Human Race: ‘Marathon training helped me grieve’

Photo by Jon Enoch

The day after the 2014 London Marathon, Kim Frost took her finisher’s medal and hung it over her parents’ headstone. ‘I’d always told them I would run it one day,’ says the 36-year-old chef from Framlingham in Suffolk.

For Kim, even getting to the start line involved great dedication, mental strength and courage. In June 2007 she was driving her mother, Jean, home from a shopping trip. ‘A car came round the corner and hit us head-on. That’s all I can remember about the accident,’ she says. Kim regained consciousness in hospital, following a night of surgery to save her legs. ‘I woke up just knowing Mum was dead, though I didn’t know how I knew,’ she remembers.

Reeling from the death of her mother, Kim also had her own injuries to face. ‘My left leg was shattered in several places, my right leg was mangled from the knee down and I had a broken femur.’ Kim spent six weeks in hospital, nearly losing a leg and undergoing four operations, which involved having metal rods and plates inserted into both legs.

When she was allowed home, Kim was in a wheelchair and had to embark on the long and painful process of learning to walk again. ‘It was a bizarre feeling,’ she says. ‘I had to teach my legs how to do something they’d been doing all my life. Eventually I built up my strength and went from the wheelchair to a walker, and then crutches.’

Meanwhile, her father, Derrick, who had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer just before his wife’s death, was struggling to come to terms with losing her. ‘Dad was a wreck,’ says Kim. ‘Mum was his soulmate and they’d been married for 36 years. We tried to help each other as much as we could, but it was tough – we were both grieving.’

A year and a half after the car accident, Kim’s father passed away. ‘I take some comfort in the fact they’re with each other again, but losing them so close together really hit me hard,’ she says.

Kim had always been a keen hockey player, so she wanted to throw herself back into sport to aid the grieving process. ‘I kept thinking if I could just play one more game of hockey I’d be happy,’ she says. It took five years for Kim to realise that goal.

‘I didn’t want the accident to defeat me,’ she explains. ‘It had already turned my world upside down. I just wanted to show everyone who said I wouldn’t play sport again that they were wrong. I wanted to prove it to myself, too.’

Once back on the hockey pitch, Kim decided she needed another challenge so she set her sights on running the marathon. ‘I resolved to do everything in my power to make it around the 26.2-mile course,’ she says.

At that point, Kim found it hard to run even two miles. She’d lost a lot of fitness during the years of injury and recovery, and she suffered pain in her legs.

‘But I thought that if I was going to do this, it had to be now. I wanted to achieve it despite everything I’d been through. It was also a way of doing something special in my parents’ memory – fulfilling a promise I’d made to them.’

After securing a charity place in last year’s race, Kim joined a running club and signed up for a 10-week beginners’ course. She spent the next year training.

‘It was good to have something positive to focus on,’ she says. Kim was soon running five miles with the club twice a week, and doing longer runs with her new running club friends at weekends. ‘The long runs were a challenge, but all those hours on the road cleared my head and they helped me work out my grief.’

On marathon day Kim crossed the finish line in 5:43 and raised more than £7,000 for Cancer Research UK. ‘I felt a mixture of emotions as I fi nished,’ she remembers. ‘I was in pain but amazed I’d achieved something so massive. I’d gone from thinking I’d never walk again to running a marathon, and I knew Mum and Dad would have been so proud of me. In fact, I felt they were with me every step of those 26.2 miles.’

Kim never planned to extend her running career beyond the marathon finish line. But she gained so much from becoming a runner that she’s kept it up. ‘It’s helped me gain some closure on the events of the last few years. And it has taught me I can achieve anything I want, if I put my mind to it.’