The distance runner with ultra-fragile legs

PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 February 2009 | UPDATED: 23:00 15 June 2010

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IF you saw Heather Foundling-Hawker limping around Honiton doing her shopping you would think it highly unlikely that her ultra-running career was back on track.

IF you saw Heather Foundling-Hawker limping around Honiton doing her shopping you would think it highly unlikely that her ultra-running career was back on track. But, on January 25, after 18 months of injury, Heather won the UK 50km trials in Gloucester, running with the blessing of her orthopaedic surgeon, neurologist and Dr Wolman, consultant rheumatologist at RLOH in London.Heather won the ladies' race by 10 minutes, going through the marathon split in 2hrs 59mins beating the ladies' marathon winner by 23mins, despite training solely in a swimming pool and on a Power Plate, bar one session on a treadmill.Heather now qualifies for the Anglo Celtic plate, a 100km international in Ireland at the end of March 2009 and, if she does well there, a place in the World and European championships combined at the end of June in Belgium could follow. That January race was her last chance to stay on the GB squad (after her time off injured) and she produced the performance in front of four GB selectors Heather first noticed her legs were not 100 per cent a couple of years ago and decided to run the New Forest Marathon with friends just to see how she got on. It was a race she held the record for and was a qualifier for the World Championships. She told GB officials that her legs felt like 'mashed potato' but they thought she was suffering with nerves. Heather knew otherwise: "I don't suffer with nerves as I don't put myself under pressure in a race, I just see what happens." Halfway round she heard a crack in her foot but managed to complete only to find that she had in fact cracked her heel. She was plastered up but a bone density scan at the Olympic Medical Centre showed that the injury had not healed. She said: "My bones were disintegrating but my blood tests were perfect, all the minerals etc were fine. It was difficult to take in and very difficult to stay confident that I would be able to run again. "I never take any food supplements and I eat normally. I just had to keep swimming and use a Power Plate to boost my fitness. I just prayed to that God would heal me. I saw a little cloud up in a patch of bright blue sky and I prayed that God would hold me together like that cloud during the race." For those athletes who suffer 'the wall' in marathons it is probably very difficult to imagine dealing with ultra distances mentally. Heather said: "I have a 64 mile race coming up. I just look at the scenery and think about my family, things like that. I don't look at a watch and worry about my times. In 2010 there is a 24 hour race in India I want to try. I would just love to see how far I could run in 24 hours!"Heather also competes in the first ever ultra-distance and mountain Commonwealth Championships in Keswick in Sept. As winner of the ladies' race in Gloucester she also won a holiday in Gibraltar in November - incorporating another European IAU trophy race. Heather's next feat is to write her training programme, and she would welcome new sponsors for the coming year.She is seeking sponsorship from an acupuncturist and massage therapist to help aid her recovery from rigorous training and races.She would like to thank her current sponsors, Asics trainers, her suppliers of cut price chocolate ginger which she eats while racing, East Devon Leisure for a swim/gym card, and Peter Betteridge, The Bed Expert, for her Tempur mattress.l Heather can be contacted on h.foundling@btopenworld.com (01404) 45917. Pics by K Hawker.


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