Dr Michelle's Marathon Challenge

11 January 2021

Dr Michelle Hills is a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine and chief medical officer at Martin House. She has completed several charity runs for the hospice, including the Great North Run and this year’s Virtual London Marathon. She is running the London Marathon in October 2022 to raise money for Martin House.

I hated running at school. I wasn't very good at it either. At that time I thought it was all about being faster than everyone else. It isn't.

I remember how much of a challenge it was when I ran my first Race for Life 5k as an adult. After I had completed it I felt so proud of myself and decided to train harder and run 10k for the Willow Foundation and then another couple of 10k races for Martin House. I didn't worry about times, just running without stopping.

The trouble is that after that, I realised no one was going to sponsor me to do another 10k race so I signed up for the Great North Run. I've now completed the GNR twice, raising more money for Martin House and realised that if I wanted to raise more I would need to push myself beyond anything I had ever done before.

I thought that I had only one marathon in me, so I decided I wanted it to be London. I had several unsuccessful attempts at obtaining a place and each time felt disappointed (and a bit relieved).

And then I was successful in the ballot! And I trained so hard for last April, but coronavirus stopped it happening. I carried on training but then decided it wasn’t going to happen in October either so relaxed the training. Big mistake!

When I got the acceptance letter for the Virtual London Marathon, all I could think of was how unfit I was compared to previous years, but on the day I managed to complete the run in five hours and 15 minutes.

It was hard running on my own for 26.2 miles, but occasionally relatives and neighbours would be visible cheering me on, and whenever I saw anyone else wearing a London Marathon bib, there would be little cheer between us.

Now, despite thinking I’d only do one I’m running another marathon, and this time it will be in London, in 2022, and I’m thrilled but still a bit terrified.

However hard it might be, it’s nothing compared to the struggles the children and families at Martin House hospice face.

I am privileged to work as a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine based at the hospice, looking after babies, children and young adults with a huge range of life-limiting conditions. I will face this challenge head on and do my best for all of them.

Having trained down in Great Ormond Street, I want to be sure that children and young people in this area get access to the same specialist paediatric palliative medicine when they’re in hospital, at home or staying in the hospice itself.

If I can make someone’s symptoms better or help someone to have a peaceful death in a place of their choosing I feel like I’ve made a positive difference. Martin House makes this possible by funding palliative care doctors to be available 24/7.