Nupur Dutta at a glance

Bouncing back from injury: The long road to running a marathon

Nupur Dutta tells the story of a journey from slipped discs to the New York City and London Marathons – and it’s certainly not a sprint

When I crossed the finish line of the TCS New York City Marathon last November, I had completed a journey much longer than the 26.2 miles of the race. As I came to a halt in Central Park that day, a whole range of emotions rushed through me as it was the end of a five-year journey. I used to be a keen runner, but all that was taken away from me in 2012 when I suffered two slipped discs in my back.

The pain and immobility inflicted by this injury put an end to my running, and the doctors told me there was only a 50% chance of me ever being physically active again. But I took that as a challenge.

With the help of the hospital and physiotherapy, I began strengthening the muscles in my back in the hope that one day they might be strong enough to allow me to run again. After four long painful years, that dream started to look like it could become a reality. So in 2016 I set myself the goal of completing the world’s largest marathon in New York, and I started my training.

Tech recovery

Having been away from running for so long, technology proved a vital motivator for tracking my progress – even if it seemed slow at times. Using a fitness tracker band and smartphone app, I timed the 5km that I ran every day and gradually began to see my times come down.

Tracking my runs with this technology also encouraged me to stick to my training regime when I was away from home. This was important because my role requires me to spend 15 days every month traveling around the world to see TCS clients. Even if it was 9pm at the end of a long day away from home, I would slip on my fitness tracker and running shoes and go for a 45-minute run.

“I felt amazing at the end of the race: very few people who have suffered two slipped discs bounce back to physical activity again”

On 5th November 2017, I was one of 50,000 runners lining up on Staten Island to compete in the TCS New York City Marathon. I had agreed a running strategy with my doctor to keep my back safe: I would run the first half of the race at my usual pace, and then see how I felt.

If I felt any pain at all, my doctor’s orders were to stop running at once. And just to be safe, even if I did feel good, I would slow my pace to protect my back. On the day, I ran the first half of the race in two and a half hours. Thankfully, I was feeling great at the half-way point. So, I continued at a much slower pace, eventually crossing the finish line in Central Park in a time of a little over six hours.

Mental strength

I felt amazing at the end of the race: very few people who have suffered two slipped discs bounce back to physical activity again, so to complete a marathon against the odds was hugely emotional. It just shows the power of the mind.

That is a lesson that I have learned to apply every day in my work, and it is a lesson that I will carry into this year’s London Marathon on 22nd April. Again, I will follow my doctor’s orders and stop if I feel any pain in my back – I have come too far to risk damaging it now.

But my hope is that London will be another significant milestone on my road to recovery. My goal is to beat my New York time by an hour and cross the finish line outside Buckingham Palace after around five hours of running.

A Superstar’s message to us all:

With determination and patience you can do anything – it’s all in your mind.

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