Posted: 30.07.20 at 16:54 by Tim Lethaby
A dedicated athlete will bid to lift the spirits of the people of Shepton Mallet tomorrow (July 31) when she attempts to run 100 miles around the town.
Emma Challis will be lapping the town 16 times and is calling on residents to come out and cheer her on, and raise smiles at what has been a difficult time.
Emma will be starting her run at 6pm tomorrow and will be running until she hits the 100-mile mark, with a socially-distanced barbecue planned to mark the completion of her ultra-effort.
She told Shepton Mallet Nub News: "Sixteen laps round Shepton is not as boring as it sounds as the town is quite picturesque as well as hilly in places.
"I have 14 support runners. Some are extremely fast and some are not so experienced. It doesn't matter, all can do this.
"I had to persuade a few to join in as they thought they wouldn't be fast enough but for this sheer amount of miles I won't be running fast at all. Even downhill.
"Why am I doing this lunatic run? Because I can despite my health issues.
"I love running. I want to help lift the spirits of Shepton people.
"The pandemic has caused a lot of depression. Let's see those smiles."
Emma started racing after she turned 40 and ran her first marathon just nine months later. Cats Protection supplied running tops so she could represent the charity that she volunteers as a fosterer for.
However, she had a set back in 2015 when two blood clots, the length of her arm, developed in her left leg.
After no more than six days she was back running and did another marathon three weeks later.
Emma said: "Then in April 2016 during my 28th marathon I developed more clots and this time they travelled into both my lungs.
"I was devastated as I believed my running days were over. Not long after, I was also diagnosed with the genetic condition factor five leidens heterozygous.
"All of this meant I would continue to develop clots and would now have to take medication to prevent clotting for the rest of my life.
"But I found I could still run, and run really well and much faster than ever before. I was delighted.
"In 2018 I completed a full distance triathlon, something I thought I'd never be capable of doing.
"This was a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride then finished by a 26.2 mile run, all in 14 hours 27 minutes.
"I felt stunned at the end by what I had achieved despite a damaged body from blood clots. My left leg needs compression socks. My lungs are permanently scarred and my kidneys were damaged, but I can still run long distances and take part in triathlons.
"I started to encourage others to have a go and see how they get on, telling my story to help get them motivated.
"Parkrun has particularly helped put me in touch with more local people who wanted to become regular runners. I made some lovely friends and helped support and encourage them.
"When lockdown happened all sports events were cancelled so I started just running laps around
Shepton to keep up my fitness and deal with my stress.
"My friends helped to support me and I decided to see just how far I could go especially laps and solo. I gave supporters along the route flags with funny slogans and a rainbow in support of all keyworkers.
"My last long run on June 20, I managed to complete 100k in 12 hours 31 minutes. I had support runners for most of it and I gave them bib numbers with their names and a rainbow.
"People around the town gave shout outs, put up support banners and chalked on pavements. Runners joined in here and there plus there was a finish ribbon I could run through at the end to the Rocky theme music and celebrate with pink Champagne.
"What a fantastic day we all had. I loved it. One of my best run buddies Dave kept mentioning about me now running 100 miles.
"I said no at the time but a few days later I found myself thinking of how I could accomplish that. Yes, I know I'm bonkers."
Emma is hoping that this Friday there will be even more flags, more rainbows, more pink Champagne and the barbecue at the end is being organised by a qualified butcher who will be running it in a Covid-safe way.