A heart patient from Chelmsford will tackle her first half marathon in aid of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) this weekend.
Lucy Smith, who was born with a congenital heart defect, will take part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday August 1.
Shortly after her birth, doctors detected that Lucy had an irregular heartbeat. Following further scans and tests at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Lucy was diagnosed with aortic stenosis. This meant that a valve in her heart couldn’t open fully, restricting the flow of blood from her heart.
Lucy underwent a procedure aged just 18 months old to widen the valve. Although she required regular check-ups, Lucy’s condition didn’t prevent her from getting involved in sports as a child, including playing cricket and hockey at county level.
However, as a teenager, she began to have spells of fainting. A further check-up revealed that her valve was leaking and aged just 16, Lucy had to undergo major open heart surgery to replace the damaged valve.
Lucy, now aged 33, said: “It was daunting to be told I had to have open heart surgery.
“Before the surgery, my fainting was getting worse. I would be in a lesson and would suddenly pass out. It was quite stressful at the time, as it was just before my GCSE exams.
“My recovery wasn’t plain sailing either, as they discovered I was bleeding internally which required further treatment.”
Lucy has always been determined not to let her condition define her – and to push herself even further, she has signed up for the London Landmarks Half Marathon.
The 13-mile route takes runners past some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks including Nelson’s Column, the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral.
For Lucy, the event will also be poignant after spending most of the last year shielding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lucy, who works as a business and service improvement co-ordinator, said: “I’ve always had the mentality to live life how I want to live it.
“This will be the first big event I’ve taken part in since the pandemic and I am so excited. It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done fitness wise, but I’m not doing it to break records – I just want to go at my own pace and have a good day.
“To know I will be raising funds for the BHF, which carries out research into congenital heart defects like mine, feels incredible.”
The BHF funds life saving research into all heart and circulatory diseases, including congenital heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia, and their risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Before the BHF existed, the majority of babies diagnosed with a severe heart defect in the UK did not survive to their first birthday. Today, thanks to research, around 8 out of 10 survive to adulthood.
Lee Sumner, head of events for the BHF, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Lucy for taking on this very personal challenge.
“This year, the BHF is marking 60 years of funding pioneering research to save and improve lives. Covid-19 dealt a brutal blow to our work and caused our investment in new research to be cut in half last year. We can only fund this life-saving research with the generous support of the public, so in our 60th year, we urgently need more people like Lucy to help us.”
To donate to Lucy’s challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/LucysLLHMforBHF