Inspirational Seaforde woman to take on seventh marathon

Inspirational Seaforde woman to take on seventh marathon

8 January 2020

A SEAFORDE woman is getting ready to run her seventh marathon after recovering from cancer. 

Pat Shields is an inspiration to those of us who have already broken our New Year resolutions.

In her darkest moments of 2015, while she was undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments to fight a cancer diagnosis, Pat recalls feeling at a low ebb. 

“It was bleak but I found something deep within me to keep going, she said. “People who undergo treatment for cancer need to know there is light at the end of that very dark tunnel. They need to keep fighting because everything you think you have lost will all come back again.

“It can be a time when you don’t look great, your confidence is low and even your memory begins to fade. People must realise it is not the end of the world.” 

Before she discovered a cyst on her breast, Pat had already completed four marathons having recaptured the joy of running she knew as a young girl growing up around the fields of Ballynagross, outside Downpatrick. 

Pat said: “I used to take off and run for miles, setting my own routes across the fields and making the most of the fresh air, but I put it all aside when my children came along.”

It was only when she reached her late 40s that the opportunity arose for her to take up running again.

She said: “Murlough Athletics Club in Dundrum were holding a recruitment drive at the time. The club was offering a six-week programme for beginners, three times a week.”

Pat soon rediscovered the running bug that had lay dormant for years. She said: “We gradually built up three miles at a time. When I joined Murlough AC, it had around 60 members and it has grown to become one of the biggest clubs in Northern Ireland, with 200 members.”

Pat describes her fellow runners as “lovely honest people,” who are always there for her. She said: “They have certainly helped tremendously with my recovery. They are non-judgemental and share a great deal of their own lives with you. We’re like a family in away.”

Pat believes it was having a reasonable level of fitness that helped her to recover from the devastating diagnosis. She said: “I was at my fittest. I was running marathons. I just couldn’t take it in. 

“It was crushing news,” she said. “Up until that point I felt younger and fitter than I had in ages. The word cancer certainly stops you in your tracks.”

In spite of the darkness, Pat felt encouraged to get well and dreamed of crossing another finish line. 

Pat is currently training for her seventh marathon run which is taking place in Paris this April. 

Running has taken Pat to many cities in the world, including London and Dublin, but she says nothing compares to the beauty and charm of running the Mourne Way –the off road run that traverses the foothills of the Mourne Mountains from Newcastle to Rostrevor.

Pat says that before her illness she would give up too easily. Now she gives up on nothing.

“Running is part of my life now,” she remarked. “One of the many upsides is I never have to watch what I eat. No one can say they are never too old to run. I refer to my setback as just a blip in a chapter of my life.” 

She adds: “I would encourage people just to get back up and rediscover the good things in life. Do rest, but never believe that it’s over. 

“Maybe one day trouble may knock on my door again but when it does I’ll just have to get up and get on with it again.”