MY VIRTUAL CHALLENGE: WHY LEISHA CRONIN WALKED 1000 MILES

Leisha Cronin and her team embarked on an epic 1000-mile virtual challenge in support of Prevent Breast Cancer, to give back to the service that saved her life. She was treated by The Nightingale Centre’s family history clinic, following the loss of her mother to breast cancer in 2004. Leisha was then also unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and total lymph node clearance on her left side. Thankfully after subsequent preventative chemotherapy, Leisha was cancer free. She believed that if she could get through 6 rounds of chemo then she could achieve anything. We caught up with Leisha to find out how she managed to walk 1000 miles and raise over £1000.

Leisha Cronin 1000 Mile Challenge Prevent Breast Cancer Charity UK

“At the start of 2019 I needed something that would help me get fit and raise money but because of the effects of the chemo, I was in no state to run or start with anything too strenuous. Chemo had left me struggling to walk to the end of the street. I was never a fast runner, but I could complete a 5k parkrun without stopping prior to treatment.

After scouring the internet for sponsored walks, I came across the ‘Country Walking’s Walk 1000 miles in a year’ challenge. They stated that you could do it any way you wished – doing long walks at the weekend or just walking daily. It sounded perfect for me.  It was broken down to mean walking 3 miles per day, which seemed simple. I already walked 1.5 miles to work every morning and I had returned to parkrun each weekend to walk while my family ran. I just had to do extra mileage each day.

Turns out I wasn’t as active as I thought! At the start I struggled to complete the 3 miles per day due to the tiredness that was still a part of my daily life. I had just returned to work full time, so the tiredness won. I plodded on and by the time Lent came, I decided that as well as giving up something I would take up doing 11,000 steps per day, this equated to 4.6 miles per day. I told my husband ‘if I can get through 6 rounds of chemo then I can do anything’. From there it just snowballed – I attended parkrun every Saturday and walked with a friend. It became a mission to beat 50 mins for the 5k (we managed this once) and I entered as many 5k and 10k walks as I could to clock in the miles. If it rained, I walked up and down our landing to get my steps in. My husband often found me pacing whilst on the phone to a friend or listening to music.

Finishing the challenge was huge for me. I couldn’t believe I’d finally managed it. I worked out my miles in the last week, so that I finished my final mile at parkrun where I’d started. It felt apt to finish at a place that had been instrumental in the number of miles I had done. I completed my final mile in the rain, soaked to the skin with my husband by my side. Proud doesn’t even cover it!

In doing a virtual challenge I was in control of timelines and which challenge I completed. The initial idea of walking 1000 miles in a year seemed massive and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete it, but I finished my challenge in October 2019, with over 2 months left on the ‘clock’. This year I’m seeing if I can beat that and I’m also entering the Great Manchester Run – I know I can walk 10k – now I want to see if I can run it, albeit slowly.

I started planning the moment my chemo was over. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I needed to do something. My diagnosis, treatment and care from The Nightingale Centre was unbelievable. They treated me as an individual with needs rather than just another patient. For that I will be forever grateful. Along with my husband, they are the reason I am looking forward to the future. They have been there every step of the way and still are.”

Leisha’s advice to someone thinking of taking on a virtual challenge is to “rope in as many people as you can to help you. They don’t have to do the same challenge, but their support is invaluable. I posted every few weeks, where I was up to on social media, letting people know how the challenge was going. None of my friends set themselves the same target as me but they entered events, got sponsors and came to parkrun. We even had t-shirts printed so we could feel part of a team. My amazing husband, who signed up for none of this, walked 1000 miles with me. He patiently walked behind me cheering me on and making me believe I could do it when I wavered.”

If Leisha’s story has inspired you, why not join Prevent Breast Cancer’s newest virtual challenge – #JustYou. Click here to find out more.