I could probably do it on my own with my headphones in and it would be fine because I've done it lots of times, but a marathon is a very long way and that support is very important every few miles just to say ‘come on’. 

I ran my first Colchester half marathon for St Helena and it was funny because I'd be running along and people were shouting ‘go on Anna, well done Anna’, and I thought how do you know my name? Do I know you? Then I looked down and of course I've got my name on my running vest! But it really did spur me on. I was getting tired and I was thinking I'm not sure I can carry on, then people would call my name and it would give me that little bit of extra energy. 

I'm kind of looking forward to the Chelmsford marathon. I've always fancied doing one, but I never thought that I could do it, I'm still not sure I can! I'm now 43 years old and I've only been running for four years. I was always very overweight, very lazy, never really did anything. Then I lost the weight and got healthy and I've done plenty of half marathons now, so the next step really for me is a marathon.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with functional neurological disorder, which is where messages to my brain get stuck. I have temporary paralysis in my legs, sometimes I have to walk with a stick because I get weakness in my legs, and I get chronic pain in my limbs. I have trouble with my speech and bad convulsive seizures which can leave me for a week or two where I can't function very well. When I first had it two years ago they thought I was having a stroke. 

In January my friend at work, Mandy, was diagnosed with stage four liver and bowel cancer. I was sitting there feeling all sorry for myself but after hearing that I just thought to myself, Mandy is going through this but I suffer sporadically, I’m lucky and there are a lot of people that have this far worse than me. I need to do this while I can in case it does get worse. So that was that, I just said right, book me in!

Anna and Mandy

Anna and Mandy

Anna's back sign

I might wake up on the day and physically not be able to run it, but I've said to people this is what I suffer with and if I can't run on the day, I will do it, I will have to do it virtually, but I will run a marathon. This is why I think I've been able to raise so much because people know it's not just me going out and running a marathon, it is quite different circumstances for me. It’s quite a big challenge. 

When I decided to do it, because Mandy had just been diagnosed I said to her you tell me what charity you want me to do it for and she said, ‘I'd really like you to do it for St Helena’. I'm really pleased she said that because I had some counselling through St Helena when my dad died 14 years ago, and then when my mum died at the hospice 11 years ago, I had some group counselling. The hospice is quite a big thing for our family so I was really pleased when she said she wanted me to run for St Helena.

One way or another I will do it. I’ll just remember what’s written on my T shirt – Mandy’s name. I have to think yes, my legs are aching, yes, I’m tired, but there are so many people that wish they could even be out walking at the moment. 

Anna's JustGiving page

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.


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