As New Year's Day sprung in 2017, Donna decided to begin raising money to support people with ataxia by participating in the 12 in 12 challenge. Donna tells us her story and what this journey means to her.

My story

I started running on New Year’s Day 2017 and decided to take on the 12 in 12 challenge to support Ataxia UK and my dad who has ataxia. Ataxia UK always had a cheerful friend on the other end of the phone and I wanted to pay this back. When a friend completed his 100th marathon, it inspired me, if he could do 100 I could do at least one – and if it helped my dad and people like him, even better! Starting with a 5K challenge, it progressed to 10K then my first marathon in April! I have to say, Ataxia UK has got me through every single one of those milestones! So far I’ve raised around £500. I’ve been on the injury bench the last few months, but I’m hoping to get out and start running again next year.

Highs and lows

There have been so many highlights, it's hard to know where to begin. Running the Manchester Marathon and seeing Claire Lomas were incredible, it's an experience I'll never forget and cherish forever. Having my Dad see me run a half marathon was another moment I'll hold onto forever, seeing him at the finish line gave me the push for a sprint finish. It was definitely an emotional day. The low-lights have been being injured, I hate not running, I get far too restless. There were some tough moments during marathon training too, but thinking of my dad gave me the strength to keep going (and eating ALL the pizza helped too!)

Support from Ataxia UK

The support I received from Ataxia UK was priceless, I knew there was always someone there when I needed them. I was given lots of encouragement, put in touch with other runners and knew I could contact Rebecca and Zoe about anything.

When spreading the word about my challenge, social media played a huge role with lots of my family and friends sharing my posts. There were plenty of pictures to share with them, as well as training updates. I'm also pretty sure in the build up to the marathon I didn't talk about anything else!

What it means to me

I don't know if I can put into words how much this journey has meant to me - it's meant everything. I love sharing my race updates with my dad at the end of each event, and knowing that each time I take part I get to have that conversation about why I'm running and spread the awareness of ataxia just that tiny bit further each time I run. I've been fortunate enough to make friendships with other families whose loved ones have ataxia, and I've run with some truly inspirational people. Running for Ataxia UK has been pretty scary at times, but I've learnt how strong I am and how strong I can be for my family.