Doctors told Bradeley teacher Sarah Bridgewater she would never exercise again
Teacher Sarah Bridgewater, aged 28, from Bradeley, tells Jenny Amphlett how she has transformed herself from 'the fat kid' to a marathon runner
GOOD TIMESAfter injuring my knee at university I was told I shouldn't exercise. My weight crept up and one day my husband, Dave, and I were talking about how unhealthy we felt.
We decided to join a gym in July last year. I didn't consult my GP first which I probably should have done.
I took things steadily and started doing weights to build up my strength. I must have lost about a stone and a half in weight up to now.
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I found I wasn't in as much pain as I used to be and don't take painkillers like I used to.
The only explanation I can think of is that it must have strengthened the muscles in my knees.
I'm not recommending other people with medical problems should just go out and do exercise, but I am fortunate it has helped me rather than doing more damage.
One day I got on the treadmill in the gym and there was a setting to do a 5km run.
It was my dream to be able to run that far, although to begin with I couldn't run for longer than two minutes.
Comparing those two minutes with the three hours and two minutes I ran just yesterday shows how far I have come.
One day I got talking to a woman in the gym who had done an ultra marathon, running 56 miles within 24 hours.
I said something stupid like: 'I would love to do that'. She said anything is possible and that just set me off.
I went from there and gradually built up the distance I can run.
In September last year I did my first run off the treadmill, a 10km race at Trentham Gardens in aid of the Stroke Association.
After my first lap of the lake I thought I couldn't carry on, but I found a running buddy and before I knew it I had reached the finishing line.
I ended up enjoying it and it did a huge amount for my self-esteem.
My husband is very supportive and the children at the secondary school where I work as a maths teacher are really sweet. They encourage me and bring their coppers in to sponsor me. Some say how proud they are.
I've been building up my distance with various other charity runs, including Hellrunner at Trentham last month.
That involved swimming through the River Trent and being covered in mud. My dad lives in Tenerife, but flew over to support me.
I'm going to do my first marathon in Blackpool in April and then the Edinburgh Marathon in May in aid of The Donkey Sanctuary.
I never would have believed it if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be running marathons. I've missed out on 10 years of fun, and am so grateful to everyone who has sponsored and supported me.
Sarah Bridgewater prepares for the London marathon.
At school I was the little fat kid who never got picked for sports teams. I went to ballet classes, but I wasn't much of a ballerina. It didn't interest me.
I was always told that I wasn't athletic, and that I shine in other subjects. I was never encouraged when it came to sport.
I did start running at one stage, but I never had anyone to mentor or encourage me and I didn't continue with it.
When I went to study at Bradford University I was determined to keep fit and joined the gym.
Then one day I was using a rowing machine and injured my right knee. I remember it clearly.
Apparently it was some sort of freak thing that could have happened to anyone.
It was some sort of cartilage problem but I carried on going and over time my left knee suffered too because I was over-compensating.
I had been leaning more on my left knee to take the weight off my right knee. Now neither of my knees are brilliant.
Then my lower back and right hip started to be affected too.
I remember getting back home to my student accommodation one day and everything was swollen.
I had to stay in bed for 10 days because I couldn't walk.
After various trips to the hospital I was told there was nothing they could do for me. There was no sugaring the pill.
I was always going to and from my GP for painkillers.
Replacement knees were out of the question because I'm too young and there isn't a brilliant success rate.
I couldn't do exercise and if I was really tired or had overdone anything I would be in a lot of pain.
It was like a constant dull ache all the time. Even now I can still feel it, although it is not as bad as it was.
I was told the only exercise I should attempt was swimming, but I'm not really a swimmer and that would have been like reenacting the Titanic.
So I didn't do any sport at all. I had a mainly sedentary lifestyle sitting at home. I was very inactive.
It meant I put on weight. At 5ft tall I am only little, so it showed up.
I felt I was going to live out my days like that.
I didn't really see any way forward in terms of exercise.
I was quite depressed about it but felt I would just have to grin and bear it.
For about 10 years I was living with the pain.
During that time I got married and put on more weight as I wasn't living an active lifestyle.