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Community / Tenth Great North Run set to be emotional day for fundraiser who broke leg twice

Sophie Whitehead will be walking the half marathon in aid of Cancer Research

Sophie Whitehead will be walking the Great North Run on Sunday.

FOR someone who ran nearly every day and had completed marathons in cities like New York and Rome, breaking a leg – not once but twice in the space of a year – was not only unfortunate, but a pretty huge deal.

Sophie Whitehead, who lives in Lerwick, has had to cope with not being able to run since her first leg break in 2019.

It happened, coincidentally, when she tripped while out running in Lerwick – while the second, on the same leg, took place the following year when she was out walking in the hills.

But with a positive mindset, Sophie is not letting this get to her ahead of taking part in the Great North Run half-marathon for a tenth time on Sunday – although this one will feel rather different.

Instead of chalking up decent times at speed through running, she is going to walk the 13.1 miles, in and around Newcastle, in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Her first Great North Run, which takes place around where she grew up, was back in 2009.

More than £200 has been raised at the time of writing despite her fundraising webpage only recently going online.

“I felt it was important to take part as I’d regret not taking part more and not knowing what I could achieve,” she reflects.

“I feel like Sunday will be an emotive day – it always is, but it’ll also be my first event since breaking my leg.

“A friend of mine was meant to take part and is unable to as she begins cancer treatment this week. I feel lucky to still be able to attend the event and will try to enjoy it on her behalf too.”

It will be emotional for many of the other participants too, with the run – which is taking a slightly different route than usual due to Covid – likely to be their first event since the pandemic.

Sophie broke both her fibula and tibia in her first injury, and was operated on in Aberdeen.

She re-broke the same leg in August last year when out on a walk after a slip.

“After the first leg break I was told I’d never run again,” Sophie adds.

This was a hammer blow for someone who ran most days, and enjoyed long distances; the furthest under her belt was 70 miles.

“Mentally, I think it’s learning to know your own boundaries,” Sophie reflects.

“Coming to terms with a change in lifestyle and a slower pace. A lot of my life, holidays, friendships, social time along with active time was focused around running.”

She has picked Cancer Research UK as her charity of choice for Sunday’s walk partly because she is on local Relay for Life committee.

“I wanted to feel like I was doing the distance for a bigger cause,” Sophie said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on my recovery and training, with help from Bryan Pearson at the Factory gym. It’s been more strength and weights focused. Without this there’s no way I could have considered taking part on Sunday.”

People can donate to Sophie’s fundraiser here.