A Winchester super mum has achieved a surprising personal best at the Edinburgh marathon, 10 years from her first marathon for the MS society.

Tara Whittington was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2005 at just 21 years old. MS affects over 130,000 living in the UK, causing nerve damage around the body, making it harder to do daily activities like walking, talking and eating.

Having never been a runner before her diagnosis, Tara completed her first marathon for the MS society in 2012 in four hours and 40 minutes.

Ten years on, the 37-year-old from Fulflood, achieved a personal best, of just four and six minutes. Now with two children, the marathon mum completed her 7th marathon in May, 36 minutes faster and back where it all started at Edinburgh Marathon festival. She said: “I really wasn’t expecting it, a PB wasn’t on the cards at all. It wasn’t even like I was secretly hoping for it- I had no idea.

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“So, it was a little bit of disbelief when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe it. You’ve achieved so much more than just that one run, it’s about four months of effort.”

Tara, who works in corporate governance for Health Education England, feels quite fortunate as her MS is relatively mild, her main symptom being fatigue. Discussing her own experience, Tara said: “I was at a music conservatoire, playing the clarinet and I had tingling all down my back. And because of the nature of what we do as classical musicians, holding an instrument we thought I might have had a trapped nerve. And that’s all I thought it was but then suddenly it snowballed and turned into the neurological condition multiple sclerosis which I knew very little about at the time.

“I was diagnosed quite quickly with it, through brain MRIs- which was all during 2005. And then it wasn’t until 2012 that I ran my first marathon. I wasn’t into running at all. It wasn’t like I wanted to run a marathon and couldn’t. I think it was about 2010 I started running and thought I’m really enjoying this.

“When I was first diagnosed, it was easy to catastrophise. And I remember just after I was diagnosed, seeing the London Marathon advertised and I thought oh I will never run a marathon but then I thought- well when have you ever wanted to run a marathon?! Stop feeling sorry for yourself for something you wouldn’t be doing anyway. And then a few years later when I got into running, I was reminded of this time.”

After her first marathon in 2012, the Health Education England worker, completed another four marathons in Edinburgh, London, Brighton and Manchester before relapsing in 2016.

When talking about her relapse, Tara said: “It’s different for everyone but for me my main symptom is chronic fatigue and numbness on hands. And then slightly unsteady on the feet, first thing in the morning but then for the rest of the day I’m really lucky with my mobility- it’s really not been affected at all.

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“With the chronic fatigue it’s kind of like everything is heavy- it’s not sleepy, it’s physical fatigue. You’re awake but it feels like your body is made of lead. You just feel really exhausted.”

Two years on from the relapse and still impaired by symptoms, the mother of two took on another marathon in 2018. Despite having to walk nearly half of the marathon and labelling the run as unsuccessful, Tara considers her 2018 marathon as her proudest moment, “The amount I had to push myself on that day to get there, it almost felt like the biggest achievement of them all”, said Tara.

With each marathon, Tara has been raising money for the MS society. The charity aims to make life better for people with MS, through research, campaigning and support. Following her latest marathon run, Tara has raised over £1500 for the society. Mark Haymes, Community Fundraising Lead for the MS Society, said: “It’s amazing what Tara achieved at Edinburgh Marathon 10 years after her first marathon run for us.

“MS can be relentless, painful and disabling, but there is reason to be hopeful. We believe we can stop MS and can see a future where nobody needs to worry about their condition getting worse.

“Thanks to brilliant supporters like Tara, we are closer to reaching this goal than ever before. We thank Tara and all the 156 runners for their continued support.”

The marathon mum said: “I run for the MS Society because of the support they’ve given me and the access to information that I have, not just at the beginning when I was first diagnosed but throughout the last 16 years. Even in recent years when I’ve had a relapse and I’ve wanted to read more I’ve been able to go through the MS Society.”

Tara hopes to run at least “a handful more” marathons for the charity, especially now her oldest son (Edward, 3) is now starting to get excited about running himself. Tara’s next goal is The Great South Run in Portsmouth, a ten-mile coastal run in October.

Tara’s Just Giving page is still open for donations. To support Tara in raising money for the MS Society click here.

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