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iTAB Star, July 2022

Tanya Miller from Jersey, UK.

“From a coma to running a Half Marathon, I thought I’d give it a try!”

iTAB Star Tanya Miller had to learn to walk again after a series of epileptic seizures that led to an induced coma. Four years later she celebrated her running goal of completing the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

‘I had 23 seizures and ended up in an induced coma. I had to go into a rehab hospital for lots of physio to get walking again because I couldn’t walk. So being able to get running after that has been my biggest achievement.’

Tanya, on her journey from coma to completing the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Hey Tanya!

Hey iTAB!


So, why do you run?

I wanted to get into running because I was ill in 2017. I have epilepsy which is why I run for Epilepsy Action. I had 23 seizures and ended up in an induced coma. When I came around I had lost all feeling and use of my left-hand side. I had to go into a rehab hospital for lots of physio to get walking again because I couldn’t walk. Once I’d started walking and I’d got that goal, I wanted to try and improve on that. So I took my walking a bit further and kept pushing that. I had run before I was ill, so I used to do 10ks but I’ve never done more than that.

I enjoyed the walking side and getting out with my dog, so I wanted to start running and get out there. I think it was about setting a goal, because I’d set a goal to be able to walk and then I set goals along the way during my recovery. And so that was my next goal, to run 5k, so I did that over a period of time on my own, by just working away at it. It wasn’t pretty to start with. I couldn’t coordinate my left leg and I got pins and needles in my foot and fell over it a few times, I had to try and learn to coordinate my legs. It’s still a little bit of a wonky run, but it gets me around. So that’s why I wanted to get into running really, to prove to myself that despite everything and the length of time – it’s four years down the line – despite all of that, I can complete something that I feel proud of.


Best thing about running?

It’s being outside and seeing new places. I live in Jersey so it’s nice to discover new lanes. I’m always getting lost, but I get there eventually.


What charity do you run for and how much money have you raised?

I run for Epilepsy Action. I raised £600 in the last run I did.


How does running make you feel?

Accomplished.


Greatest running achievement?

Probably being able to run. I wasn’t able to walk for a while because I was unwell. So being able to get running after that has been my biggest achievement.


Does a run count if it’s NOT on Strava?

No.


When you get tired what stops you from quitting?

Determination to get a Strava time.


Why run in an event?

It’s just fun to run with other people, and the atmosphere, and the encouragement that you get from people around you. It’s nice to have that event kind of feel, and the support of others. And it’s nice to set a target like a half marathon or a 10k, it’s good to work towards something.


How would you describe the legions of organisers and volunteers who put on running events?

Amazing. The amount of organisation It must take, and the marshals are brilliant, and all the volunteers. Without them it wouldn’t be possible. We’re just there for the ride. I don’t think it’s possible to enjoy it as much without all the people supporting.


You recently took part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon, what emotions did you experience on the day?

I was really anxious beforehand because I’d never run such a big event before. I’d only run a half marathon in Jersey where you tend to get a passing cow and that’s it. In London there’s so much to see and a lot of people, and all the cheering and the cheer stations of the charities was amazing. Usually I struggle, my running buddy and I hate the first 5k because we always find that the hardest, but I didn’t notice it. It was brilliant all the way through.


How would you describe the moment you crossed the finish line?

It was a relief that it was over. We ran towards what I thought was the finish at the Houses of Parliament, but it wasn’t, we had to do a U-turn. That last part was really tough. There’s some photos of my friend and I at that point where we look a little frustrated, but actually crossing that line was brilliant, and the welcome from supporters and getting that medal was really good, an amazing achievement for us.

‘It depends on what day it is, and who’s in front of me. If there’s someone in front of me, I think ‘no, there’s no way they’re beating me’ and I’ll keep going.’

Tanya, on the run or walk hills dilemma

How important is the medal?

It’s not all about the medal but it does help. It’s nice to have something to look back on, and afterwards everyone’s got them on, so it feels like you’re part of something. It’s a representation of what you’ve achieved.


What advice would you give to first time runners struggling to get out?

Just to keep going, keep persevering. Start with something like a ‘Couch to 5k’ really helps. Break it up and do little targets at a time, and set yourself goals. And I think joining a running club really helps as well. It kind of gives you that motivation and accountability to get out there and put your trainers on. Having a running buddy as well does help, someone who you can moan with and help keep you both going when one person wants to give in. Just keep going. It doesn’t start easy, but things become easier. And then you can build up the distance as you go, but take your time.


Walk the hills or run the hills?

It depends on what day it is, and who’s in front of me. If there’s someone in front of me, I think ‘no, there’s no way they’re beating me’ and I’ll keep going, but if I’m on my own I might stop.


How would you describe the running community and your bond with it?

I’m part of something called ‘Jersey Girls Run’ and the run leader Laura is really encouraging and has given me a lot of confidence coming from a point of view of not being able to run. I also had a lot of self-doubt that I couldn’t actually run further. But she encouraged me to think about my ability, not disability, and then as a community we encourage each other. She sets little challenges as well, particularly over lockdown. She set up the leaderboard where each week you have to accomplish so many intervals or hills, or a certain distance, scavenger hunts and things like that as well. It just gives you that kind of accountability and encouragement. And then on the runs, having someone to chat to and the encouragement of people who come from all different sorts of backgrounds, and who run for different reasons. It’s great to meet new people and I also like the fact that I don’t have to plan a route. I can just follow everyone else, and I can just go. It takes that getting lost element out of the question. Just being part of a group is really nice and encouraging. It’s about going further and pushing yourself. It’s not a competition within the group, but it’s a competition to encourage yourself to do better.


What are your future running goals?

I’d like to do the half marathon again in London and beat my time because I think I could do better. I got a little bit kind of starstruck with everything, and we took our time taking selfies. I could do it better. I just want to keep going because sometimes when you haven’t got something to aim for it’s easier in the sunshine to say ‘no, I’ll go to the beach’, rather than keep running and getting up earlier.


How important is a running buddy?

I think it’s really important. It encourages you to get out and go running because if there are weather changes or something like that it might put you off. If someone else is turning up you feel really guilty if you don’t go, so it gives you that kind of impetus to go too. Also, when you’re going up hills, it helps to encourage each other. And just having a good chat, all sorts of things get discussed while you’re running and it’s nice to have that kind of company so you’re not just on your own.

Thanks Tanya, you’re a star!

To support Tanya’s cause, go to Epilepsy Action to donate:

Epilepsy Action

Thanks to everyone who helped to organise the interview:

Lia at London Landmarks

Nasima at Get the Affect Communications

Lynsey at Sizer PR