Just five weeks after finishing her treatment for cancer, Sunderland Harrier Coleen Compson was on the start line for the Manchester Marathon on April 7.
The Seaham athlete completed the marathon in 3.51 – her aim being to finish and if possible to get a sub four hours clocking and, considering what she had been though and the short six-week build up for the race, her result was truly remarkable.
She said: “I’m not quite sure how I finished, the last eight miles was pure mental torture. I was physically sick afterwards. But I got through it. I did what I set out to do and that was finish.”
The Sunderland Harriers women’s captain’s medical issues started in September when she felt unwell and a scan showed a cell formation in her womb.
She ended up being admitted to Sunderland Royal to undergo a procedure to remove the cells.
Following this, she was placed under the care of Sheffield Hospital, who specialise in this area and monitored her weekly by her sending weekly samples to them to ensure that levels didn’t rise.
She added: “After a few weeks it was quite apparent that the cells had regrown and I was admitted to Sheffield Hospital on November 12, to undergo further scans and blood tests that confirmed that I had a tumour growth in my womb and that the diagnosis was now cancer – this was a bit of a shock to say the least.
“I commenced chemotherapy on November 12, and was told that this could last for four-six months.
“When admitted, the staff at Sheffield enquired about my lifestyle and they made it perfectly clear that something had to give as I couldn’t continue to look after a family, work full time and do my part-time degree and run every day.
“My treatment cycle was week on week off. Every cycle commenced with a day at Sheffield, which was taxing in itself, and the rest of the cycle was administered by the Phoenix Unit at Sunderland Royal.
“The start of the cycle weeks really hit me hard and at times I just wanted to crawl into bed and not come out for a week, but my focus was not to let my daughter Evie see that this was beating me and that I was in control of it and not the other way round – I wanted her to see that I could still work, study and run when I was able to.”
The former Lance Corporal in the army, who saw service in Bosnia, went on: “Running is my therapy and with such a busy life it really does keep me sane and without it I feel lost.
“I managed to run a little bit on my weeks off treatment albeit very slow and I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to race the Torremolinos Half Marathon in February, and I had to defer my Good for Age London Marathon place as I couldn’t get any solid training in and my aim at London was to beat my PB.
“As the treatment went on, my body seemed to adapt a little bit better on my weeks off and I started to pick up the running more and more.
“In January, two of my club mates Allyson McCourt and Paula Goodson had just commenced training for the Manchester Marathon and when Paula got injured I said that on my good weeks I would do the long runs with Allyson to keep her company.
“This gave me a purpose and as the long runs increased I felt stronger and so focussed on getting my fitness back up.
“By the end of January, my levels had returned back to normal and I only had five weeks of treatment left.
“On one of the long runs I had this crazy idea that wouldn’t it be a great idea to run Manchester Marathon as a great way to celebrate the end of this hideous period of my life and that’s exactly what I did.
“I finished treatment on the February 25, and I retuned straight back to the track with my coach Simon Taylor and threw myself back into training, running 65 miles each week.
“I seriously couldn’t have got through this without my family, friends and my amazing club mates at the Harriers.
“The staff at both the hospitals were outstanding and I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Compson, who works as a property management coordinator at Sunderland University, has lined up her next target races.
They are the Sunderland Half Marathon on May 12, and then the British Masters Relays at Sutton Coldfield on the May 18.
She is looking forward to chasing her Marathon PB at London next year and getting a sub 3.25.