Suffolk Teenager Runs Towards Healthier TimesFlora Bagnall is an 18 year old from Sudbury. Growing up in the heart of the Suffolk countryside with the rolling green hills of Constable Country and the serene shingle beaches of the east coast, she developed a real love and respect for the environment and a passion for the outdoors.
However things haven’t always been so serene for Flora. At the age of 13 she was officially diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. It took Flora many years to recognise that she had an eating disorder, as it slowly took over her entire life and became more and more distant from her family and friends.
“I hated anyone that tried to help me. I remember kicking and screaming in protest in the back of the car on the way to the doctors and running away from home on several occasions.”
Flora missed out on 50% of school during her GCSEs and was unable to partake in the majority of normal activities which her adolescent peers were able to due to her constant exhaustion, weak physical and mental state and regular medical appointments. Her lowest point came in the form of seeing another, older woman with the condition.
“It was so shocking and she was in a wheelchair as she had developed osteoporosis (commonly linked with the disease). That same week I was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital because of concerns about about my long term health, especially in my bones. I finally realised that things had to change or I would end up like that poor lady.”
When Flora decided to make a positive change, she enlisted the help of charity Anorexia and Bulimia Care, as well as her friends and family.
“My friends and family were hugely supportive and the charity Anorexia and Bulimia Care provided us with lots of useful advice, support and plenty of encouragement and reassurance when we most needed it, in particular the charity has an amazing helpline for patients and their support teams.”
As she started on her road to recovery, Flora decided to rediscover her love of the outdoors and take up running.
“Running reminded me again of the joy of movement and taught me to accept who I am, and nurture and respect my body. I began to realise that it is more important to be strong and healthy compared to skinny and weak, unable to take part in life. Running has also helped me to build mental resilience and has taught me that with hard work, dedication and perseverance one’s goals can be attained. I love being active outdoors, it makes me so happy and helps me keep everything in perspective.”
Flora has now signed up to take part in a British Exploring Societies expedition this summer in Peru, but before that, she has also signed up to take part in the Edinburgh Half Marathon this May.
“I saw the Edinburgh Marathon advert I thought ‘why not?’. A few years ago there was no way I could even consider a challenge such as this, however now I am more than ready! I am fit, healthy and strong. Recovery has taught me that if I can find the strength to face my demons, I can conquer anything life throws at me!”
Flora will be taking part in the event with her father; an incredible feat considering that in the past five years, tasks as basic as just climbing the stairs would leave her exhausted because she was so weak and malnourished.
“I can’t wait to cross the finish line, proudly wearing my ABC running vest. My Dad is also running with me, it is the first race we have done together and it’s awesome that we can share the experience.”
You can donate to Flora’s cause by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/ crowdfunding/florabagnall
The Edinburgh Half Marathon takes place on Sunday 27th May 2018 and attracts thousands of runners from the UK and beyond to take part in one of the flattest and fastest half marathons the UK has to offer. For more information, visit www.edinburghmarathon.com.