Sara completes brain tumour fundraising trek from Land's End to John O'Groats
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A runner who has defied the odds after a brain tumour diagnosis said "relief" was her overriding emotion as she completed a gruelling journey from Land's End to John O'Groats.
Sara Crosland covered an average of 37 miles a day, mostly running and with a bike as back-up, in aid of three charities and to raise awareness of hidden disabilities.
Her tumour, an acoustic neuroma, has affected her balance, hearing and vision as well as causing chronic fatigue. But as she approached John O'Groats she declared: "I'm not the kind of person that will accept limitations that other people put on me."
Sara (48), who lives in Ellesmere Port, embarked on the challenge last September but had to abandon it after four days, having suffered a stress fracture.
On March 26 she continued where she had left off and went on to complete the full end-to-end journey in 21 days – not sleeping until about midnight and getting up again before 6am, with no rest days.
Sara was accompanied by Kerry Horsman-Gray (57), from Rugby, driving a campervan, and they were joined by Andrew Read (46), from Chorley, as part of the support crew.
Speaking on the final leg of her journey on Tuesday, Sara said: “I've had obstacles to overcome just to get here. There have been injury issues and problems with fatigue and that kind of thing, which I struggle with day to day anyway, but obviously doing something like this exacerbates it even more.
"So it's just a relief to get to the end and again there's that thought of – what's next?"
Sara is raising money for the British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA), for which she is an ambassador, as well as Brain Tumour Research, a national charity, and Skull Base Foundation, a collaboration between the Manchester Skull Base Unit and the Frances Barbara Thornley Trust. She has a GoFundMe page with a £2500 target.
“All three of those are quite relevant to me and provide support along the way. It's nice to give something back," Sara said.
“I was told numerous times that I'd get used to my new normal. I quite liked the old one so I was rather reluctant to come to terms with that, and I decided that if I had to have a new normal it was going to be better than the old one.
“That's how this has come about.
“I've been jumping on the bike here and there to make up mileage because of my fatigue. I had a mechanical issue with my bike as well, so that was not helpful. But we've got here."
She added: "That [the cycling] is a challenge in itself because I was told I would probably find riding a bike very difficult. When I had my surgery, my hearing and balance nerve was severed so that means I've only got 50 per cent balance function, so riding a bike is difficult."
Sara and Kerry met through BANA and have common interests as both are keen on running, including ultras.
Kerry said: "Sara was scheduled to have an operation in September 2018 because hers was really large, and it was compressing on her brain stem, but she ended up with a haemorrhage three weeks before and she had to have emergency surgery.
"She has balance issues. She used to be a violin teacher but they severed her hearing nerve to get the tumour out.
“Sara was told after her surgery that she would have to re-learn how to walk and wouldn't be allowed to cycle or anything. Six weeks after she had surgery she actually climbed a mountain and she wrote a book called Sickbed to Summits and she proved them wrong.
“She obviously has issues. She is registered disabled but she says the fitness is the thing that keeps her mental health in check.”
Kerry added: “We've had such a great time – we don't want it to end, to be honest. We've met some fantastic people along the way – we've met a few people with acoustic neuroma, so they understand.
“The whole point is to raise awareness of hidden disabilities. Looking at all of us, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong.”