‘I just couldn’t accept being told not to run anymore’

Yorkshire secondary school teacher Sophie Bradford was told that chronic damage to her spine meant she should never run again. Remarkably, on Sunday 20th October she will complete an incredible journey by taking her place on the start line of the Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon.

“I have degenerative disc disorder – it’s very painful and quite debilitating when it flares up,” Sophie explained.

“Basically the cartilage discs in your spine crack and leak fluid, which hardens and presses on the nerves in your back. It got so bad a few years ago that I spent nearly an entire month just laid on my front, unable to do anything. I was told by my doctor that to avoid further damage I couldn’t do any sort of weight-bearing exercise, never mind run the Yorkshire Marathon.”

The 34-year-old from Halifax had always been active, counting football, squash and badminton among her list of hobbies, so she was unlikely to take such medical advice with a simple thank you.

“It was horrible to be told something like that,” Sophie continued. “It made me feel utterly powerless and I quickly realised I just couldn’t accept it.

“I did lots of research into the best way to strengthen my back muscles to support my spine and through weight training my back is now stronger than ever.”

It took until February last year for Sophie to feel confident enough to even try a run. Her early attempts at jogging were a real struggle.

“I was hopeless and couldn't even do 100 metres without stopping,” she said.

“I kept at it, started a Couch to 5K programme and three weeks later did my first Parkrun – I’ve been addicted ever since.

“A few months later I ran the Leeds 10K and have done three more 10Ks and a half marathon since.”

Sophie’s transformation from being bed-ridden and unable to exercise properly, to running the Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon is a story she is keen to share in an effort to encourage others.

“I think back to the way I felt when I wasn’t even allowed to get out of bed and running has changed everything,” Sophie said passionately.

“It was a way for me to take back control of my life and not allow the pain to dictate what I could or couldn’t do.

“Never give up and if you feel like there’s any chance you can improve your situation then you have to try – that’s my biggest message.”

In addition to continuing her own journey by running October’s Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon, Sophie will be running for Bloodwise. You can support her run via Sophie’s JustGiving page.

Click to find out more about the Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon.

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