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Cardiac nurse who survived lung cancer to run London Marathon for heart charity

Claire Wilding, with a colleague, on the James Mckenzie cardiology ward at Basildon Hospital (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)
Claire Wilding, with a colleague, on the James Mckenzie cardiology ward at Basildon Hospital (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

A cardiac nurse who survived lung cancer is running the London Marathon to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Claire Wilding, 46, was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago, soon after running her first London Marathon in five hours and 16 minutes to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

She returned to the event in 2014, after having part of her right lung removed, and defied the expectations of her doctors with a new personal best of four hours and 58 mins as she raised funds for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Claire will run the TCS London Marathon in a themed outfit to raise money for the British Heart Foundation
Claire Wilding will run the TCS London Marathon in a themed outfit to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

The following year, Claire, who works at Basildon Hospital, Essex, began studying to become a nurse and, in 2018, she became a cardiac nurse at the age of 42.

Claire, who is married with two children aged 19 and 24, will run the London Marathon again on Sunday, this time for the BHF.

A themed outfit with a red wig, heart-shaped glasses, heart deely boppers, a red tutu, BHF socks and a charity vest should ensure Claire is easy to spot among the 40,000 plus runners.

“I use the BHF information booklets every day, not only to give to the patients but to gain more knowledge myself,” she said.

Claire Wilding continued to train during a holiday to Greece where 33 laps around the ship’s deck added up to three mile run (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

“They are a fantastic source of information with reassuring stories to help patients think positively towards their recovery and future. But it’s also fair to say the treatments our cardiologists provide wouldn’t be possible with the help of the BHF.”

Claire started running 5k events in 2007 and decided to run the 2012 London Marathon with a friend who had already signed up.

She said she “loved it”, adding: “I was buzzing about it for days afterwards and knew that wouldn’t be my last marathon.”

A few weeks later, Claire, then 36, saw her GP about a cough but was told it was common after a marathon.

Claire training in the rain
Claire training in the rain (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

But when she went to hospital in September that year and mentioned the cough, Claire was given an x-ray, CT scan and a bronchoscopy and was told she had lung cancer.

“When they told me I had cancer, sarcoma, I remember being very scared and upset obviously, but you have to be strong for your family, my children were much younger then so we didn’t tell them – you just put on a brave face and get on with it.”

Claire had two lower lobes of her right lung removed in October 2012 and remained in hospital for 10 days.

“I started exercising in hospital under guidance with a step and then when I got home, I started jogging again really slowly,” she said.

Claire Wilding walking in the snow
Claire has walked to work in her running shorts since September 2020, even in snow (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

“There was such a big difference in my health and fitness levels. I went from just running a marathon to not being able to walk up the stairs without being short of breath.

“It was more shocking than scary, but I was 100% determined to get back to fitness and prove the doctors wrong by doing the marathon again, and faster!

“I asked my doctors the question: would I be able to run another marathon? They said maybe I would be able to run another marathon, but I definitely wouldn’t be able to get a faster time.”

Claire, who is now cancer free, started with short runs of around five minutes and gradually built up until she was able to run the London Marathon in 2014, although said the pressure she put on herself to beat her previous time meant she did not enjoy it.

Claire has walked to work in her running shorts since September 2020, even in the snow (Claire Wilding/BHF/PA)

Her health scare and redundancy from a job in quality control for bicycles and outdoor products prompted Claire to follow her dream and she began a degree in nursing at the University of Essex.

A second year placement on the cardiac ward at Basildon Hospital prompted her decision to focus on cardiology and her work has made her realise the importance of the BHF’s work.

She first planned to run for BHF in 2020 but coronavirus prompted the London Marathon to be held only for elite runners in central London, with a virtual option for others.

The Covid-19 pandemic also meant Claire was not allowed to wear her nurse’s uniform to travel to work so she has worn her running shorts every day since September 2020, through wind, rain and snow, to highlight her fundraising.

– To sponsor Claire visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clairesheart2019