Mind Over Matter

By 11 September 2018Latest, Running
personal trainer ealing

The Ealing Half Marathon race day is not too far away now. Many of our clients, colleagues, and friends are taking on the challenge and one thing has become apparent. People are not necessarily worried about their physical ability to cross that finish line, but some of them are concerned that they won’t be able to persevere when things get tough.

In this blog, Catherine Gunnewicht, an old personal training client of mine will share her journey on the road to recovery from breast cancer. In 2017 her chance to run her favourite run race was at risk because she had to go under radiotherapy which finished just 5 weeks before race day. Her peers advised her not to run and take her recovery gently. She had other plans.

The story below is episode 3 of her journey in beating breast cancer, you can find the first two episodes available on Ealing Today.

So, I will let Catherine take it from here…….


running with breast cancer“I had run the past 3 Ealing Half Marathons, and this is a race I really enjoy. It is well organised and the support on the streets is mind-blowing. I also enjoy it because my running club, ESM is well represented there and there is fabulous peer support.

When I finished radiotherapy 5 weeks prior the race in 2017, I developed a horrendous burn in my armpit where the tumour had been and they had given me an extra boost of radiation. I was unsure how long this oozing mess would take to heal and although I tried a few short runs, I found the friction in my axilla on exposed flesh was too painful.

I had signed up to Ealing Half a year before and was pretty set on doing the race, however tired or low I felt. The only thing that would prevent me from running would be if the burn hadn’t healed. But the burn slowly got better and had healed in time for the race. The post radiotherapy fatigue lingered and still does occasionally to this day. But I decided to run the Ealing Half because this is my favourite race and I wasn’t going to let cancer win and defeat me.

There was just one obstacle left to deal with. That was my competitiveness. I can’t run a race without trying to do my best, beat my record and push myself, like all runners I guess. But I had to work hard to change my mindset and accept that this would be a victory run, whatever time I achieved. If I needed to walk, I would walk. If I needed to rest, I would rest. I accepted all this and took my new challenge of “getting around before the roads reopened” in my stride. So, anything under 3 hours would have been an acceptable victory for me, especially as I had done zero training for this race. I had not done one long run!!

I started running, feeling intoxicated by the buzz of the atmosphere and the support of the crowds. I started very steadily and managed to run without stopping to Park View Road (Ealing HM’s notorious hill). I walked up the whole way because I didn’t want to exhaust myself so early on. I then continued to run, occasionally stopping for a walk for a few metres. I continued like this, mainly running until the next 2 hills (Cuckoo Ave and Greenford Avenue). I was frequently overtaken by some of my ESM peers and every single one of them had words of encouragement when they ran past me. Many from ESM were also marshalling and supporting. It made a huge difference to have so many friendly faces along the course.

Ealing Half Marathon

Catherine with her running club colleagues


I continued the rest of the course and dragged myself round to km 20 where I thought I’d have to walk the final km. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me saying “Come on Catherine, you can do this”. Danielle, one of our runners had caught up with me and instead of overtaking me to secure her best time possible, ran with me and supported me for that endless last km. I kept telling her to go on, but she wouldn’t have it. She stuck with me and even encouraged me to do a pretty strong sprint finish! My end time was 2:08:20 (16 minutes more than last year- so not a shameful result)

What did I learn from this experience? Well, I learnt that I have willpower and perseverance and that I am not prepared to let an illness like cancer take over my life and my decisions! People kept telling me I was unwise to run, and my body was not ready or prepared to go through this sort of challenge. But my mind was, and I made it happen!

I still have a long way to go because I don’t enjoy running as much, probably because I’ve become mediocre at it. But maybe one day I’ll get better….”


I say Catherine deserves a gigantic hi5 and our deepest respect for even attempting, after all that trouble she had to go through. So, at whichever stage you are in your training, whatever you think your chances are completing this race, I hope Catherine’s story will inspire you to not give up and do your best till you cross that finish line. I know many people who have done it in the past and others who are newcomers but are determined to finish.

You will find many articles on our blog on different topics like hill runs, upper-body and lower-body gym work or interval training, as well as nutrition topics, to help you with your preparation. However, for the last two weeks, the key will be to get yourself into that “success mindset”, focus on your sleep and recovery so your muscles and joints will be at their best performance on race day. If you need some last minute tips or nutrition help, feel free to get in touch.

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