Karen marks diagnosis anniversary by running Virtual London marathon 

Man and woman smiling to camera
Karen Barlow is an accountant from Pembrokeshire. She is looking forward to doing a Virtual London Marathon, 10 years to the day since she was diagnosed with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD).

Despite breaking her toe eight weeks ago, which really interfered with her training, Karen is doing the marathon with her partner Andrew Cavill, who has been her constant supporter since they met five years ago.

She said:

I’ve watched the London Marathon for years on the television and have always thought how amazing it would be to achieve something as big and iconic as this fantastic annual event. I always knew how tough it was to enter the actual run, so when I read about the possibility of taking part in the ‘virtual,’ it was a no brainer. I don’t think I’d finished reading the article before I’d entered!

You can read more about Karen and support her here. Karen’s fundraising target was originally £500 but she has increased the target twice already, which she says is:

fantastic considering the past 18 months have been so tough on so many people. 

Since Karen’s diagnosis her son, Daniel, has been diagnosed with the same condition. She said,

The Virtual London Marathon is more accessible for people like me who will take that bit longer to cover the distance. This is my way of giving something back to those that live with this debilitating and life-changing condition, while I still have my mobility. It will also allow me to tick it off my bucket list; something that I never thought I could achieve even before I realised I had the condition. So, in a way, having the condition itself has motivated me, as I try not to let it hold me back wherever possible.

For the training, she joined the MDUK London Marathon #TeamOrange and the London Marathon Training and Support Facebook groups, where she found an amazing community of support and advice.

I also employed a coach, ‘The Cheesecake Runner’, to create my training plan and I have attended her weekly Facebook sessions. The broken toe really scuppered my training, however, I am determined to do the distance. I originally had a target time in mind of six hours but since my injury, I’ll just be glad to finish.  

Andy is taking part purely to support me, which means so much. We haven’t trained together as he is a runner and I most certainly am not!  But, as his background is sport and fitness, he has been on hand to provide advice and tips for recovery. He tells me how proud he is of me, and he is always there to motivate me when I’m just not feeling it or to provide a much-needed massage when my muscle pain is an issue. It also helps when I’m fatigued. 

We are doing 26.2 loops of Fendrod Lake in Swansea. It’s a mile long and I think breaking it down in this way will help with the mental battle of getting through the sheer distance. Plus, there are toilets close by, which was a worry.

I am most looking forward to getting across that finish line. This is such a massive thing to do and I’m so grateful to be doing it with Andy. I really couldn’t do this without him. We are a bit worried about the weather, which is not looking great. At least though I have got some waterproof trainers to keep my feet dry!

My ultimate goal is to contribute as much as I can to help the organisation search for a cure. I would thoroughly recommend this kind of challenge to anyone, if I can do it then anyone can. If the prestige of owning that medal isn’t enough, then raising money for this amazing charity will be.

Karen’s daughter Lauren, her partner Josh and her son Daniel are all due to travel up from Pembrokeshire to cheer them on. 

The rest of my family live abroad in Malta and the Falkland Islands so they’ll be tracking our progress through the official app and sending messages of support.