Purbeck ultra marathon runner Charlotte Clarke is on her way to raising £6,000 for Help For Heroes with a 600 km run in just 11 days – despite having had two heart operations.
Charlotte, aged 32 from Lulworth, is heading between five RAF bases where her father was stationed as she was growing up and also hopes to be able to unlock some childhood memories of places she lived at the same time.
Charlotte sets off on her 11-day, back to back marathon mission
Taking on a 630 km mission over 11 days
Although Charlotte is used to running ultra marathons – a race of any distance further than the standard marathon of 42.2 km – stringing 11 of them together over consecutive days is a little extreme even by her standards.
She started the challenge on Saturday 15th April 2023 at RNAS Yeovilton, where her partner Mark Duffett is based and has been accompanied by him for the first week until he takes a different route to run the London Marathon on Sunday 23rd April 2023.
Her father Simon Clarke and her dog Bonnie will be with her for the entire run, which finishes at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Tuesday 25th April 2023, having passed through RAF bases at Odiham, Marham and Cottesmore, covering around 630 km.
By that time, she hopes that her Just Giving page will be close to her £6,000 target for Help for Heroes, the charity which helps wounded veterans and their families to recover and get on with their lives.
At the starting point with partner Mark Duffett and father Simon Clarke
“It’s my turn to give back to a fantastic charity”
“My dad served 30 years with the Royal Air Force and my partner is in the Royal Navy. I am raising money to support those that aren’t so fortunate as my dad, and suffer the consequences of no longer being able to serve their country due to medical discharge.
“Completing a standard organised event didn’t connect to the cause for me and anyone who knows me knows I like to go above and beyond. Running more than 600 km in 11 days will not be an easy feat, but this is bigger than I am.
“Life in the military is all I’ve ever known and it’s my turn to give back to a fantastic charity who does so much for those that serve our country.”
Charlotte and her father approach the first checkpoint after three days of running
Condition was frightening and exhausting
Charlotte, who works as a dance and fitness trainer, hopes the run will also go some way to telling the story of her childhood, which is a little confused because her family moved between bases so often.
She developed supraventricular tachycardia at the age of 14, which leads to bouts of abnormally fast heart rates that could last for up to three hours at a time.
“I would have palpitations when my heart was going at about 180 beats a minute even when I was standing still and doing nothing.
“It was like my heart was punching against my chest and was both frightening and exhausting, and interfered with my dance, which I loved.
“After a few years of tests and diagnoses, I was able to have surgery and for a four month period everything was well. If you don’t have any palpitations within three months of surgery, that is generally a sign it has worked, and I thought I had made it.
“Then, when I was at a dance rehearsal at university, the palpitations started again and I just fell to the floor and started to cry. Luckily my tutor, who had had open heart surgery as a child, was really understanding and sympathetic.”
Doctors had to perform her heart operation again, as scar tissue had formed which was catching against the heart, but with keyhole surgery under local anaesthetic the problem was corrected after Charlotte graduated.
Although she could have taken the decision to take things easy and not to put her heart under any extra strain, Charlotte felt that her best and most fulfilling option would be to exercise and make her heart as strong as possible.
A moment to celebrate, but there’s still a long way to run…
“I’m super grateful for all my body can do”
“At 21 I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life so surgery was my choice knowing I could be active throughout my life as long as I could.
“Since I had the second surgery to rework the scar tissue in late 2013, I haven’t had any problems and have been told that I have a normally functioning heart.
“I’m super grateful now for everything my body can do and it seems like I’m trying to figure out where the limit is. That got me into ultra running, which I used as an opportunity to raise money for the British Heart Foundation to say thanks.
“My dog, Bonny, needed something to do, so I took her out running, and she is running a section of this latest challenge with me every day – I can see that she is having the best time!”
- Help the fund raising effort for Help For Heroes at Charlotte’s Just Giving page