Inspirational Michelle: How running has changed my life – and improved my health

It would be fair to say Michelle Harrod is one of HY Runners’ success stories.
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Following her achievement of a Merit award presented to her by Paralympian legend David Weir at the HY awards last month, aged 42, Michelle has just taken part in her first half marathon, choosing her home town to debut.

But it hasn’t always been easy for Michelle and as many of us know, the road to fulfilling our goals is often long and arduous.In 2006, Michelle gave birth to her son three months early following complications which included the life-threatening pre eclampsia.

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As if the emotional and physical stress of looking after a premature baby wasn’t enough, a volatile relationship saw Michelle turning to food as a source of comfort, and the one area of her life she could control at this uncertain time.

Michelle Harrod with her Merit award, presented by David Weir at the HY awards nightMichelle Harrod with her Merit award, presented by David Weir at the HY awards night
Michelle Harrod with her Merit award, presented by David Weir at the HY awards night

Have you caught up with out Hastings Half Marathon coverage?

Over the next few years Michelle tried different diets and dabbled in a little exercise but like so many of us, would always find herself quitting and just eating more.

Her weight crept up, and following a doctor’s appointment Michelle was told she was borderline line diabetic. Despite the initial shock, Michelle continued with her lifestyle in the hope medication would solve the issues.

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Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and it was just before the pandemic struck that Michelle went for routine blood tests only to discover she was now type two diabetic, with the added health issues of high blood pressure and a fatty liver.

“I was 39 at the time and it was then that the doctor said that if I didn’t make changes to my lifestyle, in 10 years time my chances of a heart attack and possible loss of limbs was very high,” she said.

This was the kick-start Michelle needed. She started walking during lockdown and then slowly upped this to jogging. The weight slowly began to drop and blood results improved, but Michelle knew from past experience that this may be shortlived.

“A friend had started running with HY Runners at their track sessions and suggested it might be something I would enjoy. I messaged Terry (Skelton, head coach of HY) during the summer of 2021 and he told me to come and have a go. I’ve never looked back and been a HY member ever since!”

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When asked what her typical running week looked like, Michelle explained that she started with just two days a week at track and has then slowly upped her days.

“Now I train two days a week in the HY Altitude Chamber, one day at the track, and I try to fit one HY road session into the week too. I also try to get out one day at the weekend.”So what makes running at the club so attractive?

Michelle explained that the benefits have been brilliant; “I’ve lost weight, dropped three dress sizes so far, feel better, fitter, much more happier and my mental health is in a really good place now. My confidence is slowly coming back.”

On the medical side, Michelle is delighted that her diabetic bloods are now closer to where they should be and her blood pressure is now in normal range.“When I first started I thought no way, this isn’t for me, I am too big to run, but the amount of support from members and coaches is just brilliant, I wasn’t ever made to feel out of place by anyone.

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"Kwame, who is just one of the coaches, is so supportive and encourages everyone in his group. If you cant do a running set you’re not made to feel bad because you need a rest, you’re encouraged to push to your limits but also listen to your body.

"Terry’s help has been absolutely brilliant, and he is very supportive too. The knowledge across the coaches is immense. They help all the club members with good advice and how they can hit their individual goals. Whether it’s being able to run one lap of the track or to running a half marathon in my case!”Incredibly, Michelle is now just over half a stone away from her five stone mark but is keen to highlight that HY runners have helped her with so much more than weight loss and fitness.

“I would honestly recommend to anyone to come along and join in.

"Whether you are already a runner or someone like me, who wants to lose weight and get fitter, you will be made to feel welcome whatever your size, age and ability.

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"The support and encouragement is unreal from both coaches and club members. I’m so pleased I made that step and have joined this incredible community, I now feel more confident and I know that my weight will continue to come off. With the club supporting me I know my running will only get better.”Michelle completed her half marathon debut at Hastings in 3hr 14min 46sec.

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