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Brave Clodagh Dunlop walks a virtual marathon five years after massive stroke


Clodagh Dunlop preparing for her run

Clodagh Dunlop preparing for her run

Dunlop in the gym

Dunlop in the gym

After her stroke

After her stroke

Clodagh Dunlop preparing for her run

Inspirational Clodagh Dunlop, who survived a near fatal stroke which left her with locked-in syndrome, has completed a virtual Belfast Marathon.

In her latest incredible achievement the PSNI detective from Magherafelt walked 26.2m over 10 days to raise funds for Cancer Focus and the Stroke Association, crossing the finish line on Tuesday night.

During the remarkable physical challenge Clodagh walked through the pain of losing three toenails, completing the distance in 10 hours and 31 minutes.

She also managed to chalk up four miles in one go - the furthest she has walked since her catastrophic stroke five years ago, when doctors warned she would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life.

She said: "The four miles was very significant for me because that's what I used to run every day before my stroke.

"The year I took the stroke my friend and I were signing up to run the New York Marathon for a local cancer charity, so finishing this one feels very special."

Clodagh (41) suffered a massive brain stem stroke in 2015 and medics warned her family she could die.

When she regained consciousness she was unable to move or speak and communicated with those around her by blinking.

There is no treatment or cure for locked-in syndrome, and it is extremely rare for patients to recover any significant motor functions.

However, Clodagh, who still suffers weakness on her right side, fulfilled her dream of walking out of hospital six months on, and even returned to her job in October 2016.

She was prompted to sign up for the virtual Belfast Marathon as she has always wanted to complete one. And she was keen to help local charities at a time when they are in desperate need of public support.

"The entrance fee from the marathon is going towards Cancer Focus and I am also raising money for the Stroke Association," she explained. "It's only when you go through something like I did that you realise how much work these charities do.

"I have a bit of an idea of the difficulties they are experiencing at the moment because they raise a lot of money from the marathon, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to help them.

"At the same time I want to go to America for specialist rehabilitation. I wrote my book, Return To Duty, about my experience of locked-in syndrome and I was planning to use the sales to fund the treatment, but all the talks and publicity events that were arranged for the book have been cancelled because of Covid-19."

Clodagh believes it will be 2022 before she can go to the United States.

She added: "I just have to stay positive, though, and I'm used to life not going according to plan.

"It's like doing the marathon, I always wanted to run a marathon before my stroke, so I could get upset that I have walked it over 10 days, or I could look at it differently and be pleased that I have been able to finish it.

"My gait was affected by stroke, which is how I lost my toenails while doing the marathon, and the pain was awful, but I had to push on through because there are a lot of people out there a lot worse off than me.

"I always say I can't fear failing at something, so I will always keep working towards running, and I maybe never will, but at the same time I'm never going to give up on my dream."

Return To Duty is available from Amazon.

Belfast Telegraph