Meningitis Now staff member Clara Wiggins

Marathon challenge for meningitis miracle baby

Clara Wiggins | 10th March 2020

After miraculously surviving meningitis as a baby, Liverpool woman Emily Cross is now running the London Marathon to help others living with the impact of the disease

Meningitis miracle baby Emily runs London Marathon to fundraise

Emily, 25, only entered the race on a whim to call fiancé Alex’s bluff but has now progressed from a short jog down her street to preparing for the full 26.2 miles.

The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place later this year and Emily, who lives in Formby, will be raising money for the UK’s largest meningitis charity Meningitis Now.

Emily said that her reasons for choosing the charity to raise funds for stemmed from her own terrifying experience with the disease when she was a baby.

“My illness had gone undetected by doctors due to the lack of rash on my body,” she said. “However, when my mum noticed a swelling on the soft spot on my head she knew I required urgent medical treatment and my grandad drove me to Southport hospital so fast that he blew his car exhaust!”

Prepare for the worst

When they arrived at hospital, Emily said her family were told to prepare for the worst as her organs were failing and she wasn’t expected to survive the night. She was even christened by a priest there and then in hospital, in case she didn’t pull through.

But against the odds, Emily began responding to treatment and started to get better. “My body was so frail and small, it really was a miracle that I survived,” she added.

“Following my recovery, I was tested for brain damage, hearing impairments and limb damage – all common after-effects from the disease.

“Thankfully my only impairment was poor hearing – I was one of the lucky ones”.

Now, 25 years on, Emily is preparing to run her first ever marathon. The idea came to her last April when she was watching the 2019 event on TV:

“The feeling I had watching the marathon stayed in the back of my mind for the next few days and I pushed myself to for my first run – despite countless excuses!” she said.

“I think I managed about 1.5 miles and felt exhausted”.

Fast forward a few months and Emily’s fiancé Alex – a serving Royal Marine – brought up the idea of running the London Marathon. “I nearly fell off my chair when he mentioned it, I’d only been on about five runs!” said Emily. But she decided to call Alex’s bluff and together they both entered themselves for the event.

As soon as she got the call to say she had been accepted for a place on Meningitis Now’s marathon team, Emily said she started to up the amount of training she was doing. She is confident she will be ready for when the big day arrives.

Motivational stories

“Training is going well, although my body feels constantly battered,” she said.

“I definitely underestimated the training involved in running it.

“I went from running to the end of my street to my local park run to signing up to my first ever 10k… I then completed a half marathon in January and have recently completed 16 miles in 2 hours 39 minutes. This is the sort of progress that is keeping me fully motivated and on track through the dark nights and terrible weather!”

Meningitis Now’s Events Fundraising Manager Kirsty Owen-Hayward said she loved hearing motivational stories like Emily’s.

“It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of determination,” she said.

“It sounds like Emily’s training is right on track and I know she will run an amazing race in London whatever her final time.

“I am also sure her fundraising is going well too and I hope she and everyone who has donated know how appreciative we at Meningitis Now are of their efforts.

“Every penny raised will go towards helping people like Emily who are living with the impact of meningitis, to raising awareness and to help pay for vital research.

“Good luck Emily – I look forward to welcoming you over the finishing line in a few week’s time”.

You can contribute to Emily’s fundraising efforts here.

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