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Council salutes ‘true grit’ marathon heroine

A WIFE who battled a rare genetic illness to run the London Marathon has been honoured by Erewash Borough Council at its Active Lives Awards.

Tara Brown, 37, had been all set to run the UK’s Boston Marathon in 2021 until she was left reeling by the first in a string of health challenges.

Her optician diagnosed a detached retina. She was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery on her left eye – forcing her to pull out of the 26-mile event.

The computer software worker had to undergo further ops but never gave up on her marathon dream.

She began training with Ilkeston Running Club for the 2022 London Marathon.

But with just a week to go she started feeling ill and ended up in hospital.

Tara, who had been suffering from strange muscle pains and sickness, was shocked to be diagnosed with Gitelman Syndrome – a kidney disorder that causes a severe potassium and magnesium deficiency in the blood.

The inherited condition puts pressure on the heart and can lead to chronic fatigue, muscle cramps and seizures.

She was in hospital for eight days. Undaunted – and despite also suffering from sepsis – she set her sights on last year’s London marathon.

Ferocious training, which was interspersed with regular infusions to keep her healthy, saw her finish in a time of four hours 43 minutes.

Tara joked: “At the start of the run I shot off like a gazelle, forgetting all the advice.

“At mile 15 I didn’t feel too great so I got some medical assistance and had a little break. But I was determined to finish.”

She was presented with the Legacy Leisure Adversity Award by Tim Spencer, Head of Sport and Leisure at Legacy Leisure, who operate Rutland Sports Park, Victoria Park Leisure Centre and West Park Leisure Centre, in a ceremony held at the Seven Oaks Inn in Stanton by Dale. Runner-up was David Williamson, who is celebrating losing more than 5st after suffering from diabetes. He completed an exercise referral programme via the Live Life Better Derbyshire initiative. Winners in other categories were:

Ilkeston pensioner Kathlyn Phillips, who at 72 scooped the Active Lives Award after she shed four stone. Kathlyn was referred for 12 weeks of exercise sessions via  Live Life Better Derbyshire when she was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. This was also under its “exercise by referral” scheme. A soft tissue foot injury had hampered Kathlyn’s desire to take up jogging again – but she now goes for regular runs. Kathlyn, whose liver readings are now normal, said of going to the gym: “It has changed my life.” Runner-up was Rachel Buczkiewicz, who has led walks to help people in the borough get exercise.

Active Young Persons Award – Thomas Caine, 15, who has been a “very positive role model” for younger children while volunteering with a youth mentoring organisation in Ilkeston called Parkside High. Runner-up: Tilly Woolis, who volunteers at Erewash Valley Gymnastics Club.

Active Volunteer Award – Raoul Pinkney, from Borrowash, who has led a string of wellbeing walks across the borough to improve people’s mental health. He has also organised accessible treks for those with disabilities and long-term health issues. Runner-up: Ken Foster, who leads Ilkeston Health Rides.

Special Recognition Award – Chris Brookes, who in eight years has transformed Long Eaton Rugby Club after it was on the brink of extinction with barely enough players. It now has more than 600. Runner-up: She Will Female Empowerment Project, which provides support and safe spaces for 13 to 17-year-olds.

Active Coach/Activator of the Year Award – Naushad Ali, of Long Eaton, who opened a multifaith worship space and has been supporting asylum seekers through football and cricket as they integrate into the local community. Runner-up: Lauren Searby, who coaches over 70 children weekly at Long Eaton swimming club while training to be a midwife.

Community Group/Association/Team of the Year – Insight community project in Long Eaton for providing a range of activities for young people, including sports sessions, youth clubs and even a music event. Runner-up: Long Eaton Junior Triathlon Club.

Active School Award – English Martyrs Catholic Multi Academy Trust in Long Eaton. Runner-up: Dallimore Primary and Nursery School in Kirk Hallam.

Active Place Award – Sawley Youth Club. Runner-up: Erewash Valley Gymnastics Club.

Project/Initiative/Innovation Award – Long Eaton Parkrun and Junior Parkrun. Runner-up: Petersham Running Club.

Erewash Borough Councillor Claire Marie Poole, who is the Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

           “Congratulations to all our Active Lives winners, including runners-up who also deserve great credit. Tara’s ‘third time lucky’ marathon story is one of true grit and determination. And the way 72-year-old Kathlyn has improved her health proves it is never too late to reap the benefits of being fit and active.”

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