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15 minutes with MS Trust fundraiser Debbie Worthington

Debbie and her husband

When Debbie’s husband Joe took part in a half marathon in Malta, it inspired her to give running a try for herself. Since then she’s really got the bug for running and is now inspiring others to get involved with some fantastic fundraising challenges.

How do you approach your training?

Gently! I ran my first couple of kilometres along the promenade in Malta in February 2013 when we were out there for Joe to complete the Malta half marathon. I was shattered. My muscles didn’t know what had hit them and climbing stairs was agony for days! When we got home I started going out for increasingly longer runs on my own, with friends and Joe.

When did you decide to support the MS Trust?

I was waiting for my husband Joe to finish the Great North Run in 2014 and I had a mooch around the Charity Village. I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the team there from the MS Trust, as well as being a bit embarrassed by my ignorance around what the Trust had already done for me and my family!

When were you diagnosed with MS?

I was 25 when I visited the doctor with tingling in my left hand and foot and blurred vision, after previously being quite medically uninteresting! I had a classic combination of symptoms which lead to a swift diagnosis. That was nearly 13 years ago. I didn’t realise at the time that the literature I received, and the training my MS nurse had been given, was down to the MS Trust.

How has your MS affected your running?

I wasn’t a runner before my diagnosis, and although I’d kept up with yoga and swimming, I’d become very wary of doing anything that might tire me out or spark a relapse; my MS has been stable, so in my head I was doing the right thing. I’d been following a healthy, low-saturated-fat diet, which boosted my energy levels and made me feel more in control, so I started running with a goal of completing my first parkrun.

Your first big fundraising challenge was the Worthington 500K, what did that involve?

2015 marked 10 years since my diagnosis. We’d both joined the MS Trust Great North Run team, so we decided to see how we could raise as much money and awareness as possible. What started out as a modest goal of raising £1,000, soon became the outrageous target of £10,000! I was really enjoying taking part in races, so we entered loads with the aim of completing 500km in races that year.

How have family and friends supported you?

The support from family and friends was, and continues to be incredible! Coming out at work was probably the hardest part, as my MS had always been on a need-to-know basis, but the support I received from my employers was fantastic too. The totally unexpected part of the challenge was the number of people that wanted to do something to help us and fulfil their own personal challenges along the way. The high point was 20 of us taking part in the Leeds 10k on my birthday - this remains my sister’s first and last 10k!

Can you tell us about your latest challenge, the Summer Streak?

This was another of my daft little ideas that suddenly became big! After getting over a few injuries, I realised that I missed the challenge element to my running, so decided to try a running streak. I aimed to run at least a mile a day through July and August, and a handful of friends thought that it sounded like a good idea too. By the time August came along, our group of Streakers had doubled and many are still going strong!

What’s your experience of fundraising been like?

We’ve found the key to successful fundraising is being able to give donors something for their money; whether it’s the opportunity to challenge themselves, attend a great event or buy a handmade item such as the Ackworth Road Runners’ bobble hats! Our current total stands at £18,500 and we hope to take that over £20,000 next year when we try our hand at endurance running and my first marathon.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about taking on a challenge?

The Worthington 500k amazed us all; I still can’t believe what we achieved and the lasting effects of the challenge. Everyone that got involved got something out of it personally; it strengthened friendships and created a whole host of new ones. My advice to anyone taking on a challenge is to think big and share it; you’ve no idea what you can achieve unless you try and you’ll be blown away by the support you receive along the way. Go for it!