My “Three in Four” Challenge – Ataxia

My “Three in Four” Challenge

My “Three in Four” Challenge

Post Published: November 21, 2017

My story begins around eight years ago, when I joined JogScotland to try and get fit.

Unfortunately, in 2015 I had back problems, so running had to take a back seat for a while. In January 2016, I had a steroid injection in my back and slowly began the road to recovery.

During this time, my dad who is 71, told me he’d started to have problems with his balance and getting his words out – like his brain was going faster than his mouth could cope with. He started undergoing tests and I continued with physiotherapy and running.

Signing up

Earlier this year, tests confirmed that Dad had ataxia; something which I now know has no cure. This coincided with the announcement by Simplyhealth, one of the UK’s biggest health insurers, that they were going to stage a half marathon and 10km run in Aberdeen. I decided that this was a great opportunity for me to try and raise not only funds, but awareness of ataxia, and I signed up.

Shortly afterwards a local village just a couple of miles away announced a closed-road-10k on 9 September; this was just too good an opportunity to miss, so I signed up for that, too – another chance to push myself for charity! Then, at the beginning of August, I saw an advertisement for the Loch Ness Running Festival in Inverness, which included the Baxter’s River Ness 10km run on 24 September. I think at that point I took leave of my senses and signed up, challenging myself to three 10km runs in the space of four weeks!

The races

On the morning of Sunday 27 August 2017, I joined 2,081 other runners at the start line on Union Street for the inaugural Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen 10k. The route took us through the streets of Aberdeen before heading back to Union Street, where the crowds cheered us to the finish!

To my delight, I‘d shaved a whacking ten minutes off my previous personal best, finishing in 1:09:03. Our race packs had provided a sign which could be customised to say, “I’m running for……” and I completed mine to say I was running for Ataxia UK. After the race, a lady and her sister asked about my sign; she told me her son had died last year of ataxia and thanked me for trying to raise awareness of this little-known condition, which was a very humbling and emotional experience.

Fast forward two weeks: my legs had just about forgiven me when I lined up in a field on the edge of a small village, Newmachar in Aberdeenshire, with 250 other runners for my second challenge. To say this inaugural course was “undulating” would be a massive understatement – a couple of big hills were included! It couldn’t have been more different to the Great Aberdeen 10k, with beautiful countryside replacing city streets. I was over the moon to set yet another personal best, finishing in a time of 1:07:27 – I’m not sure if this was because of the hills or despite them!

Last but not least

My third and final run came just yesterday. On Saturday morning, I volunteered at my local park run in Aberdeen and then my husband (who I had managed to persuade to run too!) and I drove up to Inverness ready for another race. With just over 2,000 runners, I ran from Inverness Royal Academy to Bught Park through housing areas before heading out onto quiet country roads and snaking back into Inverness along the east side of the River Ness, across the Ness Bridge and down the west side of the river into Bught Park, where the noise of the crowds cheering was amazing! Surprisingly for Scotland, this was the only race during which I actually got rained on; it thankfully wasn’t too cold a day, though!

The future

My family and friends have been very supportive, not just financially but with words of encouragement. I set myself an initial target to raise £100 for Ataxia UK; I am still awaiting donations from some of my colleagues at the veterinary practice in Aberdeen I work as an office administrator at, but I‘ve confirmed donations of £300, which I’m delighted with. I’ll be ending my “official” fundraising on Friday this week but who knows… maybe next year… a half marathon…?

Thankfully, Dad’s condition has stabilised a bit, but I hope that my efforts will help those who need your help right now.

Thank you for reading,

Michelle Brown

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