I was a very sporty child. I competed in Little Athletics and netball. I won 5 State medals- 2 Gold and 2 Silver in the 4 x 100m relays and a bronze in the 100m sprint. I placed in the top 8 in many state finals for  track and field. I always loved sport and my Aunty Sue was the person who got me involved in running. At 23, I had just finished my first post graduate year as a Registered Nurse when I had my first child, Rebekah, I went back to work when she was 6 weeks old. 6 months later I became extremely tired all the time. Sleeping between 16-20 hours a day. The Doctor’s diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was a bit shocked but after 2 months of this I felt better and thought they had got it all wrong.

Two years later I started to get tired again, but ignored it. One day I woke up and I had pins and needles down the right side of my whole body. I still went to work. The next day I ended up in hospital very unwell. They thought I may have a brain aneurysm. I was 25, petrified because I thought I might die. They did scans etc. and couldn’t work out what was wrong. I had spasms in my legs so bad I was crying. I couldn’t shower myself or even eat because I had no gag reflex. After 7-10 days I slowly got better and went home. The Doctor’s said I had a bad virus. I slowly recovered, life was normal again and I fell pregnant with my second child. While I was pregnant with my daughter Jasmin I saw a neurologist, who mentioned that I may have MS because my right optic nerve looked damaged and there was a lesion on my MRI in my frontal lobe.

I had Jasmin 5 weeks early and everything seemed ok with both of us. I was well and then before I knew it I was pregnant again with my 3rd child, Ben. It was a bit of a shock but at least I was feeling well. After Ben was born I became very unwell. My parents drove down from Sydney to Nowra, on a Saturday night and took me to RPA hospital. I couldn’t walk again; my bladder had stopped working and I was in agony with cramps. I was admitted and it was a horrid time. I prefer not to remember how sick I was. It took me a long time to recover and I had a wheelchair to use. I had to learn to walk again, but it wasn’t happening quickly. I used crutches and a wheelchair at home and slowly got better. I retired from nursing because the Doctor’s said I may never improve. I was not in a happy place.

A year later I was a bit better when I fell pregnant with my 4th child. This was a very stressful time in my life. My family had some serious issues and it made the pregnancy very difficult. After Nathan was born I was ok for a while and then became sicker than I had ever been. My legs just stopped working and my bladder just stopped working again. I had to use a wheelchair and catheterize 4 times a day. Life was hard in a wheelchair with 4 young kids. I also had an electric scooter to get me about as I couldn’t drive anymore. I was getting very frustrated with myself. I started swimming at the pools- I would do walking in the water. A friend- Peter Vider- fabricated me a fixed walking frame, where I could walk up and down to build my strength up. I still needed a wheelchair and sometimes sticks. This depended upon my fatigue.

When I turned 30 in 2003, I was in a wheelchair and I had 4 children aged 1,3,4 and 6. I felt like my life was hopeless. I loved my children, but I was not in a good place. I kept trying to improve my life but I was in a dark place. I used to sell Avon on my electric scooter. It gave me a sense of purpose.

By the end of 2004 I was getting a bit better and I was bored. I did bookwork for a friend and I thought maybe I could do office work even if I wasn’t able to walk much. I started a TAFE course in 2006- Advanced Diploma in Accounting. I was on crutches most days and couldn’t drive, so I got the bus into Nowra (40mins from home). I also had some great friends who would drive me in or pick me up from the bus stop. After my first year I got a modified license and gained freedom again. I had given up my license when I first lost my ability to walk. The freedom I got from being able to drive was amazing. I had a life again. I finished my Diploma in 2007 and started to work Part-time while studying. It was amazing. I also joined a gym- Curves- Nowra. Di Bowden was amazing because I was on a stick still and I asked her if it was ok to come to the gym. She made me feel welcome and not disabled.

In 2009, I got divorced and I began to walk better. I stopped using my crutches. It was the most amazing experience in my life. I felt like a new person again and I could do things. Later that year I began a new relationship with my current husband, Ian. He opened my eyes up to a new world of adventure. He took me canyoning. Now this is a physically hard sport and my endurance was not great, but I loved it. I was tired but I was getting stronger and stronger. I started doing more outdoor activities with Ian and his friends. I loved it and I was well! I also finished a post graduate degree in Primary Education and became a Primary teacher in 2012. I married Ian at the end of 2012. My life had turned a complete 180 degrees.

I started doing Rogaining with one of our friends- James. Rogaining is endurance orienteering in the bush. My fitness got better and better.

I had forgotten about how sick I was and pretended I never was sick. My new friends really had no idea about how sick I had been years before and I preferred it that way.

In 2013, at 40, I fell pregnant again. I was a bit shocked but it was nice to think my new husband Ian and I would have a child together. Ian didn’t have any children. I was devastated when I miscarried the baby at 7 weeks. I became deeply depressed and was in a very dark place. I then decided to try to run. I had been active again, but I had not run since before Rebekah was born. I started with the couch to 5km app. It worked and I rediscovered my love for running. The inner peace I get from running is why I love to run.

I kept running 4-8km for the next year or so. I loved it again. Then in 2016 my Aunt was
diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at 62. When I was young she used to run with me. I was devastated because she was my mother figure. My own mother, her sister, chose to no longer be a part of my sisters and my life many years before. I started to run to cope with the stress and I entered into the Nike Half marathon in July 2016. Aunty Sue was proud of me and sadly she died one month later. I cannot express the grief and loss I felt and when I run she is with me. I always talk to her then.

I had promised her I would take my Morfar (her father-my grandfather) home to Denmark to visit his siblings and our family. We left in September 2016. While I was in Denmark I ran the Hans Christian Andersen Half Marathon in Odense with my cousin Ole Winter. I was starting to really enjoy the long runs.

I returned home and life got busy. At the beginning of 2017 I decided I would aim for a marathon. I started training and became sick with pneumonia in March. I was not letting that stop me. I couldn’t train for a month and then I started running again. My grandfather had also moved in with us.

On the 17th September 2017, I ran my first marathon. The Blackmores Sydney Marathon. It was an emotional run and my eldest daughter finished with me. I collapsed into her arms, not from exhaustion, just from being emotionally overwhelmed. I just cried. I couldn’t believe I had just run 42.125km when 12 years earlier I was in a wheelchair, and 8 years earlier I had just stopped using a crutch to walk. I have to say I am not sure what was wrong with me when I was young. The Doctor’s say it was Multiple Sclerosis and I do have the lesion, I like to think it was some sort of virus. I am just happy to be well and perhaps I do seem to go overboard with physical pursuits, but when you have been faced with the prospect of not walking again you have to try everything. You may never get that chance again, and I will not have any regrets.


Vicki Bennett