I ran a half marathon in my garden!

After Fiona was diagnosed with cryptogenic organising pneumonia (COP), she’s taken on 2 half marathons to raise money for the British Lung Foundation. When one half marathon was called off, she didn’t let that stand in her way!

I was singing my one-woman show out in Tahiti on a luxury cruise liner where an average conversation among guests would include the words pearls, penthouses and Prada.  It was the kind of gig where you’re really not meant to mess it up.  And there I was, messing it up.  Every breath caused me pain, I couldn’t support the sound and I was throwing up between shows. I knew something was very wrong.

I made the journey back to London and my mother picked me up from the airport. Two days later I was in hospital, the X-ray having shown a shadow on the right lung and an emergency CT scan booked.

After many more tests and treatments I was diagnosed. Not great for any human being. Pretty nasty for a singer.

That was in February 2011. After many more tests and treatments I was diagnosed with COP (cryptogenic organising pneumonia). Not great for any human being. Pretty nasty for a singer.

I kept very quiet about the diagnosis at the time and only shared it with those closest to me. I told myself, who would want to hire a soprano with a lung condition?

I got myself into the mindset of recovery. With the help of my physio, I worked hard to build myself back up to my usual physical and vocal strength. This took 6 months. It seems nothing in retrospect, but at the time I didn’t know whether I’d walk up the steps of an aircraft again, let alone perform a 45-minute show.

Showing my support for the British Lung Foundation

Once I was on the other side of COP, I wanted to do as much as possible to support the British Lung Foundation. I was thrilled to run my first ever half marathon in October 2019 for #TeamBreathe. I raised money for the foundation by busking on a bandstand in Ely!

I was so looking forward to running the London Landmarks Half Marathon for #TeamBreathe again in March 2020. After it was inevitably cancelled because of coronavirus, the organisers set up The Local Landmarks Challenge - a solo, virtual run around your local landmarks.

Taking on a half marathon… in my garden!

I chose to run the very local landmarks of my garden shed, fence and extension doors! 13.1 miles around our tiny garden was tough and I had many obstacles: broken paving stones, uneven patch of grass and a rather over-active cockapoo called Mr Pickle. But I did have the support of Mozart playing through the speakers and to make it a bit more fun, I also dressed up as him!  

It was all completely worth it as I managed to raise just under £1,200 for the BLF. Plus, the BBC caught wind of my crazy antics, meaning that people are continuing to give! During these difficult times there’s still a lot of kindness and generosity to be found in the world.

The best advice I was given in preparation for the 13.1 miles was this: go at your own pace and listen to your body. I can’t think of a better way of approaching a happy, healthy life.


Fiona’s fundraising doesn’t stop there! In 2011, once she had recovered, Fiona recorded a song called Kindness. It’s available on iTunes to download with all proceeds going towards the British Lung Foundation.

Inspired by Fiona and want to get involved? Find out how you can take action and take on your own virtual challenge!

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7 April 2020