For most people, running the London marathon is considered a challenge.
But Catherine Hankin is not only battling the same pre-marathon training as everyone else but she also has to contend with the debilitating effects rheumatoid arthritis has on her body.
Despite having had two replacements and taking numerous drugs to keep the condition under control, the 27-year-old, who works at a Billinge school, is confident she can make it across the finish line while raising money for Arthritis Research UK.
She said: “I don’t really know why I am doing it really. I have done a few 5k races, and then 10ks and half marathons so this was the next step.
“I applied and didn’t get in so I went for a charity place and got it and thought, I am actually going to have to do this now.
“I am just following a normal marathon training programme and despite having some stiffness in my ankle, my other joints, my knees and my hips have been fine.
“I probably have to rest a bit more often than other people though but I haven’t had to change my medication.
“On the day I will just have to listen to my body. If it is telling me to walk I will - I am planning on killing myself doing it.”
Catherine, who lives in Wigan, was formally diagnosed with the disease, which affects her hips, wrists and knees, at the age of 15.
She was prescribed steroids to alleviate the pain it caused but these were having little or no effect on controlling her condition.
This resulted in being prescribed methotrexate injections but suffered with various side-effects including nausea.
Catherine, a teaching assistant at St Mary’s Birchley in Billinge, persevered with the injections amongst a wide range of other inflammatory drugs, but it wasn’t until a severe flare-up during a holiday to Newquay with friends that she realised that she was allergic to methotrexate.
As her condition worsened, to the point where she could barely walk, the decision was taken to perform a hip replacement operation in 2007 at the age of 21. This was swiftly followed by a further hip replacement three years later in 2010.
The operations were a success, so much so that Catherine was able to start a weight loss and exercise scheme in Wigan through Active Living which helped her to realise that despite her condition, her body could cope with a lot more than expected.
She also joined a running group Julie’s Joggers, who she runs with every Tuesday.
She said: “I have ran with them for two years. They are a 5k to 10k group but over the past year we have upped our mileage and some of us have completed half marathons.
“Although they are not running the marathon with me, the girls, in one way or another, have supported and encouraged me every step of the way - even doing extra miles with me.
“I could not have done any of this without the girls - especially the run leader Julie Barton who believed in me three years ago and who encouraged me to try jogging. Three years down the line I am running 26.2 miles.”
Dr Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive Officer at Arthritis Research UK, said: “We are thrilled and very grateful that Catherine has decided to run for Arthritis Research UK at this year’s Virgin London Marathon.
“We are committed to helping those 10 million people with arthritis so that they can say that they are in control, independent and recognised. However, we wouldn’t be able to change the lives of those with this painful and debilitating condition without the unwavering support of our fundraisers.
“All proceeds raised by the runners will go towards funding the charity’s pioneering research and together we’ll be one step closer to finding a cure and ending the pain of arthritis.”
To donate visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ and search for Catherine Hankin.